“Death of a Salesman” written by Arthur Miller, was a play written in the early 1900’s. The play focuses on Willy Loman, a loving husband and father who cannot seem to catch his big break and is frustrated with the way his life ended up. He wants to pursue the American Dream but is having a hard time making his mark on the world. Willy is focused on being well liked in attempt to become a successful salesman. It is this mentality that he attempts to instill in his two sons Happy and Biff who are unsuccessful in their careers as well. A successful life is not solely based upon financial gain, how people are liked in the public, but it’s based upon a “whole” complete life that is filled with many experiences. The purpose of this paper is to examine what motivates Willy Loman to do what he does as it pertains to willingness to become a successful salesman. The paper will analyze the analytical purpose of the character which gives the audience new insight on the play.
Loman is motivated to do what he does because he is in the pursuit of finding the American Dream. He is working tirelessly for a company that could care less about his wellbeing and the countless hours he puts in from driving around the country. “If old man Wagner was alive I’d a been in charge of New York now! That man was a prince, he was a masterful man. But that boy of his, that Howard, he don’t appreciate” (Miller, 6-7). He is motivated to keep on working even if that means killing himself. Willy Loman expects this same work ethic out of his sons especially Biff. Biff is the main reason Willy Loman lashes out the way he does and takes out most of his anger and frustration on his wife Linda. Linda is the peacemaker of the family, but it is becoming obvious that this role is becoming too much to handle.
His pursuit for greatness will soon be his ultimate demise. Instead of rolling over and dying Loman fakes his happiness for the sake of his wife for the pursuit of becoming the successful salesman he has always dreamt of being. It is when he is at lowest point that he realizes that he must keeping pushing before it is too late. Unknowingly to those around him (Loman) puts out the façade that he has it all together and his dreams are just around the corner. He is no longer motivated but a defeated man who refuses to give up on what he thinks a successful man should be. “The unspooling protagonist who, after decades of hard work, realizes (and is destroyed by the realization) that he has built his life on sand; how much strain and disappointment” (Harvey,3).
Loman was so busy chasing being a successful man that he forgot how to live. Everything was about work and why his sons did not have the same outlook as he did on life. Willy did not understand the definition of a successful person. In life you will encounter those who are deemed successful because they have money but, they are not successfully they are wealthy. Success comes from within. “Success comes as the by-product of a life lived from the inside out. The key to living a successful life is grasping the awareness that you are enough. Once you understand you are enough, you create the space within your consciousness that allows you to realign harmoniously with your essential self or highest good” (Herriott, 4). Success is having a loving and nurturing family, a roof over your head and food in your mouth. Success cannot always be measure by finances or by the number of people who like you. Money and “fame” are here one day and gone the next. It is all about the journey we take to become successful. Taking shortcuts may be good in the beginning but detrimental in the end. Anything worth having is worth waiting for.
Willy’s issue was his stubbornness and his will to become successful. He failed to realize that his way of living and thinking is not the way of the world especially as it pertains to family. He expected too much from his sons and when they failed it only further angered him because of the potential he assumed they possessed. “Individuals from individualistic cultures may put greater emphasis on their unique traits and personal attributes” (King & Chi, 1). This is the main reason why he continued to work and not realizing that there was more to life than work. How can one expect others to want more in life when they do not realize their own self-worth?
It is because of Willy’s narrow mindedness that he failed not only himself but his family. First, he failed his wife in so much as he was not receptive to her feelings on how she trying to manage relationship between he and his children. He failed his children by not being receptive to what their personal needs and goals were. And lastly, he failed himself and that he did not realize that it was time to take a different journey. He did not listen to that inner voice that we all have, that changing a goal does not delineate failure. Changing a course because your passion and abilities don’t match does not mean you are not a successful person. When this occurs, we must reevaluate what we want for ourselves and what we want for our family. Evaluating personal objectives and trying to reinvent ourselves that reflect our beliefs and ability that create a more accurate reflection of who we are. Unfortunately for Willy he did not have the endurance or sound mind to understand that practical changes were necessary to sustain his life. As a part of his demise and the hallucinations that he experienced reality was far from his reach and unfortunate self-destruction was his undoing. As a result of his death he left his family and they were unable to see his full potential.
- Du, Hongfei, et al. “Self-Esteem and Subjective Well-Being Revisited: The Roles of Personal, Relational, and Collective Self-Esteem.” Plos One, vol. 12, no. 8, 2017, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183958.
- Harvey, Giles. “‘Death of a Salesman’: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Mediocrity.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 14 May 2012, www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/death-of-a-salesman-a-heartbreaking-work-of-staggering-mediocrity.
- Herriott, Jessie. “The True Meaning of Success.” Unity, 10 Nov. 2014, www.unity.org/resources/articles/true-meaning-success.
- Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. 1948.