Love or Hate? The Loman Family in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman"

Term Paper, 2008

12 Pages, Grade: 2,0



Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Loman Family – Love or Hate?
2.1 Introducing the most important characters
2.1.1 Willy Loman
2.1.2 Linda Loman
2.1.3 Biff Loman
2.1.4 Happy Loman
2.1.5 Uncle Ben
2.1.6 Charley and Bernard
2.2 Analysis

3. Conclusion


1. Introduction

This paper deals with the familiar circumstances of the Loman family in Arthur Miller's play “Death of a Salesman”. Right from the beginning, the reader is confronted with a see-saw of love and hate between the family members.

The aim of this paper is to make it easier to understand the characters and their behaviour as well as to analyse the relationships between them.

The distinctive humanity of the characters supports the reader's opportunity of putting himself or herself in the position of these characters . Finally, the result will show that there is more love than hate and that most of the hate is the hate that the characters have for themselves.

2. The Loman Family – Love or Hate?

The story shows a lot of emotionality and jumps between joy and sorrow. Especially Willy changes his mood rapidly and confuses the people around him, who do not know how to deal with him. One can assume that there is a lot of love for each other, but because of the self-hate or other problems it is difficult for the family members to develop a balanced relationship. There is lack of communication between them, which is why nobody understands the needs and thoughts of the other one.

On this basis, it is more coherent to analyse the family structure by analysing the characters' personal lives and minds first.

2.1 Introducing the most important characters

2.1.1 Willy Loman

Willy Loman is a senior salesman who is “sixty years old“ (Miller 7) and loses his mind during the story. He is exhausted and cannot go on the road anymore and consequently loses his job. He has always been proud of his two sons, but cannot rely on them to care for him in his older days, because they do not have a regular life. Happy is the only one with a regular income, but is not settled yet either and so he always tries to force his views on how life must be on them, which makes both parties angry and morbid.

In his numerous switches into his past, it becomes clear that he is not satisfied with his life and his situation. His flashbacks are not always scenes from his past, but conversions of actual problems with characters from the past like his brother Ben or the sound of the flute that is symbolic of his father[1], who has sold flutes.

He shows most of his anger towards Linda, who suffers a lot[2]: “Why do you get American when I like Swiss? [...] I don't want a change! I want Swiss cheese. Why am I always being contradicted?“(Miller 9). All in all, he represents the failure of the American dream, that represents the freedom for anybody to become successful.

2.1.2 Linda Loman

Linda is the head of the family, a little younger than her husband and very loyal towards Willy, even if he does not treat her very well. She cares about all things Willy is not able to care about or do anymore. She suffers most from Willy's problems and tries to arbitrate between Willy and the rest of the world. Linda is very apathetic and shows her honest emotions very seldom. She accepts that Willy shouts at her and that she has nothing to decide on her own.

Her husband betrayes her and even if it is not said in the book, she possibly might know about Willy's affair in Boston. Because of her conscientiousness, she cares about Willy until he dies and bears everything quietly. That's probably the reason why she is not able to cry (Miller 102) for his death. For her, it is a healing process that starts now, to help her to deal with the mental pressure of the last few years. It would be wrong to affirm, that she does not love him, but the burden his existence caused is too heavy for her.

While she cares about Willy, she forgets about her sons, because her only focus is to save Willy from any harm[3].

2.1.3 Biff Loman

Biff is 34 years old and Happy's elder brother. He is a wild spirit and not a salesman-type like his father was. He is well built and trained, because of his experience on a farm. He has never been the good-pupil-type, but is great in football and because of that especially loved by his father. His father's praise went right to his head and made it difficult for him to remain grounded: “because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!“ (Miller 96).

Because of his problems to establish into the society, for example finding a regular job and keeping it for a longer period, he develops a sort of cleptomania, which is ignored by any member of the family. Although it is never mentioned in the play, it is rather obvious for the reader. This disease presumably has a psychological origin, because it only appears in combination with his career: “I stole myself out of every good job since high school!“ (Miller 96). He has been in jail because of it “I stole a suit in Kansas City and I was in jail“ (ibid).

He loves his father and hates him at the same time. A good example for this claim is the secret that both share, the secret of Willy's affair with a woman in a hotel in Boston. He never told it to his mother, probably for her good, but must have hated his father for that, that is shown in his rejection to see his father as a role model anymore. On the other hand, his father was his biggest fan in high school and their relationship was very warm and full of love. Like many children, Biff idealized his father and was therefore shocked and deeply wounded when he discovered the affair.

Especially at the end of the story, near his father's death, he is torn between his love and his hate. He insults him, which is the same that Willy does, and offers excuses at the same time. His father's death freed him in a way, because he can now live his life the way he wants, without considering his fathers wishes and views on how his life must be[4].

2.1.4 Happy Loman

Happy is the younger son of the family, he is 32 years old and an attractive guy[5], who is popular with women and uses them to compensate his lack of self-confidence. He has always been number two and and as a child always tried to catch his father's attention, mostly without success: “I'm losing weight, you notice, Pop?“ (Miller 22). This is not the only emergence of this question towards his father who always ignored it. Like Biff, he has not yet found success or a regular structure in his life[6], but tries to emulate his father and does not veer away from this way of life as Biff tries to. Like Biff, he developed some originalities that are expressions of his unhappiness and the lack of attention of his father in his childhood. Especially his passion for women is a striking aspect. He tries to get their attention, because he knows that Biff is the favourite son and needs the flattering from women for his ego.

Like Biff, he tries subliminally to ruin his career, because he wants something else, meaning the freedom to do what he wants instead of a regular occupation.

He has an affair with the fiancée of one of his executives, even if he knows that he could lose his job and does not want to, he cannot stop: “I hate myself for it. Because I don't want the girl, and still, I take it and – I love it!“ (Kallenberg-Schröder 60).


[1] Compare to Roudané p. 105

[2] His boys are affected too, but while he explodes in front of them just for a couple of minutes, he is continuously insulting his wife

[3] Compare to Kallenberg-Schröder p. 62

[4] Willy was not able to accept Biff's wish to work as a farmhand, he wanted him to end up “big“ in business

[5] Tall, powerful

[6] Even if he works as a salesman, he is searching for an alternative

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Love or Hate? The Loman Family in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman"
Ruhr-University of Bochum  (Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
American Drama
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
497 KB
Death of a Salesman, Loman, Lomans, Arthur Miller, Willy Loman, American Dream, Linda Loman, Biff Loman, Happy Loman, Uncle Ben, Charley, Bernard
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2008, Love or Hate? The Loman Family in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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