Willy’s buying into the American Dream of material success does result in its share of arguments between the Loman family. After all, you can only push your family so much before they begin to crack under the pressure. Willy constantly pushes his sons in the business field, mistreats his wife, Linda, who has been nothing but supportive, and even arguing with Charley who is more than compassionate and loans Willy money every month. Biff, Happy, and Linda never argue with Willy directly because they are afraid that it will completely deteriorate any sanity he has left.
They resort to arguing behind his back, but Linda is the only one that sticks up for Willy. Biff shouts at her, “Stop making excuses for him! He always, always wiped the floor with you. Never had an ounce of respect for you” (Miller 55). Biff is disappointed that his mother is the glue that sticks the family together and Willy is doing nothing but pulling that glue apart. Linda loves her husband dearly and wants her children to care about him in the same way. Willy striving for his unattainable dreams of success contribute to his deteriorating sanity and are the root of many arguments.
Biff is clearly the most forthright in every argument: “When Biff insists, near the end of the play, “We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house! ” (131) the audience is prepared, for it has seen Willy’s routine dishonesty, which has helped to make his sons dishonest as well. (Biff is as given to fantasizing and dishonest braggadocio as Willy, until the end, and Happy has the same traits, on a mundane level, mostly about his sexual conquests. )” (Moseley 7). Willy’s family is aware that Willy does not have a large income, but Willy still tends to lie and often exaggerates the amount of money he makes on his sales.
He will come home from work some days and tell Linda he sold enough to make his commission. However, once he states again how much money he has made, the amount becomes much lower. Willy is so infatuated with the thought of making money that he becomes delusional. As a traveling salesman, Willy worked an excessive amount of hours. When he was home with his family, it was very apparent that he favorited Biff. This left Happy incessantly seeking his father’s attention and more importantly, his approval. As a child, Happy idolized his father and wanted to be just like him when he grew up.
He internalized everything Willy taught him about being well liked. Willy’s lessons inherently corrupted Happy’s version of the American Dream. Alas, Happy took Willy’s advice way too seriously and tried to be well liked even more than Willy did. His focus turned to being the ultimate ladies man. When Happy and Biff went to Frank’s Chop House, Happy lied to the ladies they met in order to impress them, “That’s my name. Hap. It’s really Harold, but at West Point they called me Happy. Biff is quarterback with the New York Giants” (Miller 102).
Happy’s American Dream is being able to get any woman he wants because it gives him power. Happy’s idolization of his father as a child turned into resentment as an adult. Willy seems highly distressed while at the bar yet Happy denies even knowing his father so he comes off as more appealing to the woman he has just met, Miss Forsythe. Happy is not reluctant in the slightest bit when abandoning his father at the bar to spend time with Miss Forsythe.
Believe it or not, Happy’s work life is just as deplorable as his social life. Happy feels invaluable at his work place: All I can do now is wait for the merchandise manager to die. And suppose I get to be merchandise manager? He’s a good friend of mine, and he just built a terrific estate on Long Island. And he lived there about two months and sold it, and now he’s building another one. He can’t enjoy it once it’s finished. And I know that’s just what I would do. I don’t know what the hell I’m workin’ for. Sometimes I sit in my apartment — all alone. And I think of the rent I’m paying. And it’s crazy. But then, it’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women.
And still, goddammit, I’m lonely” (Miller 23). It becomes clear that Happy makes enough money to buy himself an apartment, but money does not make him content. In time, he will obtain the merchandise manager position and make more money, but he will be so busy using the money that he won’t be able to enjoy it. Loneliness has overcome his life so much in fact that he resorts to accepting cash bribes from manufacturers. He even sleeps with the wives of executives to feel even more power in his life. Happy’s character flaws are parallel to Willy’s. Willy failed Happy as a role model and a father figure.
If Willy Loman aimed to acquire a more realistic version of the American Dream, perhaps Happy wouldn’t have ended up so corrupted, both in work and in life. J. P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, BFGoodrich are famous businessmen of the 20th Century mentioned in Death of a Salesman. During a conversation between Willy and Charley, Charley tries to compare Willy to J. P. Morgan saying, “Why must everybody like you? Who liked J. P. Morgan? Was he impressive? In a Turkish bath he’d look like a butcher. But with his pockets on he was very well liked” (Miller 97).
J. P. Morgan was known as an American financier, banker, and industrial organizer. He was in influential figure in the world of corporate finance as well as industrial consolidation. He had so much power in this area of business and contributed in the reorganization of highly profitable corporations such as United States Steel and General Electric. Charley is insists to Willy that if J. P. had no riches, he would not be well liked. J. P. is referred to as a “butcher” due to the fact that businessmen like himself are often emotionless and do not feel much for others but themselves.
Businessmen like Morgan could not afford to make any mistakes because one mistake could have broken his entire company. Arthur Miller mentions J. P. to convey to the readers the indisputable similarities between J. P. and Willy. Although Willy was not nearly as successful as J. P. , they were both deluded in gathering that money is everything. Nevertheless, living a cutthroat and power hungry life is certainly not living at all. At one point in the play, Willy even compares Biff’s future potential for success with the late success of Thomas Edison and BFGoodrich, “Sure.
Certain men just don’t get started till later in life. Like Thomas Edison; I think. Or B. F. Goodrich. One of them was deaf. I’ll put my money on Biff” (Miller 18). Thomas Edison was a lucrative businessman and inventor. In fact, some people consider Thomas Edison to be one of the greatest investors of America. He was born on February 11, 1847, but did not become the successful inventor of the light bulb until October 21, 1879. Furthermore, BFGoodrich had his fair share of success of in the business world and was known for being an industrialist in the rubber industry.
He success reached beyond boundaries and he went on to discover his own company, the B. F. Goodrich Company, an aerospace manufacturing company. This company is still around today, but most people recognize it as the Goodrich Corporation. Biff is around the same age as these men were when they attained their success. Willy becomes so infatuated at an early point in the play with his delusional version of the American Dream that he compares his son with arguably the two of the greatest businessmen the country has ever seen.
From this point in the play, Willy’s relationship with Biff gets more strained until it reaches the breaking point and results in more arguments between the family. Willy’s corruption is to blame for these arguments as well as Biff’s initial troubles in securing his success. Willy Loman’s dream of success was ruined from the very start. Willy only saw his father as a wealthy man and insinuated that was the key to success. Willy drove both of his boys into business, only to watch them follow in his footsteps to failure. Willy prioritized his and their success over happiness.
Willy knows that he does make enough money to sustain his family and his failure to admit it and often lying about making more money caused conflict. His further delusions are clear when he compares Biff to two famous businessman. Willy’s desire for success revolved around him being well liked by all his friends and acquaintances. However, success comes from more than having money and being well liked. It comes from planning ahead, working hard, and even luck in some cases. Happiness can even aid in achieving the American Dream. If only Willy knew…