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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

As the curtain is being pulled up, we find Willy Loman, a depressed 60 year old salesman, who is returning from a business trip. Willy has two sons named Happy, and Biff, both of whom are complete failures. The failures of both his children cause Willy to go insane, and he plans to kill himself. He thinks that if he kills himself his son, Biff, will see how well liked his father was and he will come to love his father instead of arguing with him all the time. In the end at Willy’s funeral no one, but his family show up to pay their respects.

In his sons eyes Willy seemed to be a coward trying to escape the torments of the world, but in truth he was trying to get the $20,000 insurance money so his family could live a happy life. The main conflict in Death of a Salesman deals with the confusion and frustration of Willy Loman. These feelings are caused by his inability to face the realities of modern society. Willy’s most prominent delusion is that success is dependent upon being well-liked and having personal attractiveness. Willy builds his entire life around this idea and teaches it to his children.

When Willy was young, he had met a man named Dave Singleman who was so well liked that he was able to make a living simply by staying in his hotel room and telephoning buyers. When Dave Singleman died, buyers and salesmen from all over the country came to his funeral. This is what Willy has been trying to emulate his entire life. Willy’s need to feel well-liked is so strong that he often makes up lies about his popularity and success. At times, Willy even believes these lies himself.

At one point in the play, Willy tells his family of how well-liked he is in all of his towns and how vital he is to New England. Later, however, he tells Linda that no one remembers him and that the people laugh at him behind his back. As this demonstrates, Willy’s need to feel well-liked also causes him to become intensely paranoid. When his son, Biff, for example, is trying to explain why he cannot become successful, Willy believes that Biff is just trying to spite him. Unfortunately, Willy never realizes that his values are flawed.

As Biff points out at the end of the play, “he had the wrong dreams. ” In many ways Biff is similar to his father. In the beginning of the play we see that Biff shares many of the same ideas as Willy. He values being well-liked above everything else and sees little value in being smart or honest. One of Biff’s main flaws is his tendency to steal. Early in the play we learn that he has stolen a football from the school locker. When Willy finds out about this, instead of disciplining Biff, he says that the coach will probably congratulate him on his initiative.

We also learn that Biff once stole a box of basketballs from Bill Oliver. This foreshadows the scene in which Biff steals Bill Oliver’s fountain pen after trying to get a loan for his sporting goods business. The climactic scene in Biff’s life comes when he finds a woman in Willy’s hotel room. This causes Biff to realize that Willy is a fake. Biff’s tragedy is that he has accepted Willy’s values all his life, and now that he finds out they are false, he has no values of his own to rely upon. Thus, Biff becomes lost and must set out to find his own values.

Once Biff begins to develop his own beliefs, his opinions about his father change. Instead of viewing his father as a fake, Biff comes to realize that his father had some good qualities, but was simply misguided by inadequate values. “I’m always in a race with the junkyard! I just finished paying for the car and it’s on it last legs. The refrigerator consumes belts like a goddam maniac. They time those things. “(Act 2, page 73, lines 16-19) Willy’s belief in this statement drew him to believe that big business lacked compassion.

Unfortunately he realized this when it was too late. He believe in his invincibility and believed his company would take care of him for the rest of his life, and he neglected hi family. It is because of this that he is abandoned by Biff and disowned by Happy, left babbling in a toilet. It is this flaw which allowed him to die a slow death and played the greatest role in his eventual downfall. Willy did not put his family first, he was always thinking about money and prestige. He did not realize that he was the one driving his family farther and farther away form him.

He also didn’t realize that he was driving himself over the edge. In the end Willy’s son Biff, begins to understand what he is going through and he himself realizes he is going to be what he is going to be, not what his father wants him to be. As I was reading the story I felt Willy’s pain. For Willy Loman, however, mass society has created only tremendous grief and hardship, aggravated by the endless promise. For these reasons, his tragedy is due more to societies flaws than to the flaws in his own character.

Willy Loman was host to many flaws and deficiencies ranging form suicidal tendencies to psychotic disorders. However, these shortcomings did not account for his tragic end, by themselves anyway. Society is to blame. It was society who stripped him of his dignity, piece by piece. It was society who stripped him of his lifestyle, and his own sons who stripped him of hope. This is very relevant because it shows how society affects people. I would definitely recommend this book to my friend. It shows an important lesson in life, which everyone should know no matter if they are young or old.

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