Foolish Pride Essay

This essay has a total of 1164 words and 5 pages.

Foolish Pride

Willy Loman, the main character in Death of a Salesman is a complex and fascinating tragic
character. He is a man struggling to hold onto what dignity he has left in a changing
society that no longer values the ideals he grew up to believe in. While society can be
blamed for much of his misfortune, he must also be blamed himself to an equal extent for
his bad judgement, disloyalty and his foolish pride.

Willy Loman is a firm believer in the “American Dream:” the notion that any
man can rise from humble beginnings to greatness. His particular slant on this ideal is
that a man succeeds by selling his charisma, that to be well liked is the most important
asset a man can have. He made a living at this for 30 years, but as he enters the
reclining years of his life, people have stopped smiling back and he can no longer sell
the firm’s goods to support himself. His ambition was one of greatness, to work
hard and to be a member of the firm; and if he could not succeed in this respect, that he
should at least be well-liked and be able to sell until the day of his death: When his
friends would flock from all over the country to pay their respects.

Willy’s main flaw is his foolish pride, this it what makes him a tragic hero. Yet
there are many facets to his personality that contribute to the state he and the family
are in during the play. His upbringing of the boys is one major issue, he raised them
with the notion that if one is well-liked, he need not worry about qualifications, he
believed that if his boys were popular they would come out on top. Sadly, he
doesn’t realise that the only way an ordinary person can get rich is through work
(represented by Bernard) or through luck and good timing (Ben), and Willy missed the boat
when it came to luck. The boys grew up to believe in all that their father had told them,
and Happy went on to follow in his footsteps as a salesman. Biff, after catching his
father with the woman begins to question these values. He realises that for him, at
least, these values are not applicable, and he is not too concerned if he doesn’t
come out on top. He just wants to be able to say he knows who he is. The aptly named
Happy continues to believe in these ideals even after his father’s death and decides
that the Loman name will succeed.

In 1949, shortly after the play's premiere, Miller wrote a controversial essay about how
Death of a Salesman was a true tragedy, only with common people rather than kings. Loman's
lack of self-awareness is not unlike King Lear's, it could be argued - both men evoke the
tragic by dying in the effort to secure, in Miller's words, "a sense of personal dignity."

As the play progresses, one begins to feel sorry for Willy and his predicament, but also
angry and frustrated with the character for his foolish pride. It is this trait that
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