Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
What would you do if your spouse told you they were successful despite evidence to the contrary? What if you suspected your spouse was considering suicide? Or if your son was a failure? Linda responds by enabling her husband and son rather than facing the truth. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is a two-act play that still resonates with audience members today. In this story, the main character, Willy Loman, is a salesman who believes he has found the key to the American Dream. All he needs to dress nicely and be well-liked. His wife, Linda, believes in her husband and supports him. If she suspects that he is not really a success, she doesn't let on. Let's learn more about how Linda has enabled Willy in this play.
After Willy has yet another car accident, Linda decides it is time for Willy to stop traveling so much.
She encourages Willy to talk it over with his boss, 'Why don't you go down to the place tomorrow and tell Howard you've simply got to work in New York? You're too accommodating, dear.'
Over many years, Willy has sold Linda on the idea that he is successful and valued in his company. She has no idea that the conversation she is encouraging Willy to have will lead to him getting fired.
At one point, Willy tries to come clean and let her know that he is not as well-liked as he has led Linda to believe. Some of his coworkers even make fun of him. Linda doesn't believe him, saying, 'Why? Why would they laugh at you? Don't talk that way, Willy.'
Although Linda also enables their son, Biff, she is a bit more pragmatic with him. Biff is more realistic and doesn't claim success that doesn't exist. Although Biff showed great promise in high school as a popular, good looking, football player, his life since high school has been less than stellar. He has trouble keeping a job and bounces from girl to girl. Linda tries to steer him back in the right direction.
'Biff, a man is not a bird, to come and go with the springtime.'
She believes it's time for him to stick to something.
Enabling Willy's Secrets
Linda's enabling becomes more disconcerting as she confides in her sons that Willy is trying to kill himself, although she doesn't confront Willy.
'The insurance inspector came. He said that they have evidence. That all these accidents in the last year - weren't - weren't - accidents.'
She further explains to Biff that she has found a rubber tube that she knows Willy has attached to the gas pipe on the hot water heater, but she refuses to take it off because she doesn't want Willy to realize she knows his secret.
Linda's Hopes Rise
Linda believes that being handsome and well-dressed will bring success to Biff. She is excited when Biff decides to go ask his former employer for a business loan. She has so enabled him through his life that he is not even aware that it is odd to ask someone for money that you haven't had contact with in ten years.
She reports to Willy what Biff is wearing 'his blue suit. He's so handsome in that suit. He could be a - anything in that suit!' Unfortunately, the suit is not enough.
Linda's Hopes Hold Willy in Place
After Willy is fired, he flashes back to a time when his successful brother, Ben, asked him to join him in Alaska to work with him. It was perhaps the most potentially lucrative opportunity that Willy ever had, but Linda opposed the idea. Perhaps her guilt over Willy's missed opportunity is what led to her becoming an enabler.
Linda said, 'Enough to be happy right here, right now… Why must everybody conquer the world? You're well liked, and the boys love you, and someday - '
But Willy's someday never came. He was not well-liked, nor did her remain respected by his sons. Willy would never know if he could have found success in Alaska, but it is apparent that Willy harbors some resentment toward Linda for encouraging him to make the safe choice.
Linda's Hopes are Dashed
After Willy's suicide, Linda continues to believe Willy's lies. She doesn't understand why his funeral is so poorly attended.
'Why didn't anybody come? … where are all the people he knew? Maybe they blame him.'
She attributes the absence of all of his coworkers and clients to his cause of death rather than realizing that Willy was not as well-liked as he presented himself to be.
Linda does not understand how a man who lived the life Willy claimed to have lived could have done such a thing. 'Why did you ever do that? Help me Willy, I can't cry. It seems to me that you're just on another trip… Why did you do it? I search and search and I search, and I can't understand it, Willy. I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there'll be nobody home... We're free and clear.'
Linda's profound love for Willy blinds her to Willy's delusions of grandeur, leading her to believe that he is more valuable at work than he is. Like Willy, Linda believes that the key to success is good looks and being well-liked, but realizes when success doesn't come to their son, Biff, that there must be more to it. Linda recognizes that Willy is suicidal, but never confronts him about it because she doesn't want him to know that she knows. After being fired, Willy flashes back to the best opportunity for success that ever presented itself to him, an opportunity which Linda steered him away from. After Willy's death, Linda doesn't understand why her well-liked husband's funeral was so poorly attended or how Willy could have done such a thing when they are finally financially secure.
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