In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, [the protagonist] Willy Loman’s inability to live in and cope with the present ultimately destroys him. The are several constant themes and ideas throughout the play which show this. Willy’s inability to be successful according to his own standards is most problematical for him. The troublesome relationship between Willy and his family also leads to a great deal of stress. And the constants flashbacks and disillusions Willy goes through to deal with these problems bring him further from reality and destroy him.
The fact that Willy cannot be successful is perhaps his biggest problem. In escaping this reality he ultimately destroys himself. Willy says, “I did 500 gross in Providence and 700 gross in Boston. ” “No! Wait a minute… that makes your commission $212! ,” replies Linda “Well I didn’t figure it yet but… well I did about a hundred and eighty gross in Providence,” answers Willy (11). To cover up for his lack of success at work, Willy lies about how he does. He tries to make himself seem successful when in reality he needs to find a solution to his problems.
He tries to bargain with his boss to get a steady paying job because he cannot live on the commission he is making. “If I could take home – well $65 a week, I could swing it… All I need is $50 a week… If I had $40 a week – that’s all I need,” Willy begs his boss (24). His lack of success causes him to keep bargaining and will lead him to settle at just about anything. However the attempt to get a regular paying job turns out nothing short of failure. Failures such as this lead to Willy’s being fired. “I don’t want you to represent us, I’ve been meaning to tell you for a long time now,” says Howard (26).
This obviously destroys his work life. These mounting problems of being unsuccessful at work build up leading to him ultimately being fired. There are several ways in which Willy avoids his problems. First, rather then deal with such situations Willy is stubborn and assumes things will take care of themselves. He uses this attitude when his long time friend Charley offers him a job. Charley says, “I offered you a job. You can make $50 a week, and I won’t send you on the road. ” “I’ve got a job,”(30). Willy’s stubbornness won’t let him deal with reality, causing him to turn down an offer to fix a major problem.
He denies his problems rather then taking the needed help when it is offered. He also often times escapes into his dreams for the future as opposed to dealing with the situation at hand. “Oh I will knock them dead in Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford,” (12). He also uses his success from years ago in his glory days as way out of reality instead of repeating the success again. “-In 1928 I had a big year… In 1928 I averaged $170 a week. And your father came to me and put his hand on my shoulder-,” Willy tells Howard Wagner (25).
This comment about Howard’s father implies a past promise made to Willy. He tries to use this past promise [from a dead man] to get rid of his problems. Not only do Willy’s dreams offer an escape from reality; they are a cause of more problems. ” No it’s me. Suddenly I realize I’m going 60 miles an hour and I don’t remember the last 5 minutes. I’m – I can’t seem to keep my mind on it,” (2). While he is on the road Willy is again not in touch with reality which even he notices. “No, the windshields don’t open on the new cars,” says Willy. Linda replies, “But you opened it today. “Me? Now isn’t that peculiar… I coulda sworn I was driving that Chevy today,” (6).
Willy can’t focus while he is traveling for work which obviously impairs his ability to succeed [being that his job is based on his traveling] . This problem again leads to his ultimate and total failure with his job. The other major cause of Willy’s destructional problems comes from his family. First the deviation of his son Biff from his (Willy’s) expectations hurts Willy. To make up for these problems, as in Willy’s own case, Willy hallucinates of past glory. “Like a young god.
Hercules – something like that and the sun, the sun all around him. Remember how he waved to me? Right up from the field with the representatives of three colleges standing by,” (23). To escape dealing with Biff’s current failures Willy remembers how it was in the past, when everyone was successful and happy. However now trouble is present for Biff. He can’t hold a job. To cover up current problems Willy exaggerates the truth. “Well, Bill Oliver – very big sporting goods man – he wants Biff very badly, called him in from the West,” Willy tells his nephew Bernard about Biff’s interview (29).
This is clearly an exaggerated stretch of the truth. When Biff attempts to go on an interview from Willy’s advise with an old acquaintance, failure is eminent. “Didn’t even remember who I was or anything. I feel like such an idiot Hap,” Biff says (31). Thus Willy’s expectations for Biff are destroyed by such failure. As he does for himself, Willy makes excuses up for Biff. “I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time. My God! Remember how they used to follow him around in high school? ” (5). Willy couldn’t keep his own job much less get one for Biff.
And again Willy draws from the past in a wasteful aim to solve the present. Biff’s failures causes Willy to escape reality again, destroying his goals for his son. Willy’s family life at home is destroyed during the play because of constant family bickering and fighting. Biff was aware of Willy’s problems and gets easily frustrated at his father’s attempts to escape them. Biff exclaims, “I don’t care what they think. They have laughed at dad for years and you know why? Because we don’t belong in this nut house of a city. We should be mixing cement or, or carpenters-. “Even your grandfather was better then a carpenter. You never grew up! “. (22). Again Willy makes excuses and this time argues to avoid dealing with the reality of his problematical situation. Perhaps the most significant cause for the trouble between Biff and Willy at the end was about Biff’s interview with Bill Oliver. “There’s no necessity to mention the pen at all you know. ” “Dad, I’ve got no appointment,” (36). In this case Biff is trying to make his father realize that the whole idea of Biff getting a job from Mr. Oliver was a far cry from the truth.
But despite that Willy, looks into the past seeing it as he wishes it was; hoping he could bring it into the present. Perhaps the final blow to the father- son relationship was when Biff brought the rubber hose to Willy’s attention. “What is that? ” questioned Willy. “You know goddamn well what that is,” answered Biff. “I have never seen that before! ” (37). Biff realizes after Linda showed him [the hose], that Willy is ready to break. And of course when he approaches his father, he (Willy) flat out denies it. These constant arguments destroy Willy’s relationship with his son.
With his life at work crushed, the destruction is being completed with the ruining of his family relationship at home. “But we were supposed to have dinner together,” (34). This sums up best the mangled relationship after Willy’s boys leave him at dinner. Linda also provides for some of Willy’s destruction. She does not hurt Willy by killing and realizing the failure of his dream like Biff, but rather by supporting it. Despite his failure and cover ups Linda always backs Willy up and supports him. It may be the nice thing to do, but in reality it hurts him.
It hurts him because it keeps him away from the truth and shows him that it is okay to stay away from the truth. “But you didn’t rest your mind dear. Your mind is overactive and your mind is what counts,” (3). Linda offers Willy an excuse for his failure to concentrate while driving. She isn’t criticizing him but rather making excuses for him. “There’s nothing to make up dear. You’re doing fine, better the them,” (4). Linda again excuses Willy’s poor performance at work, not facing him with the reality of the problem. She lets him get away with failure but tries to help him by comforting him.
However this comforting shows him it is okay to make these mistakes. Unfortunately these mistakes snowball and when they are realized it is too late. These problems destroy Willy, yet if he could handle them he may not have been destroyed. He instead lived in disillusion. He remembered the past; sometimes editing it to make it seem better then it was. He often spoke of how he should have and could have done this or that. He often believed in the same dreams that he had in the past but failed to see through. He did these things so much he forget if he was living in the past or present.
These escapes from reality made him unable to deal with the matter at hand which destroyed him. “Tell you a secret boys… Someday I will have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home,” (9). This was one of Willy’s goals in the past, yet it was never fulfilled. Rather then accomplishing it he kept going into the past and remembering the dream. “Don’t get your sweater dirty Biff,” (8). This is Willy talking to Biff as a child. Here he lives in the days when things were going good to escape from the problems of the current time. Often Willy would recall his brother Ben.
Ben found success at a young age, yet also died at a young age. He often offered help to Willy years ago. Now when Willy would hallucinate he would often talk to his dead brother. He idolized his brother’s success and talked to Ben as if he was still around asking him for help. “Ben, I’ve got to talk to you. ” “Haven’t the time William. ” “Ben, nothing’s working out. I don’t know what to do,. ” (27). Willy didn’t know what to do when he realized the truth of his problems, so he sought his dead brother for answers. Ben could not help, so Willy took it into his own hands.
When Willy realized the mess of a life he had, he wanted to end it, yet go out with a bang. For Willy this of course involves money. “What’s the proposition? ” asked Ben “$70,000 on the barrelhead, guaranteed,” (35). This money was what Willy figured his family would get from the insurance company when he died. Since Willy couldn’t get the money, he would rather die and have his family be successful afterwards. “Time Willy, time… The boat we will be late,” calls Ben. “Now when you kick off boy, I want a seventy yard boot, and get right down the field under the ball… ecause it is important son… (To Ben), Ben, Where do I?… How do I? ” (38). This is Willy as he leaves his home for the final time. He has a final hallucination with Ben and Biff. Then he realizes he is alone, but it is too late. The reality is finally realized yet Willy cannot handle it because he has avoided handling it for so long. The pile of unsolved problems is too much and Willy is destroyed. There are many troubling issues Willy faces throughout the play. His lack of success and work and his troubled family relationships hurt him. They destroy him literally.
Rather then dealing with these issues he escapes into disillusionment, which proves costly to him. The constant flashbacks to his glory days and his dreams of being successful lead to his inability to settle his present problems. By the time that reality kicks in, it is too late for Willy to deal with it and instead he takes his life because his life is too far gone to fix. And even if it is possible, years of living back and forth in and out of reality have made him unable to know how to fix his life. The inability to accept the present has destroyed Willy Loman.