Willy's Loneliness and Alienation in Death of a Salesman
Willy Loman’s feelings of alienation and loneliness are direct psychological results of his interaction with society and the conditions that are found within it. Although, he does not necessarily have the ability or allow himself to have the ability to define his feelings as such, they are still very much a part of his everyday existence. This is evident in his constant bragging and attempted compensation. He does not feel that he is truly a part of society. Indeed, he is not. Miller himself seems to be saying that this is not necessarily a bad thing; this society is not that wonderful. Yet Willy still yearns to be like his ...view middle of the document...
He cannot even achieve small goals. He has no real feeling of self-worth, and this lack of self-confidence is reinforced by society and Biff’s discovery of Willy’s infidelity.
In speaking about his plays, Miller explained, “It is necessary, if one is to reflect reality, not only to depict why a man does what he does, or why he nearly didn’t do it, but why he cannot simply walk away and say to hell with it” (Eight ix). In the case of Death of a Salesman, it is Willy’s desperate hope of success that keeps him from committing suicide for so long. Eventually, however, he gives in to his feelings of depression and ends his life. It is the only viable solution he sees at this point. In another writing, Miller said, “My impulse is usually toward integration of meaning through significant individual action” (Archbishop xiv-xv). In this case, it is the action of Willy Loman which reflects the damaging psychological results which can occur as a result of societal conditions.
A Miller protagonist belongs to a strange breed. In every instance he is unimaginative, inarticulate, and physically nondescript, if not downright unattractive. His roles as husband and father are of paramount importance to him, and yet he fails miserably in both. He wants to love and be loved, but he is incapable of either giving or receiving love. And he is haunted by aspirations toward a joy in life that his humdrum spirit is quite unable to realize. (Corrigan 4)
This unusual and rather depressing combination of characteristics leads to the alienation and loneliness which is so acutely felt by Willy.although it is not often recognized for what it is by him or expressed by him.
A second occurrence that displayed Willy's alienation happened in his own family. Biff doesn't believe whatsoever in his father and has no hope for him at all. Biff even says in act one that his father has no character. Biff is a perfect symbol for society in the play. Biff knows his father has problems, but even as a son, "can't get near him." Even though he accepts his father as a fake later in life, Biff tries over and over again to reach his father and to help him, but an unseen barrier prevents Biff from doing so. Happy is the type that knows what's going on with his father, but won't try to help him. Although it is never actually said verbatum, it is obvious that Willy has some kind of mental problem that needs some attention. Yet even in his own home, he can't get any help because his family can't bring it upon themselves to help him. This instance depicts the way society would rather, "Let someone else handle it," than take action and go against what is popular. This example...