In Arthur Miller's drama "Death of a Salesman" the protagonist is a character by the name of Willy Loman. Willy suffers from self-delusion and is obsessed with a desire to succeed. Willy's family is strongly influenced by his actions, which contributes to their own self-delusions. Willy has an extremely large ego and fabricates most if not all of his success. He brags about how much money he makes inflating his sales commissions to his wife Linda. Willy is too proud to accept a job from Charley yet he seems to have no problem accepted money from him to make ends meet. Willy says; "I'm keeping strict accounts" (1683) of the money Charley gives him, but has no intention of ever repaying the debt. Willy wants to be recognized, liked and admired. In Willy's mind success is linked to how well a person is liked. He exaggerates how well liked and respected he really is and tells his sons Biff and Happy in order for them to be truly successful they must first be well liked.
Linda is an enabler and is codependent on Willy. She encourages him and participates in his delusions. Linda is unselfish and her life revolves around Willy and the boys. Despite what she might think or feel personally she tries to influence Biff and Happy to listen to their father stating; "attention must be paid" and encouraging them to participate in his delusions. By giving into Willy, trying to keep peace in the family and trying to avoid hurting him she is actually causing more harm than good. Biff is irresponsible and unable to find happiness. He learned from Willy the way to achieve success is through lying, stealing, and powerful acquaintances. His disillusionment with his father stems from the discovery of Willy's adulterous relationship and unfaithfulness to his mother. Biff becomes frustrated with his mother when she defends Willy. He rebels against success and authority taking pleasure in defying his father. He does try to face the truth and has a sense of moral responsibility. Biff has inherited some of Willy's best traits. He believes there is a better life out there for him, but not as a salesman. He wants to be outside working with his hands, which ironically is when Willy seems to be truly happy and when he feels he has been successful at something. Happy has inherited the worst of Willy's traits. He is a womanizer and a ladies man who has no respect for women including his mother. Happy is selfish and unfeeling; lying and cheating are integral parts of his nature. He constantly seeks his father's approval, but never quite measures up to Biff in his father's eyes. Happy believes he can follow in his father's footsteps and be successful as a salesman where his father failed to do so. Happy states; "I'm not licked that easily. I'm gonna beat this racket! I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain" (1706). Self-delusion is a constant theme that continues throughout the play. Willy states in a conversation with his brother Ben at the end of the play; "Oh, Ben, I always knew one way or the other we were gonna make it, Biff and I!" (1704). In fact neither of them has made it. Willy takes his own life and dies never having realized his dreams. Biff accepts who he is, but has done little to change. Linda doesn't understand why Willy took his life and why no one came to the funeral. Even after his death she is unable to realize that Willy's entire life was a lie. Happy continues to believe Willy "had a good dream" and that he can succeed where his father didn't.