How is Willys retreat into the past a form of escape from his unpleasant present reality 

How is Willys retreat into the past a form of escape from his unpleasant present reality How does it function as a way for Willy to cope with the failure to realize his ambitions Death of a Salesman, By: Arthur Miller. The work is to be 2 pages with three to five sources, with in-text citations and a reference page. Assignment ref Willy Loman & His Flashbacks Introduction Arthur Miller’s ic work, ‘Death of a Salesman’ depicts the story of a middle class person, Willy Loman, struggling to make it big, and realize the much vaunted ‘American Dream’. The dream remains elusive even as he raises his family on the one hand, and struggles through his job as a salesman on the other, in good times and in bad times. The tragedy of the play is that Loman fails on both counts. As he approaches the end of his life, one is given glimpses of his personality – character and dreams – through his frequent retreats into the past, and the imaginary success which he himself had achieved, though not recognized by the outside world.

Escape from reality

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The present situation is that the family is short of money. Willy struggles hard to make both ends meet as he works on commission basis, and his sons have different expectations from life than those of his. He lives his illusions as if they are real, and wants to prove his achievement by leaving money after death, albeit from his insurance!

Willy believes that his two sons, Biff and Happy (Hap), like himself had been at some in the past, are great men capable of beating the best in business! In reality, he is fully aware of his own failure to make it big in life. He is also aware that his grown up sons knew of his short comings. His frequent retreats into the past, real and not-so-real, is his method of escaping the reality of the present.

Biff likes the life in ranch against Willy’s wish for him to be a successful businessman, making it big in the city. Willy can not understand this and lapses into

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another of one of his flashbacks when Biff was the dashing football team captain of his school, full of promise for the future, what he himself has been in his profession as a star salesman! He believes that good looks and money are all that one needs in a great country like America, to be successful. In reality he recognizes that he failed on both counts, but his reverie into Biff’s football captaincy is an attempt to re-live that glorious phase, as if it is still continuing to be relevant today!

Biff and Hap are realistic to their true likes and dislikes, even as they recognize the fault lines in the character of their father. But Willy is unwilling to compromise with the reality. When Biff tells his father of his limitations, Willy shouts at him, “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman and you are Biff Loman!” This outburst from Willy is a typical instance of the self-glory, with which he constantly proclaims the destiny of himself and Biff, as that of Hap.


In his advanced years, Willy Loman retreated into his past life to find meaning to the present unpleasant situation of himself and his family. He dreamt big things for himself and his two sons, but his dreams remained unfulfilled. The only way he could console himself was to relive the past, in order to escape the harsh reality of the present.

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Miller A, Death of a Salesman.

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