There is a complete descent into madness evident in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman. ” The struggle Willy Lowman has come to endure during a life of lies and false hope is portrayed very well by Miller’s use of dialogue, stage comments, prologue, and time and perhaps best shown by the use of dialogue and character interaction.
By putting all of these elements to good use Miller paints a perfect picture as our main character Willy Lowman quickly fails to see the distinction between the fantasy he has created and the reality that has come about by a lifetime of deceit. Miller’s use of prologue is evident from the very beginning of the play. ”Before us is the salesman’s house. We are aware of towering, angular shapes behind it, surrounding it on all sides. Only the blue light of the sky falls upon the house and forestage; the surrounding area shows an angry glow of orange. (DiYanni 1212-1213) The opening lines explain to us exactly what we should be seeing down to the last detail. There is now a vivid picture of what we, as readers, are seeing regardless if we are seeing a live performance or simply reading the play itself. Flatley 2 Though the use of prologue is extremely important in any play, however, it would not be solidified without excellent use of stage comments before the characters’ individual lines. When stage comments are used well it is easier to understand what is happening and how the characters are speaking to each other.
For example Willy: (worried and angered): There’s such an undercurrent in him. He became a moody man. Did he apologize when I left this morning? (DiYanni 1215) Just by telling us Willy’s feelings before he spoke we know how he spoke to Linda (his wife) and what tone he is taking with her. We can also derive Willy’s state of mind from these few simple words before he speaks. When dialogue and character interaction are employed we begin to see the quick descent into madness that our main character is experiencing. “Biff is a lazy bum! (DiYanni 1215) Willy is having an argument with his wife about his oldest son Biff. However just a few lines later Willy contradicts himself by saying “Biff Lowman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff-he’s not lazy. ” (DiYanni 1215) Willy is slowly losing his grip on the distinction between the fantasy world he has created and the harsh reality that is before him. As the play unfolds, character interaction takes on an even bigger role in displaying what is going on between Willy and Biff.
We know there is some underlying problem but can never figure out what it is. When Miller employs the use of time throughout the play we begin to understand more and more the struggle going on inside Willy’s mind and why there is resentment for his eldest son. Flatley 3 Much of the play takes place in a psychological construct which Willy creates. An Eden-like paradise which lies at the center of his neurosis, it is characterized by the paradoxical union of reality and his delusory fulfillment of his grandiose dreams of omnipotence. Ardolino, Frank. “‘I’m Not a Dime a Dozen! I am Willy Lowman! ‘: The Significance of Names and Numbers in Death of a Salesman. ” Journal of Evolutionary Psychology (Aug. 2002): 174-184. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 179. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 17 June 2010. ) It is clear that Willy lives in the past to escape the present. That he is a broken down, old man that no one respects. His own boss won’t even give him a job at the central office there in New York after a lifetime on the road.
Yet Willy still thinks that after having one great year on the road he deserves the best. Whenever he thinks things aren’t going the way the way they should, he escapes into his dream world where everything is perfect while he is on the road where he can be anyone he wants to be. That is, of course, until Biff pays him a surprise visit in Boston and catches him fooling around with another woman behind his mother’s back. Much of the play takes place in a psychological construct which Willy creates.
An Eden-like paradise which lies at the center of his neurosis, it is characterized by the paradoxical union of reality and his delusory fulfillment of his grandiose dreams of omnipotence. Willy’s paradise, which he identifies with the time in which Biff and Happy were growing up in Brooklyn, was also synonymous with his and his sons’ exclusive society in which they expressed, reflected, and validated his belief in their virtual divinity. (Ardolino, Frank. “‘I’m Not a Dime a Dozen! I am Willy Lowman! : The Significance of Names and Numbers in Death of a Salesman. ” Journal of Flatley 4 Evolutionary Psychology (Aug. 2002): 174-184. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 179. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 17 June 2010. ) There are several instances of Willy’s escape into his “perfect world” evident throughout the play. Miller uses timing to portray this beautifully as Willy slowly descends into madness and cannot escape the fact that a lifetime of lies is quickly catching up to him.
Bettina examines the function of the character of Ben in Death of a Salesman, arguing that Ben is an extension of Willy’s own consciousness, and that “through [Ben] Miller provides for the audience a considerable amount of the tragic insight which, though never quite reaching Willy, manifests itself to them in the dramatic presentation the workings of his mind. ” (Sister, M. Bettina. “Willy Lowman’s Brother Ben: Tragic Insight in Death of a Salesman. ” Modern Drama 4. 4 (Feb. 1962): 409-412. Rpt. in Drama for Students. Ed. David M. Galens and Lynn M. Spampinato. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center.
Web. 17 June 2010. ) The ever present character of his brother Ben who is nothing more than a ghost keeps appearing and saying the same words over and over again until the last scene of the movie when he finally convinces Willy to commit suicide. This is only after Biff finally breaks down and admits to his father that he is nothing and never will be anything without some help and that he will leave in the morning after they have all had some rest. Willy Lowman has had trials and tribulations throughout his life as seen during the course of this play. He has only had one successful sales year that keeps eluding to.
He cannot seem to snap out of this one year and will never let his pride and stubbornness which eventually leads to his tragic death. The famous quote that always rings throughout the play “Ben how did you do it? ” Seems to be Willy’s mantra as he tries relentlessly to find the answer to the American Dream of the end all be all of the next big deal that will solve all of his and his families’ problems. But he never does. He finally comes to the conclusion after the emotional scene between himself and his lost son Biff that he must commit suicide in order for Biff to become what he never could.