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Death of A Salesman: Willy An Idiot with A Dream

The dream that led to his ultimate downfall

A common idea presented in literature is the issue of
the freedom of the individual in opposition to the
controlling pressures of society. Willy Loman, the main
character in Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller,
epitomizes this type of person; one who looks to his peers
and co-salesman as lesser individuals. Not only was he
competitive and overbearing, but Willy Loman sought after an
ideal that he could never become: the greatest salesman
ever. Determined to make money, Willy became uncontrollable
and somewhat insane. Through his dialogue and actions,
Willy Loman portrays a character of insecurity, persistence,
and unknown identity.
From the very beginning of his life, Willy Loman
experienced problems with his popularity and personality.
His last name is a pun on a "low man." He is at the bottom
of the business world as an unsuccessful salesman. In
addition, his theories on life and society prove to be very
degrading, not to mention influential to his mind set every
day. Willy believes that being well-liked and having a
personal attractiveness, together, can bring success, money,
and many friends. Ironically, Willy does not have many
friends and many people do not like him. With a beauty
unlike others, Willy thinks that doors will open and
problems will all disappear.
As a salesman, Willy developed many hindrances that
caused his mind to deteriorate. His life as a salesman was
built on a dream that he witnessed as a child. At an early
age, Willy heard of a salesman, Dave Singleman, who could
make his living out of a hotel room. Singleman was very
successful and when he died, people from all over the
country came to his funeral. It was this ideal that Willy
Loman sought after. All he ever wanted was fame,
popularity, and a few friends. Unfortunately, when Willy
died, not a single person went to his funeral. His life,
one that was spent trying to become another person, namely
Dave Singleman, was a waste as no-one even wanted to see him
In reflection of his career with the Wagner Company,
many other problems arose that forced economic difficulties
on him and his family. He was determined to live by ideals
that placed him above everyone else. It was with these lies
and illusions that Willy's life began to lose its' air of
reality. He lost his identity, courage, and dignity
throughout New England as a salesman. And as he explained
often, "I have friends...They know me up and down New
England." Realistically, though, Willy was not successful.
He did not have friends and people did not like him in New
"With his self-identity weakened and undermined, Willy
lost his grasp of things in general." (P.P Sharma, critical
analysis) He spent hours on hours dreaming of the past.
Thinking of himself and his son Biff who had potential, but
did not take advantage of it. Biff was Willy's inspiration
as a father. He had the determination to become a great
football player, not to mention make something with his life
and the Loman name. However, Biff flunked math and threw
all of his opportunities away. It was with these
circumstances that Biff and his father began to separate.
Willy always promised his sons prosperity and good-fortune,
but he could not give that to him and when he lost Biff, his
life became an even larger failure.
In other memories and illusions, Willy often replays
the moments with his brother, Ben. Specifically, the time
when Willy was offered a job in Alaska; the job which would
have made him an enormous amount of money haunts Willy every
time he tries to sell his Wagner stockings, only to have his
sales come up lame. With low sales and age, Willy decided
to ask for a job in New York. And it was at this time that
his company decided to stop paying by salary, but solely on
commission. And for a man who cannot sell well, the loss of
a salary is very detrimental to his well-being. "Although
Willy is aware, maybe dimly and imperfectly, that he is not
cut out for success in the world of trade and commerce, he
nevertheless nurses the dream of getting the better of
everybody else. And this leads him into an alienation from
himself, obscuring his real identity." (P. P. Sharma,
critical analysis)
Willy's life would have been more satisfying had he
engaged himself in more physical work that would occupy his
mind. His life was situated on a dream for success and
prosperity. When it never arrived, Willy spent a lot of
time, just brainstorming how to make his life what he wanted
it to be. Putting his family aside, Willy committed a
terrible sin. In Boston, during one of his business trips,
Willy cheated on his wife. He met a woman who would be very
cheap for an evening, and as a boost of confidence, Willy
spent the night with this low-class woman. Unfortunately,
his son Biff, who was surprising his father in Boston,
walked in on the two, thus causing a situation that would
forever haunt Biff. His thoughts of his father as an
influential salesman in New England were all lost. What
appeared, instead, was the belief that his father was a
loser with no potential to ever support his family. It was
at this time that they their lives spread apart.
Using that situation as a downfall and the many others
that occurred in Willy Loman's life, it was not surprising
when he killed himself. In search of happiness, Willy
believed that he could give his family what they wanted if
he only left the world. But, his dreams were wrong, as his
family did not even care enough to go to his funeral. He
died for things that he had lived for- his sons and
illusions of prosperity. Ironically, though, his life was
not worth the happiness of his son's. And his life was
definitely not worth the sacrifice that he made for them his
entire life.
Willy Loman died still unsure of his status in the
business world. He wanted success and money, but at the age
of sixty-one, he realized that these goals would never be
reached. His identity was lost and his presence on earth
unknown. Willy Loman was influenced by society in that he
could not overcome the pressures of selling and making
money. His life long dream was happiness, but that never
came either. The pressures of society killed a man who once
had courage and determination. But, as his life moved
further, Willy Loman lost his ability to see the world
clearly. All his eyes could observe was despair and
insecurity. It was through his beliefs that he decided to
end his unhappiness, by ending his life. Willy Loman died a
lost identity, but one that found himself for a brief period
of time; long enough to end his life forever.

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