Academic journal article Researchers World

A Critical Overview of Miller's Willy Lowman - a Dreamer, More Sinned against Than Sinning

Academic journal article Researchers World

A Critical Overview of Miller's Willy Lowman - a Dreamer, More Sinned against Than Sinning

Article excerpt


Death of a Salesman is based on a salesman's obsession with success myth in the context of great economic depression. Arthur Miller's American dreamer Willy Lowman is an illustration of much practiced philosophy of being well liked. People in a modern business oriented society tend to run after profit without realizing their own capability. Success, in a fast growing modern society as in America, does not depend on any miracle. Success and failure go side by side. Willy Lowman, in the play Death of a Salesman exemplifies America's success myth. That his failure is the wrong assumption of this myth- is well discussed in the field of American Literature of the 20th Century. Many modern and post modern critics tried to examine the problems of capitalist society for Willy's tragedy. This paper will try to investigate an exclusive character study of Miller's protagonist to determine other important causes related to his failure and to analyze the one who is more sinned against than sinning. In this paper, American dream of success and Miller's treatment of it is discussed. After that, a psychoanalytic criticism is done to analyze the character of Willy Lowman.

Keywords: American Dream, Success Myth, Freudian Psychoanalysis, Capitalist society, Personality, Well Liked.


Arthur Miller's Pulitzer winner play Death of a Salesman dramatizes the life of a salesman who is so much obsessed with his American philosophy of well liked and ultimately being frustrated, commits suicide. He is fired even from his commission based job and fails to make his beloved son Biffsettle in life. He chooses committing suicide with the hope of helping his son's establishment and proving him with to be a worthy salesman as he thinks that his funeral will be attended by a number of buyers and salesmen from all over the country. The poor number of attendants shown in the requiem illustrates the tragedy of Mr. Lowman.

Throughout his life Willy Lowman tries to become successful by his wrong ideals. He also instills the ideals in his sons' life which actually proves to be catastrophic. Having served Howard's company he is not rewarded and could not manage a work in New York. Biffbecomes over confident, fails to graduate and breaches his relationship with Willy because of the latter's "fakeness". His other son Happy is not happy with his present situation and illustrates almost all the characteristics of American way of life. Willy goes beyond time and frequently muses upon his past - sometimes to escape from reality and sometimes to seek refuge. He is shattered and talks to himself.

Most of the critics blame that Willy's downfall is his self created. He is a victim of his self version of American dream of success. Moreover, the capitalist societies also contribute to his miserable situation. He believes in pluck and luck theory and does not encourage his sons to study as they are well built, attractive and full of personality. He prefers chances to hard work. Therefore, the whole Lowman family has suffered much.

But a careful reading of the play arouses many questions. In fact, Lowman's tragedy is the tragedy of American everyman. Every week, the salesman borrows money from his friend Charley and tells lie to his dearest wife Linda about his income. However, we mark that more or less he is a family man and all that he concerns is the wellbeing of his family. Miller's protagonist may not be ranked as classical tragic hero as he is in every respect a common man aspiring to do the well being of his family. Yet he deserves "attention" and sympathy. It is not a crime to look for ways of success. Is Willy Lowman destined to suffer that extent by committing a sin of having a false dream? It is not because of his old age or tiredness that he succumbs to commit mistakes. "American myth" has its success record too. Having such dream is not a sin in that society. It is also full of uncertainty as well. The dream is a dream- it may or may not come true. …

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