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 buried.
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 England.
"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.