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Essay/Term paper: Will lowman

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Psychology

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No one has a perfect life. Everyone has conflicts that they must
face sooner or later. The ways in which people deal with these
personal conflicts can differ as much as the people themselves. Some
insist on ignoring the problem as long as possible, while some attack
the problem to get it out of the way. Willy Lowman's technique in
Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, leads to very severe
consequences. Willy never really does anything to help the situation,
he just escapes into the past, whether intentionally or not, to
happier times were problems were scarce. He uses this escape as if it
were a narcotic, and as the play progresses, the reader learns that it
can be a dangerous drug, because of it's addictiveness and it's

The first time Willy is seen lapsing off into the past is when he
encounters Biff after arriving home. The conversation between Willy
and Linda reflects Willy's disappointment in Biff and what he has
become, which is, for the most part, a bum. After failing to deal
adequately with his feelings, he escapes into a time when things were
better for his family. It is not uncommon for one to think of better
times at low points in their life in order to cheer themselves up so
that they are able to deal with the problems they encounter, but Willy
Lowman takes it one step further. His refusal to accept reality is so
strong that in his mind he is transported back in time to relive one
of the happier days of his life. It was a time when no one argued,
Willy and Linda were younger, the financial situation was less of a
burden, and Biff and Happy enthusiastically welcomed their father back
home from a long road trip. Willy's need for the "drug" is satiated
and he is reassured that everything will turn out okay, and the family
will soon be as happy as it was in the good old days.

The next flashback occurs during a discussion between Willy and
Linda. Willy is depressed about his inability to make enough money to
support his family, his looks, his personality and the success of his
friend and neighbor, Charley. "My God if business doesn't pick up , I
don't know what I'm gonna do!" (36) is the comment made by Willy after
Linda figures the difference between the family's income and their
expenses. Before Linda has a chance to offer any words of consolation
Willy blurts out "I'm Fat. I'm very--foolish to look at, Linda" (37).
In doing this he has depressed himself so much that he is visited by a
woman with whom he is having an affair. The woman's purpose in this
point of the play is to cheer him up. She raises his spirits by
telling him how funny and loveable he is, saying "You do make me
laugh....And I think you're a wonderful man." (38). And when he is
reassured of his attractiveness and competence, the woman disappears,
her purpose being fulfilled. Once again the drug has come to the
rescue, postponing Willy's having to actually do something about his

The next day, when Willy is fired after initially going to ask
his boss to be relocated is when the next journey into the past
occurs. The point of the play during which this episode takes place is
so dramatic that willy seeks a big hit of the flashback drug. Such a
big hit in fact, that he is transported back to what was probably the
happiest day of his life. Biff was going to play in Ebbets field in
the All-Scholastic Championship game in front of thousands of people.
Willy couldn't be prouder of his two popular sons who at the time had
everything going for them and seemed destined to live great, important
lives, much more so than the "liked, but not well liked" boy next
door, Bernard. Willy's dependency on the "drug" is becoming greater by
the hour, at this rate, he cannot remain sane for much longer.

Too much of anything, even a good thing, can quickly become a bad
thing. Evidence of this statement is seen during Willy's next
flashback, when the drug he has been using for so long to avoid his
problems backfires, giving him a "bad trip", quite possibly a side
effect of overuse. This time he is brought back to one of the most
disturbing moments in his life. It's the day that Biff had discovered
his father's mistress while visiting him on one of his trips to ask
him to come back home and negotiate with his math teacher to give him
the four points he needed to pass math and graduate high school. This
scene gives the reader a chance to fully understand the tension
between Willy and Biff, and why things can never be the same.
Throughout the play, the present has been full of misfortune for the
most part, while the opposite is true for the past. The reader is left
to wonder when the turning point occurred. What was the
earth-shattering event that threw the entire Lowman family into a
state of such constant tension? Now that event is revealed and Willy
is out of good memories to return to. With the last hit of Willy's
supply of the drug spent, what next?

The comparison between Willy's voyages into the past and the use
of a narcotic is so perceptible because of it's verity. When Willy's
feeling down, or life seems just too tedious and insignificant, or
when things just aren't going his way, why not take a hit of the old
miracle drug, memories. The way he overuses his vivid imagination is
sad because the only thing it's good for is enabling Willy to go
through one more day of his piteous life, full of bitterness,
confusion, depression, false hopefulness, and a feeling of love which
he is trying very hard to express to his sons who seem reluctant to
accept it.

"The Glass Menagerie" is set in the apartment of the Wingfield
family. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, not unlike a
jail cell. It is one of many such apartments in the neighborhood. Of
the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty
is what traps them in their humble abode. The escape from this
lifestyle, this apartment and these relationships is a significant
theme throughout the play. These escapes may be related to the fire
escape, the dance hall, the absent Mr. Wingfield and Tom's inevitable

The play opens with Tom addressing the audience from the fire
escape. This entrance into the apartment provides a different purpose
for each of the characters. Overall, it is a symbol of the passage
from freedom to being trapped in a life of desperation. The fire
escape allows Tom the opportunity to get out of the apartment and away
from his nagging mother. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity
for gentleman callers to enter their lives. Laura's view is different
from her mother and her brother. Her escape seems to be hiding inside
the apartment, not out. The fire escape separates reality and the

Across the street from the Wingfield apartment is the Paradise
Dance Hall. Just the name of the place is a total anomaly in the
story. Life with the Wingfields is as far from paradise as it could
possibly be. Laura appears to find solace in playing the same records
over and over again, day after day. Perhaps the music floating up to
the apartment from the dance hall is supposed to be her escape which
she just can't take. The music from the dance hall often provides the
background music for certain scenes, The Glass Menagerie playing quite
frequently. With war ever-present in the background, the dance hall is
the last chance for paradise.

Mr. Wingfield, the absent father of Tom and Laura and husband to
the shrewish Amanda, is referred to often throughout the story. He is
the ultimate symbol of escape. This is because he has managed to
remove himself from the desperate situation that the rest of his
family are still living in. His picture is featured prominently on the
wall as a constant reminder of better times and days gone by. Amanda
always makes disparaging remarks about her missing husband, yet lets
his picture remain. Tom always makes jokes about his dad, and how he
"fell in love with long distances." This is his attempt to ease the
pain of abandonment by turning it into something humorous. It is
inevitable that the thing which Tom resents most in his father is
exactly what Tom himself will carry out in the end...escape! Through
his father, Tom has seen that escape is possible, and though he is
hesitant to leave his sister and even his mother behind, he is being
driven to it.

Tom escapes reality in many different ways. The first and most
obvious is the fire escape that leads him away from his desolate
home. Another would be the movies that Amanda is always nagging him
about. She thinks he spends too much time watching movies and that he
should work harder and find a suitable companion for Laura. The more
Amanda nags, the more Tom needs his movie escapes. They take him to
another world for a while, where mothers and sisters and runaway
fathers do not exist. As the strain gets worse, the movie watching
becomes more frequent, as does Tom's drinking. It is getting harder
and harder for Tom to avoid real life. The time for a real departure
is fast approaching. Amanda eventually pushes him over the edge,
almost forcing him out, but not without laying overpowering guild
trips on him. Tom leaves, but his going away is not the escape that he
craved for so long. The guilt of abandoning Laura is overwhelming. He
cannot seem to get over it. Everything he sees is a reminder of her.
Tom is now truly following in the footsteps of his father. Too late,
he is realizing that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of
even more powerful desperation.

Williams uses the theme of escape throughout "The Glass Menagerie"
to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character's
dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might
add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean
break from the situation at hand. The escape theme demonstrated in the
fire escape, the dance hall, Mr. Wingfield and Tom's departure prove
to be a dead end in many ways. Perhaps Tennessee Williams is trying to
send a message that running away is not the way to solve life's
problems. The only escape in life is solving your problems, not
avoiding them.


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