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Death of a Salesman addresses loss of identity and a man's inability to accept change within himself and society.The play is a montage of memories, dreams, confrontations, and arguments, all of which make up the last 24 hours of Willy Loman's life.Willy's sons, Biff and Happy, adopt Willy's habit of denying or manipulating reality and practice it all of their lives, much to their detriment.
Thus, Willy's memory has distracted him from the reality of losing his job.
Denial, contradiction, and the quest for order versus disorder comprise the three major themes of Death of a Salesman.
Each time Willy loses himself in the past, he does so in order to deny the present, especially if the present is too difficult to accept.
As the play progresses, Willy spends more and more time in the past as a means of reestablishing order in his life.
The more fragmented and disastrous reality becomes, the more necessary it is for Willy to create an alternative reality, even if it requires him to live solely in the past.
This is demonstrated immediately after Willy is fired.Linda appears and convinces Willy that he should stay in sales, just like Dave Singleman.Willy's confidence quickly resurfaces, and he is confident that he has made the right decision by turning down Ben's offer; he is certain he will be a success like Singleman.Linda is the only character that recognizes the Loman family lives in denial; however, she goes along with Willy's fantasies in order to preserve his fragile mental state.The second major theme of the play is contradiction.Instead of acknowledging that he is not a well-known success, Willy retreats into the past and chooses to relive past memories and events in which he is perceived as successful.For example, Willy's favorite memory is of Biff's last football game because Biff vows to make a touchdown just for him.There's one thing about Biff — he's not lazy." Willy's contradictions often confuse audiences at the beginning of the play; however, they soon become a trademark of his character.Willy's inconsistent behavior is the result of his inability to accept reality and his tendency to manipulate or re-create the past in an attempt to escape the present.Willy Loman is incapable of accepting the fact that he is a mediocre salesman.Instead Willy strives for his version of the American dream — success and notoriety — even if he is forced to deny reality in order to achieve it.