Essay on Death of a Salesman
Death of a salesman is a 20th-century movie surrounding the idea of the American dream. The movie does this by putting its audience in the shoes of sixty-three-year-old Willy Loman, Willy is a salesman that has worked for the same company for over thirty years and has struggled to make ends meet. Willy has been growing tired of life over the course of six months and the movie Death of a Salesman documents Willy’s last day of life before inevitably killing himself. Over the course of the movie, Willy brings his memories into the present where the audience can get insight into what truly happened over the course of Willy’s life. Given Willy’s current life situation in conjunction with his memories, the audience is left wondering whether Willy really accomplished what he was after. Given the evidence provided in this essay, Willy did not accomplish the American dream.
The first reason why Willy Loman didn’t achieve the American dream was because he didn’t expect more from himself. Willy’s mediocrity is seen in the beginning of the movie when he works for the same company for 34 years and in that time has barely moved up the latter at his job. Willy’s exhaustion from working the same job and his shortcoming can be observed in the Death of a salesman movie by Arthur Miller when Willy tells Linda “I’m tired to death….I couldn’t make it. I just couldn’t make it Linda.” (Death of a salesman movie). Another example of Willy not pushing himself hard enough to pursue his goals would be him escaping into the past. This can be observed in the Death of a Salesman movie when Willy is having a difficult time preserving his relationship with his son Biff all the while dealing with the trauma of just losing his job. Willy runs away by flashing back to Biffs football game in this memory Biff says “That’s right pap…. And when I take off my helmet that touch down is for you.” (Death of a salesman movie). The reason Willy flashes back is because he simply isn’t strong enough to face the fact that he just lost his job and his relationship with Biff isn’t on good terms and instead of facing reality Willy runs away into the past where life is easier.
Another one of Willy’s fatal flaws is that he was a compulsive liar. This can be observed many times throughout the movie Death of a salesman. The first example of Willy’s compulsive lying takes place in the middle of the play when Willy returns home from a sales trip to give his boys a punching bag and to find out Biff stole a football from his locker room which Willy doesn’t seem to be that upset about. Willy then takes this time to establish a false persona in front of his boys by saying “I have friends. I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own.”(Death of a Salesman packet written by Arthur Miller pg. 198). It is evident Willy is lying because later in the story when Willy is forced to tell Linda the truth about him exaggerating his number of sales because the bills are coming in faster than Willy can pay them off he says to Linda “People don’t seem to take to me…I know it when I walk in. They seem to laugh at me.”(Death of a Salesman packet written by Arthur Miller pg. 198) From this it can be observed that Willy’s arrogance and false sense of pride aided him in his downfall as the desire to live an unrealistic life style overcame Willy’s ability to gain insight into himself. Willy’s pathological lying can be witnessed again later in the Death of a Salesman story when his elder son Biff, walks in on Willy with his mistress. When confronted Willy tells the mistress “to go back to her room now they are probably done painting” as if that were the reason the mistress was there in the first place. When Biff continues to press Willy just by simply being there Willy continues on with his lies saying that “She was a buyer…she lives down the hall and she buys for JH Simons…and they’re the painting..”( Death of a salesman movie). Willy’s lies have had a negative impact on his families well-being and ultimately ended up coasting Biff his football playing career as he ended up resenting the sport after confronting his Dad with the mistress as seen in the Death of a salesman movie 1:45:00.
Willy’s third main flaw is that he is constantly trying to be someone else and has a false idea of what it takes to be successful. Willy’s desire to be someone else can be observed in the middle of the movie when arguing with Howard for a sales position in New York. Willy’s desire to be a sales person is revealed in the Death of a salesman movie when he tells Howard “I was thinking about going to Alaska when I was 18 or 19 but then I met a businessman named Dave Singleman, he could sell from a hotel room at 84 years old over the phone to just about anyone and I wanted to be like him.” (Death of a salesman movie) This is important because what Willy said is a true reflection as to why he never really got ahead in his job of 30 plus years, because Willy was to busy trying to be Dave Singleman and not Willy Loman. Another example of Willy trying to be someone else is witnessed many times throughout the story as Willy is caught trying to live Ben’s idea of the American dream. This can be observed when Willy calls upon Ben in the beginning of the story and asks “Ben how did you do it?” at that point the scene changes to a much happier setting, then Ben replies “I have a faulty view of geography, I went to Alaska, then I headed due South and ended up in Africa. I walked into the Jungle at 17 and came out at 21 and by god I was rich.” (Death of a salesman movie) this shows how distorted Willy’s perception of Bens success really is. Mid way through the movie Willy tells Ben “ It’s not what you do Ben, its who you know” (Death of a salesman movie). Given that Willy looks up to and tries to parrot a very skilled salesman all the while believing that the American dream was becoming rich and the only way one could become rich is by knowing people and being well liked, its evident that hard work wasn’t a priority for Willy, which is why he lost his job.
In the end, its fairly obvious that sixty three year old Willy didn’t come close to accomplishing the American dream. One word to describe Willy’s strategy of going about the American dream would be lazy, if Willy weren’t lazy he would’ve gone about getting a promotion to help with his financial struggles, he wouldn’t have tried killing himself multiple times, and he would’ve learned to respect and be himself. The irony of Willy’s decisions can be observed at the end of the movie when Willy’s son named Happy decides that he wants to follow in his “unhappy” father’s footsteps. If Willy really did have the American dream, then why did he have to run from his loving family and his caring friends?