Study Guide

Death of a Salesman Lies and Deceit

By Arthur Miller

Lies and Deceit

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The Lomans are all extremely self-deceptive, and in their respective delusions and blindness to reality, they fuel and feed off of one another—kind of like praying mantises do after mating. Willy convinces himself that he is successful, well-liked, and that his sons are destined for greatness. Unable to cope with reality, he entirely abandons it through his vivid fantasies and ultimately through suicide. Linda and Happy similarly believe that the Lomans are about to make it big... any day now. Unlike the other members of his family, Biff grows to recognize that he and his family members consistently deceive themselves, and he fights to escape the vicious cycles of lies. It's gotta be tough being the black sheep. 

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. What compels the Lomans to deceive themselves and one another?
  2. How does self-deception function as a coping mechanism for the Lomans?
  3. Compare and contrast instances of attempted deception between members of the Loman family with instances in which a Lomans try to deceive someone outside of the family (for example, Willy’s deception of Linda as opposed to his deception of Howard). How are the outcomes different?

Chew on This

Willy, Linda, and Happy use self-deception as a means to mentally escape the realities of their lives when they are unable do so physically, like Biff and Ben when they move out of New York.

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