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Many Definitions of Tragedy Claim That at the End of the Play Positives Have Emerged. Is It Possible to See Anything Positive in the End of 'death of a Salesman'?

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Many definitions of tragedy claim that at the end of the play positives have emerged. Is it possible to see anything positive in the end of 'Death of a Salesman'?

'Death of a Salesman' could be considered by some individuals to hold few positive outcomes at the end of the play. When we are first introduced to the character of Biff Loman the audience can interpret that he is very unhappy 'all I've done is waste my life'. He remains unsure of himself 'I don't know- what I'm supposed to want' which is successful in establishing a tragedy as we cannot achieve a goal if we don't have one in the first place.

The audience can come to understand that Biff has been praised by Willy since he was a tiny boy and taught that stealing is perfectly acceptable 'laughing with him at the theft'. Consequently, Biff is unable to determine his own strengths and weaknesses since his father has always led him to believe he is perfect 'that boy is going to be magnificent!'

However, by the end of the play Biff has come to realise that his family is built on deception 'we never told the truth for ten minutes in this house' and decides that he is not going to pretend any longer to be something he is not. He accepts his faults and desperately fights Willy's lies 'lets hold on to the facts tonight' so that the reader can understand he has learnt a lesson and come to terms with the fact that lying is wrong.

Biff wants Willy to let go of his dreams that he will make it big 'will you take that phoney dream and burn it before something happens'. He knows that if his father does this then he will be able to lead his life honestly with the freedom to be who he really is without having the responsibility of having to carry the weight of Willy's aspirations for him. Interestingly, Biff never makes reference to Willy's affair with the Woman and does not even attempt to blame anyone for the path his life has taken 'I'm not blaming it on you'. He has finally learnt to accept his own faults and take responsibility for his actions 'I stole myself out of every good job', most definitely a positive outcome to the novel.

However, Willy is not capable of letting go of the dream on which he has built his life around. Since he was not able to achieve them himself, he has transferred all of his hopes to Biff and therefore discarding the dream simply for Biffs' sake would mean losing his dreams and ambitions too and having to admit that he had not achieved what he wanted throughout his life. Willy cannot begin to comprehend why his sons aren't successful; he refuses to believe that they are failures and only wishes for them to succeed where he has not 'I am not a dime a dozen. I am Willy Loman and you are Biff Loman.' Willy cannot believe this; he and his sons must be special. All of Willy's feelings of self-worth come from aspiring to be better than the next guy. If he were to realise that he was no different than anybody else then he would also have to accept that he had built his life on falsehood.

Willy struggles to learn hardly anything throughout 'Death of a Salesman'. His happy reaction to Biffs' frustrated tears shows that once again he has failed to grab an opportunity to take refuge in the love of his family. He misunderstands and interprets his eldest sons tears to be material evidence that Biff 'likes' him. Linda has to correct him with the words 'he loves you, Willy' and this is crucial to the ending of the play, the fact that Willy fails to recognise the anguished love that his family offers him.

Throughout, Willy believes that the key to success is being 'well-liked 'and having personality. He constantly drums it into his sons heads 'be liked and you will never want'. For example, when Biff confesses to him of having made fun of his math's teacher's lisp, Willy is more concerned with how his son's classmates reacted 'You did? The kids like it?' Unfortunately, Willy is successful in passing this view on to Biff and Happy. Although Biff comes to terms with the fact that their foundation is built on lies he knows that he has been 'lost' since high school because of it yet is still pulled under by it; he believes his old boss Oliver will lend him money simply because 'he liked him'.

Willy dies by committing suicide, but his death affirms the beliefs to which he has clung. He dies in order to secure a substantial amount of money for Biff because he falsely believes that a man is only worth how much he is liked and how much he owns 'imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket'. He believes that his life-insurance money will set Biff up in business, opening doors for him that he never had. Miller is successful in establishing a tragedy here as it is harrowing that a man should sacrifice himself for the sake of the belief that has failed him.

However, one thing that is notable throughout the novel is that Willy always manages to retain his hopes. Even though he is unable to attain his ideals and his life is built massively on self-deception he is always optimistic at the prospect of achieving his goals. Even as he is contemplating suicide, he is hopeful that the insurance money payable on his death will give Biff the start in life that he needs. His final act of wanting to give to his family can be considered selfless as he knows his family will not have to worry about finance anymore.

The character of Happy Loman can be considered to be very similar to that of Willy; he is the embodiment of his father's worst traits and the lies which Willy has revolved his life around. Happy seems to have a bigger desire to please his father perhaps due to the fact that Willy never paid much attention to him. From the moment the reader is introduced to him he seems to be fighting for Willy's approval and attention 'I'm losing weight, pop' comments which are most always ignored. Happy constantly has to live in the shadow of his older brother and therefore seems very determined for his parents to pay more interest towards him. He even begins to make things up in the present day going so far as to tell them 'I'm getting married' when this is very hard to believe due to his reputation for being a womaniser.

Happy can be speculated to be more successful than his older brother but he is most definitely not happy. He has had respectable accomplishments in business 'my own apartment, a car and plenty of women' yet he is still extremely lonely. Perhaps disturbing for him is the fact that he is unable to determine exactly what it



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