The representation of masculinities in “Death of a Salesman” Essay


Death of a Salesperson exposes the story of an American male confronting failure in a success-driven society and shows the awful path which ultimately causes his suicide. Willy Loman thinks in what he thinks about the promise of the American Dream wholeheartedly, which is based on the Declaration of Independence mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1776: “We believe that all guys are born with these inalienable rights– life, liberty and the pursuit of joy.”(Malone, 28)

Nevertheless, Willy is too captured up in this masculine dream and it does not be successful as he wishes.

He tries to measure up to it and prove himself by working as an effective salesman, but he does not even come close to it. The play examines the expense of blind faith in the American Dream and how a male can not escape his own pattern of the past. His kids, Biff and Happy, can not escape the pattern Willy imposes on them either.

What is the relationship between this disillusionment of the American Dream and the building and construction of masculinity? Can the building of manhood be shattered just like the dream? This essay serves to respond to these questions by analyzing the making of masculinity as seen in the three major characters.

The Modern Awful Hero

Willy is a character who sets his perfects on the essences of “self-made manhood” and “passionate manhood” explained by Rotundo. Although he has actually been the fan of the household and is the “head of the home” (Rotundo, 2), he can not totally exemplify the “communal manhood” stage as recommended by Rotundo. He spends for your home, the refrigerator, the vacuum, and puts up ceiling in the living-room, without his spouse’s monetary or physical involvement. But he never ever truly has a respectable place in the neighborhood. His boss, Howard Wagner, does not seem to value him and never does him any favor. The kind of “respect, comradeship, and thankfulness” (81) Willy explains are not gotten from Howard, who is required to fire Willy for his irregular habits. He believes that people seem to laugh at him in Hartford and he is “not discovered” (36 ). Therefore, Willy’s trivial location in society is exposed.

Under the “self-made manhood” phase, “a guy took his identity and his social status from his own achievements” (Rotundo, 3) and therefore his work function forms the essence of his identity. His fulfillment is built in his success in service and occupations. Being a sixty years of age salesperson living in Brooklyn, Willy is a man with powerful strivings and goals for success. He believes “selling was the greatest career a man might desire” (81) and he does not desire Biff to be a carpenter or a cowboy. He takes pride in the fact that he utilized to “balance a hundred and seventy dollars a week in the year of 1928” (82) and has actually been attempting all his life to derive personal accomplishments in work.

He remains in continuous fear that he will never ever offer anything again, exposing his worth is put greatly on the success in organisation. He wishes to be a “well liked” and “personally appealing” guy in service and persuades himself that “I’m important in New England” because all these result in success, wealth and power in society. Nevertheless, the fact that he does not sell anything and is constantly rejected by purchasers suggests that he is not the effective entrepreneur he says he wants all.

Willy likewise fits into the “enthusiastic manhood” phase in late 19th and early 20th century since he values bodily qualities a lot. Seeing Ben’s success in the wilderness, he wants his boys to “stroll into a jungle” (52) and as suggested by Ben, if Willy will “screw on your fists, you can fight for a fortune up there” (85 ). He believes “a man who can’t handle tools is not a male” (44 ), which exemplifies the difficult, primitive masculinity that he highly thinks in. He encourages Biff to combat with Ben and asks him to “go to it, go on, reveal him” his physical strength (49 ). The value of baseball in the household exposes how the hard body is a “essential component of manhood” (Rotundo, 6). This idea is shown as well when Willy speak about how fat and foolish he looks (37 ). He desires Biff to wear professionally to talk about business deals, suggesting how physical look makes up an essential function in this stage of manhood.

Willy, an understanding salesman and despicable dad, has some qualities that match Aristotle’s views of a terrible hero. The terrible hero in the classical world is a “mix of excellent and bad qualities”, who is “usually a person of significance who is reversed by some individual flaw” (Pucci, 56). He has a “terrible flaw”, that is the reason for his failure. Without the “distinct moment of surprise”, and “obsession to evaluate himself justly” (Pucci, 57), the awful ending is the consequence of a hero. Generally, the tragic hero is a king or queen, somebody who has the regard of an entire nation. Willy can be viewed as a modern tragic hero.

He is an excellent guy who attempts to look after the family, however his defective personality, the financial battles, and his failure are significant flaws that contribute to his failure and tragic end. His issue is that he totally accepts the values of his society that he judges himself by standards rooted in social myths, such as the myth of a best, lucrative salesman. He has a series of ups and downs which is close to the terrible figure. He is an aging salesman who sells nothing, and repeatedly borrows cash from Charley to spend for family installations. It is difficult to inform if Willy finally discovers his lesson. He seems to be unable to face the unpleasant truth of life. If there is such an absence of insight, it will be noticeably similar to qualities of the awful hero.

The 2 Mythological Sons

Biff is a male who reveals essences of the “enthusiastic manhood”. He is a “well built” guy who likes to “raise livestock, utilize our muscles” (23 ), and when preparing for baseball games, he says “every muscle is all set” (88 ). When he is upset, he “could have torn the walls down” (104 ). He has actually been presented by Willy to competitors and hardy video games at a young age. As Willy suggests it, Biff is like young god Hercules. According to The Columbia Encyclopedia, this most popular of all Greek heroes is well-known for extraordinary strength and nerve. He was the kid of Zeus and Iphicles and incurred the everlasting wrath of Hera since he was the child of her unfaithful partner.

A few months after his birth Hera set two snakes in his cradle, but the extraordinary infant promptly strangled them. Hercules was associated with lots of other experiences and fights too. In this Attic vase, Hercules is portrayed as an effective, muscular guy combating a lion from the wilderness. For that reason, associating Biff with this Greek figure shows how the primitive masculinity is found in him.

Hercules: Greece’s Greatest Hero. Philadelphia L-64-185, Attic red figure stamnos, ca. 490 B.C.

Biff wishes for the West, which is obscured by his dad’s blind faith in a twisted, materialist variation of the American Dream. After his epiphany in Bill Oliver’s workplace, Biff determines to break through the lies surrounding the Loman household. He wishes to come to sensible terms with his own identity. He announces that he is just a shipping clerk and he recognizes that he has never ever been a real salesperson. Biff’s identity discovery means to reveal the basic and humble reality behind Willy’s fantasy. Both of them deal with disillusionment, reflecting Pleck’s notion of the boy being “considered extensions of their fathers” (Kimmel, 85).

But Biff does a much better task in acknowledging his failure and eventually handles to confront it. Willy is the “Father as Moral Overseer” (Kimmel, 84) in the play as he continuously tries to put Biff on the right track. He gets mad at the end due to the fact that Biff has stolen Expense Oliver’s fountain pen, attempting to “limit the kids’s sinful advises and encourage the development of sound factor”.

Early in the play, Happy tells Willy that he’s going to reduce weight. Later in the play, this modifications to “I’m gon na get married.” Why does Delighted continuously disrupt conversations with either of these lines, and what does this mean to the play? How has Willy treated Delighted all of his life? How has this affected Pleased? Enjoys another Willy?


Pleck, Joseph. “Guy in Domestic Settings” in Changing Men: New Directions in Research on Men and Masculinity, ed., Micheal Kimmel. London: Sage Publications, 1987, p.83-97.

Malone, Dumas. The Story of the Declaration; Jefferson the Virginian. New York: Glier Corporation, 1982.

Pucci, Pietro. “Socrates and the Awful Hero.” In Language and the Terrible Hero: Essays on Greek Catastrophe in Honor of Gordon M. Kirkwood. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988, p.55-83.

“Hercules, Greek hero” in The Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth ed. New York City: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Hercules: Greece’s Greatest Hero.

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