Narcissistic Personality in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and Saul Bellow’s “Seize the Day”: A Comparative Study

U. H. Ruhina Jesmina, PhD, Assistant Professor
Khulna University, Bangladesh


The paper is a comparative study on narcissistic personalities and consequences of their actions in Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman” (1949) and Saul Bellow’s novella “Seize the Day” (1956). Relational content analysis method is used to explore different degrees of narcissism in the characters – the subject of this paper. The research aims at analyzing narcissistic traits, such as obsession with fostering a self-image, denial, preoccupation with unrealistic grand fantasies of success, obsession with superiority and fear of inferiority, and feelings of specialness in connection with the characters of Willy Loman and his sons in Miller’s play and Dr. Adler and his son in Bellow’s novella. Their desperate and excessive attempts to attain their desired image and to get approval of self-worth in society detach them from their true identity and make them lead a life of failure, alienation, and helplessness as well as suffer from an existential crisis.
The narcissistic characters lack empathy and capability of establishing healthy relationships with others they are associated with even as regards parental and conjugal bonding. Instead of healing them, such bonding actually turns out to be a form of bondages that victimizes them. A materialistic and capitalistic society like that of the twentieth century New York was no less for their suffering on both the personal and professional levels. Their fallacious perception of the American Dream is also associated with their narcissist vision of denying their poor status, which was in perpetual conflict with their make-believe images.

Keywords: Narcissism, American dream, capitalism, denial, fantasy, obsession


How to cite:
Ruhina Jesmin, U. H. (2018). “Narcissistic Personality in Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ and Saul Bellow’s ‘Seize the Day’: A Comparative Study.”  Journal of Comparative Studies 11 (40), 62–79.