Willy Loman presents a highly unrealistic and impractical perception of reality. He experiences his past feelings, emotions, and life situations as being real and especially relevant to his present life. Willy Loman does not analyze the external reality objectively, but uses his dreams to imagine that either it is different or he can change it. He may be considered as being a tragic hero because he is unable to meet even his own standards of happiness. Moreover, Willy does not have any realistic plan not only to reach his objectives but at least to improve his current state of affairs. He is also may be considered as a victim of capitalist exploitation because he has to unwillingly adopt the dominant worldview; in addition, he is subject to the constant economic exploitation by his boss.
First of all, it is reasonable to present positive and negative qualities of Willy Loman. The hero’s positive qualities include his reluctance to accept the existing system. He suggests that it is unfair, although he cannot rationally explain his belief to others. Willy wants to change this situation but has no practical means that may generate the necessary result. His negative qualities include the desire to live in an imaginary world as a try to escape from the main problems of the external reality. Even when his son asks him to perceive the world realistically, Willy suggests that his son has forgiven him everything and accepts his proposal to become a businessman (Miller 98). Thus, even when he is directly asked by his relatives, Willy chooses (either consciously or sub-consciously) to remain in his imaginary world and do not respond straightly to other people’s offers. Consequently, he cannot increase the number of supporters and change the current state of affairs.
It is also evident that Willy has to accept the dominant worldview. He begins thinking with the same categories as other people. For example, the hero kills himself to provide his son with a number of additional opportunities through the life insurance program. The influence of the dominant capitalist mentality may be observed in several respects. First, Willy accepts the dominant idea that money is the source of happiness. Second, he does not consider his life as a value per se but only as a means for attaining other economic goods or profits for his boss. Therefore, he thinks that sacrificing for the sake of additional financial opportunities for his son is a rational choice. Finally, even the idea of inheritance is based on the current system of exploitation. Karl Marx explicitly states that all present inheritance practices should be abolished in order to create equal opportunities for all people regardless of their origin (26).
Thus, living in the capitalist environment, Willy sees that it is not perfect and wants to change it but subconsciously accepts its main assumptions. Even in his aesthetic views, he is not independent. Willy believes that athletic prowess and personal attractiveness play the central role. Thus, he does not value the deep principles and elements of each personality but concentrates on some external attributes. This over-simplistic representation of reality is adopted because it is oriented on the existing needs of the bourgeoisie. It seems that the main source of Willy’s problems is that he uses inadequate means for attaining his social and professional ends.
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He understands that the current system is unfair and exploitative. However, in his attempts to change it, he uses the means that are supported by this system. Willy sees people as a means to generate monetary revenues, suggests that wealth may be acquired only through exploitation of others, etc. In other words, he wants to change the existing system, but through his actions, he only supports it even further. Therefore, Willy is a traditional tragic hero; he does not mean even his own standards of happiness. Marx’s theory of capitalist exploitation helps to specify the sources of hero’s problems. Willy does not participate in the class struggle (Marx 25). He admits the principles of the capitalist world; thus, he cannot succeed in his endeavors.
The hero is also a victim of capitalist exploitation. His boss takes into account neither Willy’s experience nor his previous contributions to the company’s progress. He believes that Willy is like a liability for the company. Thus, he fires him when he suggests it is beneficial for the company. It means that his boss believes that all his employees are only the source of revenues for the company. If he understands that he cannot efficiently exploit some of his workers anymore, he simply fires them without any hesitation. Unfortunately, Willy cannot resist to it as all power is concentrated in the hands of his boss and other representatives of the economic elite.
It may be concluded that Willy is a typical example of tragic heroes. He perceives the external capitalist world as being unfair and unjust, but he cannot change anything as he subconsciously adopts its assumptions. As a result, he even decides to commit suicide to assist his son in obtaining better financial conditions in the future. Willy is also a subject to economic exploitation as his boss constantly seeks ways for extending this exploitation and thus increasing the company’s financial positions. Willy cannot resist to this influence and achieve any improvements. However, his desire of changing this unjust world may inspire others to participate in the class struggle in the future.