Death of a Salesman vs. Oedipus Comparison Essay

In the play “Oedipus the King” (429 BCE) by Sophocles and “Death of a Salesman” (1949 AD) by Arthur Miller it is illustrated that the main protagonists Oedipus and Willy both fail to fulfill their responsibilities as leaders and instead surround themselves with personal conflict affecting their surroundings and families negatively as a result of their arrogance and excessive pride. In “Death of a Salesman”, Willy, who is envisioned as the boss in the household, is the central cause to all of the Loman’s problems.

Firstly, not only does Willy think narrow- minded when talking about achieving his own interpretation of the American Dream, but he consistently tries to instill this idea to his sons Happy and Biff. As a result of this, Willy and Biff have had (as of Act 1) a strained relationship, mainly because of Willy’s inability to understand the many opportunities there are to achieve success other than becoming a salesman.

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However, because Willy thinks so highly of himself as being a salesman, he is too oblivious and prideful thinking he will disgrace himself by saying to Biff that becoming something else may be better than being a salesman. Willy thinks a businessman like himself would be wealthy, yet he has not proven that with his family suffering from major financial struggles. In addition to this fight, Linda is forced to take sides with Willy (due to her nature) and argue against her sons.

This separation portrays a family full of boundaries with each person having a different course of life they each want to pursue; Willy will live with Linda forever while Biff and Happy will start their own business or work on a ranch together. As the tension between father and son go on, the Loman’s household suffers from depression and instability which Willy cannot seem to fix. Similarly, so does Oedipus and the occupants of Thebes. Oedipus may be more of an “important” character in his world, but the pain he caused to his family was of the same extent (or even worse) as the Loman’s suffers through.

Like Willy, when Oedipus’ occupation (King of Thebes) is questioned, Oedipus thought to highly of himself and condescendingly blamed others to be the reason of the curse being held upon Thebes. Even so, Oedipus took action entailing that he could never be the cause of the “foul pollution”. Unfortunately, because of a promise (he could never keep) he made to cleanse the curse to reinforce his title as a “great king” which meant the world to him, Jocasta killed herself and his daughters must live a shameful life.

Not only does this prove that Oedipus is the main cause for his family’s downfall, but exposes his failure to carry out his role as king by bringing infamy to Thebes. Both Willy and Oedipus put their pride and dignity before their families. Their title whether it be a salesman or a king, meant too much to them and let them to believe they are the pillar of success and all that is right. As a result, depression, instability and a lack of support have ruined their lives and of their loved ones.


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