In Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman’s life seems to be slowly deteriorating. It is clear that Willy’s predicament is of his own doing, and that his own foolish pride and ignorance lead to his downfall. Willy’s self-destruction involved the uniting of several aspects of his life and his lack of grasping reality in each, consisting of, his relationship with his wife, his relationship and manner in which he brought up his children, Biff and Happy, and lastly his inability to productively earn a living and in doing so, failure to achieve his “American Dream”.
Willy’s relationship with his wife is clearly a cause of his collapse. Willy neglected to demonstrate honesty in his relationship with his wife. The reader is told of Willy’s past and how on business trips he would deceivingly find himself a woman to spend the night with. When Willy is no longer able to make a living he borrows money from his friend, Charley, and claims that it’s money that he had made. As Willy’s condition slowly deteriorates, he sets up tubing, which he plans to hook up in a fashion with intent of suicide. He neglects to tell Linda how he feels. Due to Willy’s lack of honesty with Linda, she too isn’t honest with him.
She is aware that Willy is borrowing money from a friend, but doesn’t say anything about it. After Willy is unable to complete a drive to New England, due to his obviously deteriorating condition, Linda avoids reality and makes excuses for Willy. As Miller wrote, “Maybe it’s your glasses. You never went for your new glasses”(13). As Linda became knowledgeable that Willy was planning to kill himself, she didn’t confront him and acted as if nothing was wrong. Clearly, if Willy was more honest with his wife, she would have returned the openness, and perhaps talked out the obstacles Willy was facing.
The way in which Willy brought up his children was another factor that led Willy to his defoliation. Willy brought up his sons with little focus on school. Self-image and pride were enforced before education. As his sons grew up, they had little foundation, and were left clueless. Willy, however, was in his own fantasy world. He is unable to distinguish between reality and illusion. He believes that his sons are great men who have what it takes to be successful and beat the business world. However, he is mistaken, for in reality, his sons aren’t, and can’t be successful.
Willy himself couldn’t cope with the outcome of his boys and often contradicted himself. At one point in the play, Willy says, “Biff is a lazy bum”(16). Moments later in the same conversation with Linda, Willy adds, “There’s one thing about Biff, he’s not lazy”(16). Even when confronted by his boys, Willy is unable to deal with the truth, that his sons won’t amount to very much at all. He ignores reality very well, and instead of pointing out that Biff hasn’t established himself yet, Willy tells Biff, “You’re well liked, Biff. And I’m telling you, Biff, and babe you want”(26).
The boys are clearly aware of their status and the status of their father, and Happy is found putting Willy’s personality in a nutshell, “Well, let’s face it: he’s [Willy] no hot-shot selling man. Except that sometimes, you have to admit he’s a sweet personality”(66). Obviously, Willie’s failure to bring up his children effectively, and his delusional thinking including denial of reality helps fortify his depleting condition and confusion. The single most weighted factor that edges Willie to his demise is his inability to make a living and achieve his “American Dream”.
After being a salesman for many years, Willy just can’t cope with the fact that he hasn’t been successful at all. He believes that he is a terrific salesman. His imaginative thinking won’t let him accept the fact that he has become a failure instead of a wealthy businessman. Willy believes that to be well liked is the means to being successful. Willy also struggles through confusion and contradicts himself, “I’ll go to Hartford, I’m very well liked in Hartford, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me”(36). This shows how Willy has no self-image, and therefore cannot survive in the business world.
His lack of grasping the obvious, is truly a downfall. One critic states, “We do not learn about Loman’s dilemmas through Loman’s eyes, because we know more about his failures than he does”(Elsom 376). Clearly, Willy is foolish to not be able to decipher that he is a failure in the business world. Since Willy can’t earn a reasonable living to support his household, he relies on borrowing money from his neighbor, Charley. When Willie’s boss, Howard, relieves Willy of his position, he is completely distraught and in disarray.
Charley often offers Willy a job, however he is too senseless to ever except the offer. In fact, in reply to Charley’s offer, Willy responds that he already has a job, purely out of stubbornness and foolish pride. Willy’s American Dream was to become a successful businessman, this is never achieved, and as Jonathan Moniaci stated, “Willy has lost at trying to live the American Dream. ” Biff and Happy are both aware that Willy’s dream was to become number one, and Biff spelled it out to his father that he should take that “phony dream” and burn it.
Willy’s failure and lack of reality were a major factor to his decline. Clearly, Willy’s destruction is due to his own doing. He failed to establish an honest relationship with his wife. Willy brought his children up based on his crooked beliefs and his imaginative “cookie cutter” world. Willy also failed to make anything of himself, achieve the American Dream, and face reality. All of the previously mentioned factors were in complete control of Willy throughout his life, however his foolish pride and stubbornness lead to the wrong choices, which ultimately lead to his downfall.