In this essay, I will be discussing two novels that involve innocence to experience and childhood to maturity. The first is Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”. This novel reflects the numerous issues post-war United States was dealing with during the late 1940’s when it was written. Death of a Salesman was written and published in 1949, when the United States was booming with new economic capabilities and new found power, resulting in a golden age regardless of the growing tensions of the threat of communist invasion. Racial violence and the escalating issues regarding the deluded American dream was turning out to be quite different than that which our founding fathers had originally idealized. During the time “Death of a Salesman” was created, Post-War United States was undergoing a metamorphosis into a new era of prosperity, communist paranoia, and social/philosophical change. Willy Loman is a hard working salesman who was unable to achieve success. He travels all over during the week and is barely able to make enough money to support his family. He has two sons he is very proud of and hopes that they will also be successful.
The second is Sandra Cisneros, “The House on Mango Street” is about a young girl growing up not having the right guidance and believing what everyone else tells her to believe. She believed that material objects such as having a nice house and fancy clothes were the key to success in life. Her self worth was dependent on how many material things she had and how other people judged her. Willy Loman has failed to realize that he is not a successful salesman. He has this innocence about himself that he is a successful businessman whom everybody respects, but in other characters experience in the salesmen field he is not respected at all. He tells his boys that he is successful and well-liked by saying, “Someday I’ll have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home anymore and they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. I can park my car on any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own”(216). Willy tells his boys he is a great success and everybody likes him, but when his wife asks him about his profits the truth about his success is revealed. He first tells his wife Linda, “I did five hundred gross in Providence and seven hundred gross in Boston”(218).
Then he says, “Well I-I did-about a hundred and eighty gross in Providence Oh, I’ll knock’em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me”(218-219). This is a perfect example of how Willy is blind to his innocent ways almost like a child where he needs to hide things from his wife and kids. He says he is well liked, but then tells his wife he has trouble selling because people do not seem to like him. Willy continues to deny innocently and doesn’t show that he is maturing. This might be why he is failing as a salesman. Another example of innocence is seen through Willy and his son Biff. Biff is a well-liked boy in high school, a good athlete, and Willy’s pride and joy. Willy has great expectations for Biff and has always told him about the success he will achieve. Willy says to Biff, “Because you got greatness in you, Biff, remember that. You got all kinds of greatness”(238). Biff ends up failing math in high school and loses his scholarships. He then goes out west and works on a farm.
He doesn’t make very good money and is still unsure of what he wants to do with his life. Even when he returns home Willy still believes that he is destined from great success in business. He even tells people that he is successful. “Well, he’s been doing very big things in the West. But he decided to establish himself here”(249). Even though Biff is unsuccessful and is making no effort to do more with his life, Willy still encourages him and tells other people how successful his son is. Willy chooses not to see Biffs true reality. Willy holds onto his innocence as a parent that his son Biff was destined for success. In his mind Biff will someday be successful and support the family. Willy lacks the experience as a parent to guide his son on the right path which is why I say it goes back to being innocent. Biff decides to confront his father about his true self towards the end of the play. He tells Willy, “And I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!. Pop! I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you! I am not a leader of men, Willy, and neither are you. You were never anything but a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them.
Pop! I’m nothing!”(275-276). Biff knows that he is not successful and will never be a businessman. He is tired of his father’s innocent child like mind and has grown and experienced real life. He tells Willy that he is no different from any other man; he is not special. He tells his father that the Loman’s are not a respected family, and that Willy is just another overworked salesman trying to survive. Willy is still unable to believe Biff and tells Biff not to blame him for his failures. Biff is not trying to blame his father; he is trying to get him to wake up and see reality and stop living in a state of innocence where nothing bad happens. In the end of the play Willy still believes that Biff is destined for success. Willy has lost everything. He lost his job and Biff wants to move away. He then realizes that he is worth more dead than alive. Willy says, “Funny, y’know? After all the highways, and all the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive”(250). Willy has come to realize that his life insurance policy is worth about twenty thousand dollars. He knows that his family could use the money, and believes Biff will use it to become successful.
“Can you imagine the magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket? When the mail comes he’ll be ahead of Bernard again”(272). Willy has such an innocent mind that he is going to take his own life to try and help Biff become successful. It is as if he didn’t even hear what Biff told him. He believes that Biff will get ahead in the world with the insurance money. Willy Loman believed he had everything when in reality he really had nothing to show for his life. His pride created an illusion of success, which blinded him from seeing the truth. He realizes this too late in his life to change anything. In his mind he was worth more to his family dead than alive. The Theme of innocence and experience is illustrated throughout the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman lives his life in the innocence that he and his sons will be successful. In the experience of the real world Willy is just another overworked salesman and his son’s just wonder from job to job never making any good money. Sadly Willy decides to commit suicide to help his family out. He has nothing to show for his life after all his work and still upholds the innocence of Biff being successful in business. This play has a tragic ending and is very sad throughout. The reader can really feel how much Willy wants success for himself and his boys.
Unfortunately, he never pushes himself or his boys to do more with their lives. He is to prideful to see what is the real experience you need for life. Is Willy Loman really that different from us? I see lots of Willy Lomans every day. Lots of people are working dead end jobs and holding onto their innocence that they will someday be great, but they are making no real effort to achieve success. Sadly the world we live in judges success in dollar amounts. People work their whole lives and in the end you get to look at what you have. Don’t be like Willy Loman with nothing to show for his many years of hard work. Don’t let your pride blind you from your reality. We live in our innocence that success will come to us, but we need to go out and find success. Don’t be a Willy Loman or a Biff; be a Bernard. It is your life, and you alone choose your future success. In the novel, The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros describes the problems that Latino women face in a society that treats them as second class citizens. A society that is dominated by men, and a society that values women for what they look like, and not for what is on inside.
In her Novel Cisneros wants us to envision the obstacles that Latino women must face every day in order to be treated equally. In The House on Mango Street when the nun said “you live there”, “The way she said it made me feel like nothing” (128). It is hard for me to understand that some people have to live in poverty and small run down houses without running water and such. When I read this quote I could just imagine a little girl sitting up looking at the nun in her tattered clothes and saying, “Yes this is where I live.” I can just imagine her feeling like she is nothing compared to others. This is a good example of how what someone tells you as a child can have huge effects on your adult life. Now as the child grows she will think that having material objects will make her a better person. What someone tells you as a child has huge impact on your adult life. If the Nun didn’t point this out to her she would have never thought of judging a house based on its cosmetic appearance. Another way is lying to your children. When the parents told the children their new house would be wonderful and have clean water white picket fences and described this wonderful house, it was the complete opposite. Making things better than what they are is not good for a child.
It makes them not trust you and these types of experiences aren’t good for you. It only makes you not trust people. A truthful person would sit down and explain to the child that mommy and daddy don’t have the money for a nice house right now but in the future we will try and get a better one. That would have been a better choice and more beneficial for the child. The truth hurts but it’s real and that’s what kids need so that they too can sit and talk to people. No matter if it’s going to hurt you know your kid is telling the truth to you. Another way the story portrays the way a child will mature is the way she views her surroundings. If she cares how everyone else views her house and the way it is she too will view it the same and it will lead her to grow and be materialistic. The way a child views her parents and elders is important in her upbringing so these encounter she comes across will impact her dramatically. A child should be raised to view the world as a wonderful place where she can learn and enjoy while she grows up. In conclusion, both novels illustrate good points on the way you raise your children and the way you view life and how experiences can affect how our children grow up.
In the story “Death of a Sales Men”, Willy’s childlike innocence really reflects the way he got stuck at a point in his life where he was unable to grow and come to reality which affected the way his children grew up as well. Biff looked up to his father and his father didn’t see the impact he was having on his son’s life. Then there is “The House on Mango Street” which portrays material items are what’s important in life. It shows the impact your parents can have on you and the impact other elders can impact the way you view life and objects as well. Overall, if you lie or live a false life it will come back to you and the way you live will impact others. Therefore, your childhood experiences can affect the way you live as an adult. Therefore, all actions must be thought out clearly before any are taken to avoid situations like the ones in the stories. Many things could have been avoided if the parents where more realistic and told the truth to their kids and didn’t lie to them.