How Far Is Linda Complicit In Willy's Downfall In Death Of A Salesman?

1348 words - 6 pages

How does Miller convey Linda’s complicity in the tragedy and in the patterns of self-delusion?

In ‘Death of a Salesman’ Miller writes Linda’s situation as being one of an exceptionally difficult and intractable nature; we see that she is aware of Willy’s suicidal tendencies as well as his financial issues and yet keeps them to herself. Stuck in an invariably volatile relationship, Linda is shown to be doing her best for her husband and sons, yet struggles with the burden of responsibility. She seeks solace in what she deems to be the only way possible; almost by ignoring the problem rather than confront them. Whilst some may denounce Linda as a form of tragic villain, it seems more ...view middle of the document...

When Linda finds the rubber pipe with which Willy plans to kill himself, she does not confront him, but hides the pipe- covering all evidence of it. “I am ashamed” Linda says “how can I insult him like that?” it is clear here that once again Willy’s image is more important even than his safety, and that his mental stability is so fragile that Linda daren’t confront him for fear of pushing him over the edge. Linda could have helped Willy by talking through his issues, potentially she could have prevented his eventual suicide, but her own fear of him and what might happen prevented her. This is a clear example of when Linda tries to protect Willy, albeit with adverse consequences.
Linda serves as a shield for Willy from the harsh realities of the outside world, not just through hiding Willy’s suicide mechanism but also through constantly lying to him. Willy is quite clearly an insecure man, obsessed with image yet failing to attain the standards he unrealistically strives for, but he is led by Linda to believe he does. When Willy expresses one of these insecurities by telling Linda “I’m fat. I’m very- foolish to look at” she immediately panders to him, telling him he’s “the most handsomest man in the world” and that “few men are idolised by their children the way you are.” Naturally this serves to cheer Willy up, but it also sets a precedent- Willy believes he is well-liked and that his sons respect him despite the opposite being true, any fleeting moments of anagnorisis are all too soon extinguished by Linda, even if for the right reasons, leading to Willy’s inflated ego and delusions about his success and social standing.
The sons, Happy and especially Biff, can often be seen on the receiving end of criticism from Linda, who projects her genuine thoughts of Willy onto them. Whilst Linda is their mother, and her relationship with her sons is one based on love, she acts primarily to defend Willy’s image, at least inside the Loman household. Linda takes this to such wild extremes, “Biff, dear, if you don't have any feeling for him [Willy], then you can't have any feeling for me,” essentially rejecting her own son’s affections if he refuses to accept his father, going so far as to imply disowning “then make Charley your father.” Such blind devotion from Linda can also be seen when she makes more excuses for Willy against criticism from his sons, “the man is exhausted”, it is also made clear that Linda is aware that Willy isn’t perfect, “he’s not the finest character that ever lived” yet still she defends him to the end, by making excuses for Willy, Linda somewhat justifies his irrational behaviour. Linda calls Biff a “philandering bum” comparing he and Happy to the “ungrateful bastards” who rejected Willy, in her eyes,...

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