Death of a Salesman - Relationships

Essay by hrw2cuteHigh School, 12th gradeA+, February 2005

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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.