Death Of A Salesman: Characterisation

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Willy Loman

 An insecure, self-deluded traveling salesman. Willy believes wholeheartedly in the American Dream of easy success and wealth, but he never achieves it. Nor do his sons fulfill his hope that they will succeed where he has failed. When Willy’s illusions begin to fail under the pressing realities of his life, his mental health begins to unravel. The overwhelming tensions caused by this disparity, as well as those caused by the societal imperatives that drive Willy, form the essential conflict of Death of a Salesman. Even his name shows he's not worthy 'loman' = 'lowman' An aging salesman. He suffers from depression and anxiety as a result of his dissipating career, his estranged relationship with his oldest son, Biff, and his guilt over an extramarital affair. As the play progresses, Willy loses the ability to distinguish between the present and his memories of the past.

Willy fails to realize his personal failure and betrayal of his soul and family through the meticulously constructed artifice of his life. He cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself as a literal “loman” or “low man.” Willy is too driven by his own “willy”-ness or perverse “willfulness” to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has forged. Still, many critics, focusing on Willy’s entrenchment in a quagmire of lies, delusions, and self-deceptions, ignore the significant accomplishment of his partial self-realization. Willy’s failure to recognize the anguished love offered to him by his family is crucial to the climax of his torturous day, and the play presents this incapacity as the real tragedy. Despite this failure, Willy makes the most extreme sacrifice in his attempt to leave an inheritance that will allow Biff to fulfill the American Dream.

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Linda Loman

Willy Loman's wife. She is Willy's champion and takes it upon herself to reconcile her family. She will protect Willy at all costs, even if she must perpetuate his fantasies and deny his suicidal behavior.

Linda views freedom as an escape from debt, the reward of total ownership of the material goods that symbolize success and stability. Willy’s prolonged obsession with the American Dream seems, over the long years of his marriage, to have left Linda internally conflicted. Nevertheless, Linda, by far the toughest, most realistic, and most levelheaded character in the play, appears to have kept her emotional life intact. As such, she represents the emotional core of the drama.

Linda is a sort of emotional prophet, overcome by the inevitable end that she foresees with startling clarity Whereas Linda’s lucid diagnosis of Willy’s rapid decline is made possible by her emotional sanity

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Biff Loman

The Lomans' older son. Biff has been estranged from Willy for over 15 years, during which time he has not been able to hold a steady job. Biff is the only member of the family who knows about Willy's affair, and he resents his father bitterly.

Unlike Willy and Happy, Biff feels compelled to seek the truth about himself. While his father and brother are unable to accept the miserable reality of their respective lives, Biff acknowledges his failure and eventually manages to confront it. Even the difference between his name and theirs reflects this polarity: whereas Willy and Happy willfully and happily delude themselves, Biff bristles stiffly at self-deception. Biff’s discovery that Willy has a mistress strips him of his faith in Willy and Willy’s ambitions for him. Consequently, Willy sees Biff as an underachiever, while Biff sees himself as trapped in Willy’s grandiose fantasies. After his epiphany in Bill Oliver’s office, Biff determines to break through the lies surrounding the Loman family in order to come to realistic terms with his own life. Intent on revealing the simple and humble truth behind Willy’s fantasy, Biff longs for the territory (the symbolically free West) obscured by his father’s blind faith in a skewed, materialist version of the American Dream. Biff’s identity crisis is a function of his and his father’s disillusionment, which, in order to reclaim his identity, he must expose.

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Happy Loman

The Lomans' younger son. Happy is a womanizer driven by his sexuality. He works as an assistant but exaggerates his position and his authority.

Happy shares none of the poetry that erupts from Biff and that is buried in Willy—he is the stunted incarnation of Willy’s worst traits and the embodiment of the lie of the happy American Dream. As such, Happy is a difficult character with whom to empathize. He is one-dimensional and static throughout the play. His empty vow to avenge Willy’s death by finally “beat[ing] this racket” provides evidence of his critical condition: for Happy, who has lived in the shadow of the inflated expectations of his brother, there is no escape from the Dream’s indoctrinated lies. Happy’s diseased condition is irreparable—he lacks even the tiniest spark of self-knowledge or capacity for self-analysis. He does share Willy’s capacity for self-delusion, trumpeting himself as the assistant buyer at his store, when, in reality, he is only an assistant to the assistant buyer. He does not possess a hint of the latent thirst for knowledge that proves Biff’s salvation. Happy is a doomed, utterly duped figure, destined to be swallowed up by the force of blind ambition that fuels his insatiable sex drive.

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Uncle Ben

Willy's older brother. He made a fortune in the African jungle by the time he was 21 years old. He once offered Willy a job in Alaska. Ben appears in the play only in Willy's memories and fantasies.Willy’s wealthy older brother. Ben has recently died and appears only in Willy’s “daydreams.” Willy regards Ben as a symbol of the success that he so desperately craves for himself and his sons.

Ben is Willy's adventurous and lucky older brother. Of course, he's dead, so he only appears in the play as a character in Willy's troubled imagination. Willy totally idolizes Ben because he was an adventurer who escaped the world of business and got rich quick by finding diamonds in the African jungle.

One of Willy's lifelong regrets is that he didn't go with his brother to Alaska. Unlike Willy, Ben was able to take a risk and stray from the world of fierce ambition and competition. Willy interprets Ben's good fortune as undeniable proof that his dreams of making it big are realistic.

Willy also associates Ben with knowledge and self-awareness, qualities that he himself is severely lacking. Willy always wants advice, and Ben gives it. Of course, it's frequently not very good advice and is usually the product of Willy's own imagination.

In his imagined conversations with his brother, Willy pries him for information about their father, about how he succeeded financially, and for advice about parenting Biff and Happy. It's hard to talk about Ben and his responses to these pleas, since he is either a memory of the past or a figment of Willy's imagination. And given Willy's complete lack of credibility, it's hard to tell even these apart.

But one thing we can take as true with reasonable confidence is the scene where Ben fights Biff. Ben wins, but only by cheating, informing the boy that that's the only way to win

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 A long-time acquaintance of the Lomans. Charley supplies Willy with a weekly loan once Willy is put on straight commission, and he repeatedly offers him a job. Charlie is a true friend to Willy, even though Willy is jealous of him. Charley appears in Willy's memories, as well as in the actions of the present.Charley serve as forces of reason throughout the play

 Charley functions as a sort of poetic prophet or sage. Miller portrays Charley as ambiguously gendered or effeminate, much like Tiresias, the mythological seer, Charley’s prognosis of the situation is logical, grounded firmly in practical reasoned analysis. He recognizes Willy’s financial failure, and the job offer that he extends to Willy constitutes a commonsense solution. Though he is not terribly fond of Willy, Charley understands his plight and shields him from blame.

unlike Willy, Charley doesn't need to brag to everyone to make himself feel better. At one point in the play, Willy is shocked to find that Charley hasn't shouted from the rooftops the fact that his son, Bernard, is arguing a case before the Supreme Court.  Charley is the character against whom Willy is always measuring himself. Willy constantly criticizes Charley for not being well-liked, for not being interested in football, for having a nerdy son, and for not being a real man. It seems like Willy is always putting his neighbor down because he's jealous of him, plain and simple. 

Willy can't understand why Charley is successful in business and in parenting. Even more frustrating to Willy, Charley is generous and helpful, offering him advice, money, and even a job. This, of course, tells us more about our main character; by refusing his neighbor's help, Willy shows his pride and tendency for self-destruction

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 Bernard is Charley’s son and an important, successful lawyer. Although Willy used to mock Bernard for studying hard, Bernard always loved Willy’s sons dearly and regarded Biff as a hero. Bernard’s success is difficult for Willy to accept because his own sons’ lives do not measure up.

 Charley's son. He provided Biff with answers while they were in high school and attempted to help Biff study so that he would graduate, even though Willy and Biff would criticize him. He is a successful lawyer. Bernard appears in Willy's memories, as well as in the present.( see the attern of willy and charley repeating with money lending ect ect)

Charley's son, Bernard, is as different from Biff as Charley is from Willy. While Biff was a popular high school football star, Bernard was the über-nerd. Nerdy though he was, Bernard was always looking out for Biff, helping him with his homework and showing concern when Biff failed math.  Bernard, who once idolized Biff, ends up with a happy and successful life. Of course, success for Bernard has nothing to do with being handsome or popular. He actually ends up being a lawyer in his adulthood and goes off to argue a case before the Supreme Court. Humble like his father, Bernard doesn't rub his success in Willy's face—he only inquires after Biff with concern.

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The Woman -

Willy’s mistress when Happy and Biff were in high school. The Woman’s attention and admiration boost Willy’s fragile ego. When Biff catches Willy in his hotel room with The Woman, he loses faith in his father, and his dream of passing math and going to college dies.

Willy's former lover, with whom he had an affair many years ago in Boston. Biff discovered the affair when she came out of the bathroom while he was in the room. She appears only in Willy's memories and fantasies; however, as the play progresses, Willy has difficulty distinguishing between his memories of the Woman and his memories of Linda. (stockings see mind map) trying to exchange material goods eg-stockings for contacts

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Howard Wagner -  Willy’s boss. Howard inherited the company from his father, whom Willy regarded as “a masterful man” and “a prince.” Though much younger than Willy, Howard treats Willy with condescension and eventually fires him, despite Willy’s wounded assertions that he named Howard at his birth. Willy's current boss. He put Willy on straight commission prior to the play's beginning, and later he fires him. Howard is a businessman, unaffected by the facts that Willy worked for his father and named him as a child.

Stanley -  A waiter at Frank’s Chop House. Stanley and Happy seem to be friends, or at least acquaintances, and they banter about and ogle Miss Forsythe together before Biff and Willy arrive at the restaurant. Miss Forsythe and Letta -  Two young women whom Happy and Biff meet at Frank’s Chop House. It seems likely that Miss Forsythe and Letta are prostitutes, judging from Happy’s repeated comments about their moral character and the fact that they are “on call.” Jenny -  Charley’s secretary.

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