Willy Loman is a troubled man who is constantly dreaming of his past and better life, the recurring dreams acts almost as a barrier between the true realistic world and his dream world. Willy is unable to forget the past life, where he was in his own mind a successful man. His mind pressurises him to judge on what is right and what is wrong. Where in which Arthur Miller slips Willy into his dream world as soon as trouble sparks up, enabling the audience to see that Willy feels safe in his imaginary world; showing the audience that Willy's mind controls his actions. Arthur Miller also introduces the audience to Greek terms which are elements into making a tragic hero; however it is controversial whether or not Willy Loman is a tragic hero or just a tragic man. The use of hamartia - a fatal flaw or mistake that leads to the Hero's fall, this is shown near the beginning where Willy lies about his earnings in order to cover up his mistakes. Linda states "you're doing wonderful, dear. You're making seventy to a hundred dollars a week" but in fact Willy earns much less than that, this shows the beginning of Willy's mistakes as the lies begin to sink in and where a tragic hero begins.
Willy's ego affects his family dearly and more importantly his wife Linda, this is shown through the way Willy tries to live the luxurious comfy life: the American dream. However this brings about Linda's fall as she has to make sacrifices in order to follow up Willy's materialistic view of the American dream. "Why get American when I like Swiss" where Willy refers about the cheese. This indicates that although Willy's family is quite poor, his pursuit of the American dream is vastly stronger than the consideration of his family.
Additionally Arthur Miller reveals Willy Loman to have "massive dreams" as he blames his troubles of success on someone other than himself. He claims "If old man Wagner was alive I'd been in charge of New York now!" This shows that Willy is trying to hide the truth, how he is in denial of his troubles and eager to cover up his mistakes. Furthermore the word "if" implies that Willy could've made it, where the use of the word indicates that the obstacle prevented Willy from reaching his goal, using others as a scapegoat.
Willy brings the downfall of his family as Willy constantly has all the wrong dreams; this is shown through how Arthur Miller continuously plays with Willy's past life and slipping Willy in and out of his dreams. The audience are introduced to the first dream as Willy isolates himself from reality to the dream world as "Young Biff and young Happy appear in the direction Willy was addressing...Biff, wearing a sweater with a block S." This indicates that Willy and Biff in the past were closer, connected than they are today, where Willy in his dreams feels safer and bonded to Biff however in reality they are much distance apart. Therefore this comes to show that Willy feels safer in his dream world, how dreaming allows Willy to undo his bad decision but also giving the impression to the audience that Willy is weak, how he is unable to forget the past in order to progress in life. The use of "young" too indicates that Willy is still connected to his past life, where the dreams acts as obstacle that holds him back and Willy holding his family back as well.
Furthermore Arthur Miller creates an unsettling relationship between Willy and his son Biff. The way Willy acts towards Biff hints to the audience that their relationship is unresolved where Willy discourages Biff "Biff is a lazy bum" which mentally affects Biff as he see's his father as his role model. The audience gain the idea that Biff is severely influenced to fail as Willy's main concern is to "succeed" - where Willy strongly believes through dedication and "devote your whole life to stockings" gut determination will proceed. On the other hand the pressure on Biff constantly makes Biff feel like a failure as in his eyes "selling or buying...." it's all the same. The use of ellipses shows the generic routine of living, giving the idea of no change. This ties in with the theme of dreams as Willy is still surrounded by his "American Dream", where it is taking effect on Biff. Willy's interpretation of the American dream is to work and work and you'll be granted with success however to Biff "it always turns out the same" in every job, where Biff is very different from Willy and unable to grasp the idea of success in his mind. Although the perfect dream Willy sets for Biff, only in Willy's mind does he really believe it'll bring success however Biff has experience the struggle of carrying the burden of determination his father has put on him and finds out that in fact the "dream" his dad has laid out for him may only be a dream.
Willy's downfall seems to have had a domino effect upon his family - where Willy's failure too brings his family's failure. Arthur Miller introduces to the audience of Willy's relationship with Linda where his inconsideration and his failure caused Linda to cut down on ordinary home goods. "Just mending my stockings" Linda states which show the poor financial status of the family where the Willy's crash means that his family has to suffer alongside Willy. But because Linda doesn't stop Willy's behaviour it encourages Willy to behave badly and affect the family. Arthur Miller also reveals to the audience of the Greek term Peripeteia. The word which defines reversal of fortunes shows how Willy's failure has caused everything to go wrong for his family too - supporting the domino effect. This relates to Willy's tragic fall and giving the implication of a tragic Hero as the fall of the Hero brings the fall off the citizens: his family.
Willy's relationship with his family is linked to disaster as Arthur Miller relates the theme of tragedy with Willy's relations with his family. We are aware of the impact Willy's relationship has with his partner Linda as she understands his status, how he isn't destined for greatness but she respects him dearly despite the fact Willy strives for greatness. This is shown through where Linda states "A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man", this depicts Linda's feelings towards Willy where she acknowledges Willy as a hardworking man although his earnings doesn't support otherwise. The language used by Arthur Miller also implies how Linda sees Willy, where it states "A small man" shows that Linda knows that Willy isn't a successful man but Willy's efforts makes up for his loss of wealth.
Willy's downfall more importantly affects his two sons; Happy and Biff. In the play we are aware that Happy is ashamed of his dad as he states in front of two girls "That's not my dad, that's just some guy" which supports the idea that Happy is embarrassed by his dad's failure. Not only is Happy embarrassed but he says that his dad is "just some guy" which indicates Happys lack of respect for his dad, where Willy's downfall has made Happy think low of him and humiliated to be around his father. On the contrary Biff respects and is inspired by Willy. Biff states that Willy is "a fine, troubled prince, hardworking, un-appreciated prince" implying that Biff sees his father as a role-model and as a noble figure. This further indicates that although Willy may seem like a failure, he has his son's support where others seem to neglect Willy. However it is clear that mischief in the past has influence Biff to fail as Biff considered himself to be "I'm no good can't you see what I am"! The quote gives an insight that something has influenced Biff to think low of him.
However Arthur unveils the secret of the trip to Boston to the audience which was both was the fall of Willy and Biff. The mystery secret of the woman is unveiled where Biffs perspective of Willy changed from that moment on; where in which the audience truly understand why Biff is constantly in the need to fail. Biff states "You fake, you phony little fake"! This answers the question the audience continuously ask - Why does Willy consider Biff to always be failure? The truth about the past is revealed and can be found as the "Denouement" of the play. Willy is brought to reality where Willy strive to triumph caused him to cover and hide the truth where in fact Willy is actually a "phony" This part in the play acts as a Denouement as all of the secrets are exposed, how previously Biff referred Willy as "a prince" and now a "fake" indicates the fallen Hero that is Willy. Arthur Miller further explores this past as it relates to the Greek term of Hamartia - where this acts as a fatal flaw which leads to Willy's fall. The relation of Hamartia and the past depicts the very start downfall of Willys and Biffs relationship; how many of Biffs troubles were because of the influential impact his dad had on him. Therefore this comes to show how Willy played a major part in Biff's life, where Willy's mistake lead to Biff's lost of respect where the statement "phony" is revisited implying how Biff saw Willy's true colours.
This relates back to Willy's downfall as the lost bond of father and son damaged Willy mentally, where it affected Willy's work and overall his family life. It is clear that Biff was affected by the past as Biff's disbelief in him shows how he lost self belief and aspirations because of his lost trust in his father.
Willy's pursuit of the American dream does bring the downfall of his family as we now understand why Willy consistently drifts into his dreams as his pasts reminded him of better times. Arthur Miller depicts Willy's dreams as a symbol success despite the money troubles. Willy's success in his mind was the perfect family, where the lost bonds represent the broken heart in Willy, where all that really mattered was his family's welfare.
His hard work shows his struggle of survival defending himself in front of Howard. "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away. A man is not a piece of fruit" Willy argues. This implies how although Willy considers himself as waste, he is still useful. Willy may only be a "peel" but the peel is what is hanging him on to his family, and Willy states" you can't eat the orange and throw away the peel" indicates he doesn't want everyone to move on, how Willy wants to stay in the past of good times where he feels at best. Thus Willy battles to stay in the market but is hopeless without his family and therefore they all were dragged into suffering just to comfort Willy.