Death of a salesman1




Thesis: In Arthur Millerís, Death of a Salesman, the character of Ben
is used as a catalyst to fuel the development of the main character, Willy.

The character of Ben in Arthur Millerís, Death Of A Salesman,
functions as a catalyst to fuel the development of his main character, Willy.
Miller uses Ben as an idealistic figure for Willy. Ben is the figure that Willy
strives to be like throughout the story. By exploring Benís character, we
develop a better understanding of Willyís character. We learn Willyís
personality and character by looking at Benís actions and beliefs. Benís
personal morals become Willyís rules of life. Throughout the story, Willy
strives to be like his brother. Benís character allows us understand the
importance of living oneís life by their own rules. His character helps us to
understand that we must play with the hand we are dealt. Life is too short
to be playing someone elseís hand. The contrast between Ben and Willyís
characters allows the reader to recognize the importance of letting go of
the past and not dwelling on mistakes made or regrets. Willy is so eat up
with his brotherís success and the idea of living his brotherís life, that he
loses control over his own life and reality.
Ben appears but three times throughout the story, first in a
flashback, second in a quasi-flashback where Willy has inserted him into a
scenario that actually happened, and finally in a complete hallucination.
Through a comparison and understanding of each of these occurrences, we
are able to gain vast knowledge of who Willy Loman actually is. These
flashbacks and hallucinations show how Benís character is used as a device to

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allow us to understand what is actually going on inside Willy Lomanís head.
The first time Ben appears is in a flashback within Willyís mind. This
flashback is used as an interruption of Willyís feelings of inadequacy about
his present situation. Willy has returned home from a selling trip, unable to
concentrate and unable to keep his mind in the present. Ben appears as a
scapegoat for Willy from his situation, a way for him to forget about his
present condition and feelings. This flashback with Ben provides us with a
large amount of information about himself, and thus about Willy. We learn
first that Ben is a lot wealthier then Willy, and that while they are
brothers, they did not grow up together.
We also learn through the flashback that Willy idolizes Ben, though
they have never been close. ďBen! Iíve been waiting for you so long! Whatís
the answer? How did you do it?(Miller 1938).Ē Obviously, Ben has achieved
what Willy wishes for. We find out that Ben has made a fortune by ďwalking
into Africa.Ē He has prospered by essentially using other people for what
they can give him. ďWhen I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when
I was twenty-one I walked out. And by god he was rich(1939).Ē We learn a
lot about the character of Willy because he completely believes that this is
an excellent way to make money. He obviously does not believe that a person
has to put in a lot of hard work to achieve success, and that in fact Benís
way is the way to go.
The flashback also illustrates a fight between Ben and Biff. Ben
says, ďNever fight fair with a stranger(1939).Ē This shows us his morals and
values, that you cannot trust people, and that you should always take

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advantage of people you donít know. This also demonstrates the essence of
Benís character. He believes that you should take advantage of which you
can and use it for your own good in any way possible. Since Willy believes
that Ben is a good example of a success, he essentially believes in what he
says and believes that his boys should follow this. We have prior evidence
that Willy believes you should take advantage of people when he tells Biff
not to worry about his math, that Bernard will let him cheat off of him.
This flashback provides more then just basic character traits. It
reinforces our view of Willy as someone who tends to stretch the truth. At
first we are told that Ben pleaded with Willy to go to Alaska with him. Yet
we soon see that this is not at all the case, in fact rather the opposite.
The second quasi-flashback has Ben placed into a scene in Willyís
mind, when he was never actually there. Miller leads us