Never does one go through their life without having to deal with some sort of personal conflict. The manner in which people deal with these conflicts vary as much as the prints on a person’s finger. Some try and solve the problem and get rid of it, while others will try and put it aside for as long as possible. Willy Loman’s method in Arthur Miller’s play, The Death of a Salesman, is very dangerous and builds to harsh results. Willy never tries to help the circumstances, he only flees to his great memories of the better days, when his life’s predicaments were very limited.
He uses this evasion tool as though it were an addictive narcotic, and as the story unfolds, the audience soon discovers the lethality of the drug. Willy’s first flash to the past was when his son, Biff, returns home from the west. Willy discusses his disappointment in Biff with his dear wife Linda. When Willy fails to cope with this misfortune successfully, he returns in his head to a time when everything was going well and life was more fortunate to him. It is perfectly normal for one to remember more fortunate days at the more dispirited times of life, as long as they can return to the present and deal with the reality of the situation.
However, Willy never does return to the original problem, he just continues on with life, fleeing from the troubles that cross his path. His refusal to acknowledge reality becomes so significant, that he honestly believes the past, and he lives his entire life through a false identity never looking at the truth of his life. Willy becomes more and more dependent on his drug as the story progresses. His next allusion to the past was during a conversation with his wife. Willy is downhearted about his failure to provide for his family, his looks, and basically his whole life in general.
He begins to see some of the truth in his life: “I know it when they walk in. They seem to laugh at me. “(Miller; The Death of a Salesman; pg. 23) By trying to see the reality in life, for once, he depresses himself so awfully, that he has a rendezvous in his head with his women that he sees on the side. He only uses this women to lift his spirits and to evade the truths that nearly scare him into his own grave. She does her job by telling him how great he is, and reassuring him of his great personality and his good looks. When she accomplishes her task, the woman vanishes, leaving nothing but a falsely satisfied man behind.
Again, his drug rescues him from dealing with the conflicting realities of life. Because of his drug, Willy becomes inadequately full of himself and goes to see his boss, assuming he will be relocated to the local business, and able to stay off the road. When the boss fires him, it forces him to see the reality of the matter, and he hates the reality. This destruction comes at a point where everything is going downhill, and it is so severe that Willy needs such a huge dose of the drug, that he is placed into the best day of his entire life, when Biff played in the All Scholastic Championship game at Ebbets field with thousands watching him.
Willy’s pride for his sons had swelled so large that day, because everything was perfect for them, and they would definitely live tremendous lives. Willy’s swollen bubble of pride for his two sons is burst that same day when Biff forces him to see the reality of his shortcomings. Willy’s requirement of the drug increases minute by minute as all of his ignored realities are catching up to him. The only way he knows to cope with these problems is to run, and when their is nothing left to run to, he is hit hard with all the problems that finally caught up with him.
When one uses to much of something, not even a bad thing, it will eventually become a bad thing. This is shown in Willy’s flashback, when his drug that lets him escape his problems, blows up in his face, forcing him to see the painful side of his life. In this flashback he is brought back to the most disgusting point of his life, when Biff finds out about his other women, and Willy finds out that his son flunked math. This scene is the turning point in his life, where everything begins to go downhill. The present time had always been horrible, and full of problems, but the alluded to past, had always been very fortunate.
The audience had been left to wonder what the point was that turned the Loman’s into a house full of tension. Since this point is now unveiled, and there are no happy memories left for Willy to tap into, Willy has no where else to run to. With Willy’s last hit of the drug consumed, where else can he escape to? It is sad and ironic in that this drug never actually helped him, it only let him live through another day of his pitiful life, with his false sense of hope and his memories being his guide through life.
Miller’s intention in this play is to show through the character Willy Loman a major flaw in many people’s character. That people tend to run from their problems, rather than taking care of them right then and there. This only sets themselves up for a greater collapse when the reality finally hits them, and in many cases can’t run from the knockout punch that is delivered from years of bottled up problems hitting them in one shot. This is exactly what happened with Willy Loman, and in this case he couldn’t handle the realties of his life all at once and it ultimately killed him.