Death of a Salesman


Death of a Salesman
'He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong.'
To what extent do you agree with this assessment of Willy Loman by his son Biff?

Willy Loman was a man of 'greatness', a man who was 'way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine' and but was a man who 'didn't know who he was'. Above all, Willy Loman was a dreamer, a salesman who saw it necessary to 'enter the jungle' to 'get the diamonds out'. From a reader's view, Willy was a very foolish man who turned his back onto reality and lived out his hollow dream but yet to access Biff's claim of Willy's dreams being 'all, all wrong'. There are three crucial aspects in which we must examine. Firstly, we must examine the battered and seemingly wretched character of Willy Loman, to understand how he came to these dreams. Secondly, we must evaluate Willy's eldest son, Biff, we must perceive his knowledge of his 'father' and why he warns his father thus. Finally, to make an accurate assessment of Willy's dreams, we have to grasp and conceive the idea of Willy's dream, the American dream.

In Death of a Salesman, Willy is presented as being a man who had a chance at success, but misses it and then tries to grasp at something which he can't reach. At first, he is presented as two different people. The first impression is that he is an angry man who blames the world for his faults, he has tried to mould his children into images of himself and often contradicts himself (as shown in Act 1 where he talks about Biff being a 'lazy bum' and then saying 'there's one thing about Biff-he's not lazy'). Willy is an insecure man who has cheated his loving wife, lied to his sons, and has taught them that cheating and stealing is a way of life. But most of all, he has unachievable dreams which he will do anything to accomplish, including that of foolishly committing suicide in order to show his sons that he is a man.

However, the other 'nobler' view of Willy is that he is a battered and tired man as a 'small man can be just as exhausted as a great man'. He has passed his opportunity for success due to his respect for his dear wife. He is most likely suffering some mental sickness and has just been fired from a job which he has worked his whole life for, a job which he treasures and loves. As he can't even pay his own insurance, he honorably forfeits his life in order to gives his son a twenty thousand dollar 'boost' in life. Something which wasn't achievable in life, even though he loves his sons especially Biff, he continues to 'spite' him despite all the help and encouragement given to him by Willy.

So which 'view' of Willy is correct? Unfortunately the answer is both of them. Willy is a tired man, he knows deep down that his better days have passed but instead of looking towards the future, he still looks back and regrets. One notable example is how Willy has 'flashbacks' of a better life years ago. Here, he is the proud father of two young striving boys and the loving husband of a caring wife. However, even in this perfect scenario, all is not perfect. We find that Biff and Happy have been stealing materials from the construction site next door, Biff has also stolen a football but instead of punishing them as suggested by Willy's wife Linda, Willy convinces himself that Biff is innocent and congratulates him for his 'initiative'. We also discover later that Willy has had an affair with the 'woman', a person who loves the stockings that Willy gives her, not Willy himself. It is this type of behaviour and happening that we see that Willy can never achieve a perfect future because he does not have a perfect beginning. He will forever be plagued by his deeds and seeks escape through death. He cannot see that by being a salesman, he has literally sold his life, his welfare, his soul to something which he 'cannot lay his hands upon'. He has lost all his friends, his respect, his dignity but he has retained his pride, his pride which