Free Character Comparisons In Death Of A Salesman And The Glass Menagerie Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Family, Parents, Father, Children, Women, Life, Education, World

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/01/09

Death of a Salesman and The Glass Menagerie are two classic family dramas. In these dramas, similarities can be found. Each play deals with a parent who has: difficulty dealing with reality. They also experience a conflict with a child, a fear of poverty, and the betrayal of a child who strays from their plans and visions for them. Both plays demonstrate how a parent’s inability to cope and let go of their child, can be harmful to the future of that child and their parent-child relationship. The plays also show how one child chooses to reject their parent’s distorted values and make a life for himself. While another child from a different family chooses to remain under her mother’s control in order to maintain her security. There are also differences between the older characters as well as, the younger. All of these elements combine to make these plays as relevant now as they were when they were first on stage.
Willy Loman has worked for the Wagner Company as a salesman for thirty-four years. He mistakenly believes he is an essential part of the company’s New England sales territory. His mediocre job performance has caused him to go from a salaried employee status to a commission based employee. When the play opens, Willy has returned home from an unsuccessful sales trip. He tells his wife Linda; he came home because he could not focus on driving and nearly ran over a boy. She begs Willy to ask his boss for a local sales territory. Even though Willy believes no one will be able to handle the New England territory, as well as he does, he agrees to discuss a new route with his boss.
For centuries, Americans have believed in the American Dream which states a person who works hard without complaining will certainly achieve financial and material success. Willy, however, has developed his distorted view of the American Dream. He believes a person is well-liked and attractive they are sure to obtain all of life’s material comforts. This leads him to believe his handsome and popular son Biff is guaranteed to be a winner and in turn make him a winner. Willy rapid mental decrease begins when Biff rejects him and his distorted version of the American Dream. His decline ends when he kills himself.
Amanda Wingfield lives with her two adult children Laura and Tom in a tenement apartment in St. Louis. Amanda was raised in a genteel Mississippi family and was taught that a man was responsible for supporting his wife. However, Amanda’s her life did not turn out as she expected when her husband brought the family to St. Louis and then abandoned them to find adventure. Since her husband has gone, Amanda has had to fend for herself and her children. Like Willy, Amanda escapes into the past as a coping mechanism. Whenever life becomes too difficult to handle, she pictures herself at Blue Mountain, her parent’s genteel home in Mississippi, where she allegedly entertained seventeen gentleman callers on a Sunday afternoon. Amanda’s children know she has embellished story, but she has told it so many times that she now believes it to be true. Her dreams are mixed with reality and even she has trouble separating them.
In Death of a Salesman, there is a parent-child conflict between Willy and Biff, his eldest son. Biff was a successful and popular athlete in high school, and Willy used that success to build up Biff’s ego, as well as his own. Throughout the play, the audience observes Willy teaching Biff that luck and popularity are more important than hard work and knowledge. Biff has also learned how to deny and alter reality from his father. Willy’s flawed value system has caused frustration for Biff and himself.
When Biff was in high school, he felt his father was a great success. He was proud of Willy and never questioned his disregard for rules. Since Willy did not play by the rules, Biff took for granted that he did not have to play by the rules. He was a popular and attractive football player, so he felt no remorse when he stole a football or was rough with women because he was entitled. Willy brags about Biff’s negative actions instead of correcting them. He cannot wait to tell his clients how his son rewarded his great parenting by promising to make a touchdown for him. Willy tells the story over and over to convince his clients and himself of his parental success. By using Biff’s adoration, Willy was able to achieve the reputation for greatness he had always wanted. Biff’s adoration for his father ended when he found Willy in a Boston hotel room with “The Woman.”
In Act II, after his sons desert him at Frank’s Chop House, Willy tries to figure out when he lost Biff’s respect. He realizes Biff’s disillusionment occurred when he found out about his affair with The Woman. When Biff was in high school, he failed math. He went to Willy’s hotel room in Boston to tell him he failed math and to get his father to go and persuade the teacher to pass him. Biff knocked on the door of his father’s room. Willy opened the door, and Biff explained his situation. While he was there, his father’s mistress came out of the bathroom. He found his father with his mistress. “The Woman” was the secretary of one of Willy’s buyers. She had built up Willy’s ego by telling him she selected him because he was funny and sweet. Willy uses her to cure his loneliness and get immediate access to the buyers. When his mistress comes out of the bathroom in a negligee, Willy pushes her out into the hall. He lies and tells Biff she is a buyer who is using his shower while hers is being painted. Biff does not buy his father’s story and tells him not to bother calling his teacher because he would not believe a phony liar and leaves. Biff discovery of his father’s affair taints all that Willy has taught him about the American Dream. In Biff’s mind, the idea is flawed. He decides then and there not to retake the test or go to college. From that time on Biff has gone from job to job, stealing, and roaming aimlessly across the country.
Willy decides to plant vegetable seeds because he is afraid he has nothing to leave Biff when he is gone. He wants to grow vegetables as tangible proof of his value life as a salesman and father. The vegetables would also save him from his failure to raise Biff correctly. When he says, “Nothing’s planted, I don’t have a thing in the ground,” Willy recognizes that Biff is no longer interested in his father’s enduring obsession with his American dream. After Biff finds his father in the backyard planning seeds and talking to his dead brother, He tries once more to explain to his father that he has limited skills and no leadership ability. In order to keep his father from being disappointed, Biff suggests they do not see each other again. Willy once again refuses to listen to what Biff is telling him. When Willy refuses to understand Biff becomes frustrated. He realizes he will never meet his father’s expectations and tells his father to forget about him. Biff is more determined to move out west and work with his hands. He sees this as a positive step, but Willy sees it as a betrayal of his American Dream and more evidence of his failure as a father. Willy then has a discussion with his dead brother about killing himself so that Biff can collect the $20,000. His death would also show Biff how important he was when he sees how many people attend his funeral. As the audience will find out later, Willy’s funeral is not well attended.
In The Glass Menagerie, Laura is Amanda’s shy and overly sensitive daughter. She has a slight limp and wears a brace on her leg, which makes her feels inferior to everyone else. Laura becomes nervous whenever she has to deal with the real world. Amanda refuses to accept that Laura is crippled but says she just has a slight physical defect. Hoping to make Laura more self-sufficient Amanda enrolls her at Rubicam's Business College. When she discovers Laura could not handle school and quit, Amanda focuses her energy on finding Laura, a husband.
Fear is another element in The Glass Menagerie. Amanda tries to scare Laura into becoming more charming and receptive to entertaining gentlemen callers. She tells her that unmarried women who cannot support themselves find themselves living “upon the grudging patronage of a sister’s husband or brother’s wife!”(14). Amanda’s detachment from reality has caused her to believe they will have financial security if Laura marries. She does not consider the possibility of Laura’s husband not being able or willing to provide for his wife and her mother. After all, Amanda’s husband deserted her leaving her with a meaningless and empty life.
Laura dreams are not as ambitious as her mothers. She knows her chances for gentlemen callers and marriage, are limited because of her physical handicap and her painful shyness. However, Amanda’s refuses to understand that Laura’s personality and life goals are very different from her own. Her mother’s denial and Laura’s fear pushes the latter further and further into her fantasy world of glass figurines and old records.
Amanda demonstrates her fear for financial security after her son Tom leaves home. She was counting on Laura to graduate business school and secure a position, but that did not work out. After discovering Laura has dropped out of business college, Amanda asks Laura “So what are we going to do with the rest of our lives?”(14) She then focuses her efforts on find Laura, a husband, but that also failed. Amanda’s fear of poverty combined with Laura’s inability to cope with the real world makes her “hateful” about her situation. While Biff has decided to go west and find a job working with hands, Laura has not developed any plans for the future. She chooses the smothering unreal world of her mother’s house instead life in the real world. Her inability to connect with the outside world has made her more of a cripple than her limp. She has betrayed Amanda’s plans and dreams for security by not marrying and choosing to remain in her world with her record player, records and glass menagerie.
Besides the differences in Biff and Laura’s planning, or lack of planning for the future, there is another difference that stands out in the two plays. Both Amanda and Willy retreat into their dream worlds when things get tough, but only Amanda sacrifices her dignity for the ones she loves. For instance, she puts aside her pride and takes a job selling magazine subscriptions to improve Laura’s chances of getting a husband. On the other hand, Willy shows an obvious disrespect for his family with his affair and his suicide.
Death of a Salesman and The Glass Menagerie are both plays that demonstrate the elements of fantasy versus reality, parent-child conflict, and betrayal. They both have colorful characters with unique stories to tell. There are similarities that establish a connection between the plays. In both plays, a parent’s fantasy world influences how their child copes with the real world and its complicated situations. When their child chooses to live their life in a way that differs from the parent’s plan they are committing an act of betrayal by the parent. In their plays, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams show real life family situations in a way the audience can understand. That is why Death of a Salesman and The Glass Menagerie are considered American classics.

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WePapers. (2021, January, 09) Free Character Comparisons In Death Of A Salesman And The Glass Menagerie Essay Example. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from
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"Free Character Comparisons In Death Of A Salesman And The Glass Menagerie Essay Example." WePapers, Jan 09, 2021. Accessed June 26, 2022.
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"Free Character Comparisons In Death Of A Salesman And The Glass Menagerie Essay Example," Free Essay Examples -, 09-Jan-2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 26-Jun-2022].
Free Character Comparisons In Death Of A Salesman And The Glass Menagerie Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Jan 09, 2021. Accessed June 26, 2022.

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