Character Sketch of Willy Loman
Death of a Salesman is Willy’s play. Everything revolves around his deeds in the last 24 hours. All of the characters react to Willy, whether in the present or in Willy’s memories of the past. Willy’s personality, feelings, goals, and fate are formed through his interactions with people. However, the issue emerges when Willy reacts to characters in the present while also responding to various personalities and situations in the past. As a result, Willy’s behaviour has become his trademark: contradictory, somewhat aggressive, and frequently obsessive.
Willy is a person who loves attention and is driven by a desire for success. Willy regularly refers to his older brother Ben, who made a fortune in diamond mining in Africa, since he embodies everything Willy wishes for himself and his sons. Willy is forced to work for Howard, the son of his former boss, who does not value Willy’s past sales experience and expertise. Ben, on the other hand, just left the city, travelled across the American and African continents, and began to work for himself. As a result, Ben was a wealthy man at the age of 21 after four years in the jungle, whereas Willy had to persuade Howard to let him work in New York for a lower income after 34 years with the company. Willy does not envy Ben, but rather sees him as a success model.
The play begins and ends in the present, and the action takes place during Willy’s final two days of life; nevertheless, a substantial chunk of the play consists of Willy’s fragmented memories, recollections, and re-creations of the past, which are spliced in between scenes in the present. Willy not only recalls an experience, but also recreates it, immersing himself in the setting as if it were the first time. Willy grows more crazy as the play proceeds, unable to move between his recollection of the past and the reality of the present.
Willy’s memories are crucial to understanding his personality. He meticulously chooses memories or recreates past occurrences in order to construct scenarios in which he is successful or to rationalise his current lack of riches. Willy, for example, recalls Ben and the job he provided Willy when Howard fired him. Willy is unable to cope with the realisation that he has failed, so he reenacts Ben’s visit. Willy’s recollection helps him to deny the reality and its repercussions – face Linda and the boys after being dismissed — and to restore some order to his chaotic life. At times, Willy happily recalls recollections of Biff’s last football game because it is more enjoyable to re-create the past, when Biff admired him and wanted to score a touchdown in his honour, than to confront the present, where he is at odds with his own son.
Willy’s continual travel from the present to the past gives him a conflicting personality. Although he recalls Biff warmly as a youth, he is unable to converse with him in the present. As a result, he praises Biff one moment and criticises him the next. Willy’s erratic behaviour is caused by unbidden memories of a long-ago affair, which he forgets or chooses not to remember until the end of Act II. Willy finds it tough to deal with Howard, his purchasers (or lack thereof), and the daily reminders that he is not a terrific salesman like Dave Singleman; nevertheless, Willy finds it much more difficult to accept the notion that he is a failure in his son’s eyes.
Prior to the Boston trip, Biff believes in Willy’s success, potential, and unavoidable greatness more than anyone else. Willy can only obtain the success and renown he seeks through Biff, but this changes when Biff discovers the affair. Willy seeks to restore his former success after the Boston trip by focusing on memories or situations prior to the affair’s disclosure. It is hardly unexpected that Willy contradicts himself while speaking about or to Biff in the present, because, while Willy prefers to remember Biff as he was, he cannot erase the words Biff spoke to him in Boston: “You are a phoney! You phoney little imposter!”
Willy sees himself as a failure since he is not Dave Singleman. He is basically a lousy salesman who has only made massive sales in his mind. The corporation he helped to develop fires him now that he is getting older and less productive. He regrets being unfaithful to his wife, despite the fact that he will never confess the affair to her. In Biff’s opinion, he is no longer a decent man. Willy’s inclination to exaggerate or rebuild reality is recognised by Biff, and he is no longer a willing participant in Willy’s fiction. Willy is overwhelmed at the end of the play; he can no longer ignore his shortcomings when they become too numerous to bear. Instead, he looks to suicide as a solution. Willy believes he can finally achieve success since his life insurance policy will repay Linda for his affair in some way. Furthermore, after watching the enormous burial and many mourners Willy is certain would arrive, Biff will regard him as a martyr and admire him.