Everyone you have met in your life has lied to someone in their lifetime, whether it be a small white lie or a lie that could change your life or someone else’s life or feelings drastically. In “The Ways We Lie” by Stephanie Ericsson and “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, there are many examples of lies. Death of a Salesman begins when Willy returns from work and see’s that his sons Biff and Happy are staying at the home that they were raised in, the story goes back and forth between past and present and eventually the reader finds out that Willy ends up committing suicide, so his family would be better off financially with the insurance money. In Ericsson’s essay she claims that lying and deceiving another person, whether it be big or small, causes hurtful consequences, we see that in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” throughout the acts.
The first lie the reader sees in “Death of a Salesman” is Delusion, according to Ericsson, “Delusion uses the mind’s ability to see things in myriad ways to support what is wants to be the truth.” (Ericsson) This is seen in Act 1 when Willy was talking to Linda about the car. How’d the Chevy run? Chevrolet, Linda, is the greatest car ever built. No, they did a wonderful job. Then you owe Frank for the carburetor. I’m not going to pay that man! That goddamn Chevrolet, they ought to prohibit the manufacture of that car! This shows the reader that Willy is a very delusional man, whether he knows it or not, that is his reality. In Ericsson’s essay she says that delusion is also a survival technique which goes to show in willy’s case, he doesn’t realize that he is out of the game, he truly believes that he is one of the top salesmen.
If willy had known that he was getting pushed out by better salesmen and wasn’t washed up, he probably would’ve killed himself long before he did. While there are plenty of forms of lying, one that most people seem to do is white lie, Ericsson defines a white lie as a lie “that will cause more damage than a simple harmless truth.” (Ericsson) The reader can see this is the play when Linda lies about knowing about willy’s suicide attempts. She reveals she knows about it to happy and biff after an argument breaks out. ‘And behind the fuse-box – it happened to fall out – was a length of rubber pipe.’ (Miller, 651) Linda uses the white lie in this situation by feeling if willy knew that she had known about his attempts it would’ve made things worse for willy.
Dismissal is one of the many lies found in Miller’s play, Ericsson says that dismissal is “the slipperiest of all lies” (Ericsson) and it is “the dismissal of feelings, perceptions and even the raw facts of a situation” (Ericsson) In Act one, Biff says that he wants to go in the business world, and that he has a meeting with a salesman in order to get into the sales world. I guess so. I know something about it and— He knows something about it! You know sporting goods better than Spalding for God’s sake! How much is he giving you? I don’t know, I didn’t even see him yet, but— Then what’re you talkin’ about?
BIFF [getting angry]. Well, all I said was I’m gonna see him, that’s all! (Miller 653) This goes to show you that willy is very dismissal of Biff’s feelings, and perception of the situation, he doesn’t even give Biff the chance to announce that he wants to go out in the business world without willy telling him he doesn’t know what he is talking about. While there are many lies in the play of “Death of a salesman” they are easily pointed out with the help of Ericsson’s essay “The Ways We Lie”. The reader can see that the lies throughout the play are very obvious and very hurtful to all the characters involved, including dismissal of ones feelings, delusion on Willy’s part and the white lie done by Linda to save her husband’s feelings and also her children’s feelings.
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