Friday, May 4, 2012

Characterization of Linda Loman throughout Death of a Salesman

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As is the job of a contrasting character, many individuals within Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman juxtapose Willy Loman and the ideals he exalts. Bringing into perspective the validity of Willy’s statements and actions, other characters contribute to the emerging idea of who the character Willy Loman actually is. Perhaps one of the most important contrasting characters within the play is Linda Loman; Linda plays the wife of Willy as well as playing a very important role. Not only does she take up the part of a supportive friend but also an ever encouraging wife, persistently compromising herself and things she wants for the sake of Willy’s self-esteem and the continuation of his belief in himself and achieving the American Dream.

Visibly defining the differences between the two individuals are the many conversations that Willy seems to change from simple exchanges into confrontations Willy has much less patience with things he does not or does not want to believe in. Linda, although semi-disillusioned, still encourages Willy to strive for his attaining of his American Dream even though she understands and grasps reality; Linda understands their financial situation and begins to realize that they will never be financially stable as they might have been in the past, but she does not discourage Willy in any sense. In contrast to this aspect of Linda, Willy is very impatient. He does not give Linda the time to talk, to express her ideas or thoughts, and instead focuses all the attention on himself as shown while the family talks over the kitchen table and Linda tries to speak, “No, be quiet” (184). This brings out the selfishness in Willy, as distinguished from the selflessness the audience is able to see in Linda.

Because of the different views of reality held by one another, it seems that an irritation toward Linda develops from Willy. Willys irritation shows through his treatment of Linda by the statement, “she has developed an iron Willy’s behavior”(11), and from the beginning a vague picture is set about the relationship between the couple. While the reader see Linda as a very devoted wife to her husband, they also see her bottle up her feelings about Willy’s actions. She is constantly put down by Willy for no apparent reason, and his curt responses to many of her questions having seemingly little or no effect on her attitude towards her husband begin to show that perhaps she is submissive to her husband and his demands. The first incident occurs at the opening of the play when Linda is questioning Willy as to why he is home so early, to which he gives her very brief remarks, “with casual irritation” (1). Once again the significance of this denotation is that it is one of the premier exchanges in dialogue and shows Linda’s response to Willy’s severity. The harsh dialogue between husband and wife is relentless; it soon manifests itself into anything Linda says to or around Willy to almost every dialogue exchange between the couple.

No matter how harsh Willy speaks to Linda, it seems that Linda does not let it upset or disturb her. She is so disillusioned to the idea of Willys American Dream that one can question whether or not she too buys into it. Seeming as if the truth must be apparent to Linda, one of semi-sound mind and sense, she does not display her disbelief in her husband, no matter what or who else might be at variance to his dreams. Linda carries this so far as to take up for her husband over her children when Biff expresses to his mother that in a few years she will not be a stranger, however his father might, by saying, No. You cant just come to see me, because I love him. Hes the dearest man in the world to me and I wont have anyone making him feel unwanted an low and blue....Either hes your father and you pay him that respect, or else youre not to come here (145). By showing her sons and the audience that Biff must show reverence to his father or else she refuses to have him part of her life, Linda gives another example of her relentless desire to continue on Willys dream as believed by Willy.

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The play commences with Linda speaking, calling with unease, “Willy!” (Miller, 11). By being the speaker of the very first line in the play, the audience recognizes Linda as an important character and they are immediately shown that Linda possesses much regard and concern for her husband, as the prologue notes, “she loves and admires him” (11). And although she is continually batted down and not shown respect,

I said nothing happened. Didnt you hear me?, from the beginning Linda is revealed as a supportive character, from her concern of Willy’s unexpected arrival home at the initiation of the dramatic piece, her exposed love to her children, to her everlasting support of her husband. All these things play a very important role in contrasting the idea of Linda through the eyes of the reader with the idea of Linda through the eyes of Willy. Again and again throughout the play, the point of Linda’s sympathy is emphasized, including one of Willy’s recollections of a memory where Linda is portrayed as the stereo-typical house wife; during this memory she is bringing out the laundry to hang and her loving sons offer to help. As Linda is constantly there to support Willy in his working adventures, she is also there as he is receding from his chimeras to try and help him restructure the thoughts that have escaped and confused him.

Contrasting her husband, Linda brings out the good and bad in Willy. By her encouraging of his efforts, she is able to help portray Willy as a hardworking man, while reality can not disappear and her utter selflessness is in dazzling disparity to Willy’s egocentricity, arrogance and pride. While typically it is the case that two characters bring out different characteristics of the foiled character, Linda takes the place of those two characters. Linda Loman is the loving housewife that forces the audience to see beneath the facade of the main character, but at the same time provokes emotional sentiment within the audience and very well lives up to her characters objective.

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