Willy’s Character in Death of a Salesman: Living the American Delusion

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the death of a salesman, Willy is portrayed as an interesting character who has dreams to be liked and make money on the basis of being liked. He was a good handyman and would have been happier working in Alaska with his brother. His wife didn’t want him to, and he resents her for it, hence him treating her like garbage and fooling around with other women. He projected his dream onto Biff, who was well-liked in high school. Happy, on the other hand, is the reflection of Willy–a womanizing big talker.

Willy Loman is the epitome of the classic American. He had big dreams and wished for riches and a company. He wanted to be respected as he revered his brother Ben, and he wanted to be known by many people. He wanted to support his family, and this idea was imparted on to him by his brother Ben, and the people around him.

Willy idolizes the idea of a hard-earned fortune, this is what he sees the American dream as. This is the story of a man who’s lost himself trying to please people. He tries really hard to please his buyers and his family. He only wants to get out of the rat race but it’s no use, his wanting to be well-liked, as that’s what he believes will lead to the acquiring of his American Dream. This is what ultimately leads him to project his own ideas onto his offspring which results in its own set of consequences. Now take Biff, throughout the majority of the story he’s clouded by so many influences that he doesn’t know whom to listen to or what to make of himself. It’s only when he realizes that he’s got to live his own life regardless of what others believe the ‘American dream’ should be that he really steps up and decides who Biff Loman really is.

He believes the true American dream is right in front of you, you just have to know what you want and have your own ideas, in contrast to Happy, who does the opposite and inherits a lot of Willy’s being. Now Happy is a reflection of Willy, it’s not hard to see. His ideas of business please Willy, and many of his ideas usually diffuse Willy’s temper during his tantrums, giving him something to look forward to. Happy wants to please Willy, who’s filled him with big dreams and aspirations which would seem impossible to turn down for someone as mentally malleable as Happy.

This is shown to be true when it’s revealed that Happy will try to accomplish what Willy couldn’t at his funeral. He wants to take on the family business, taking on the same complications but ultimately wanting the same thing. This will lead to Happy’s thinking: ‘What would my dad do? What would Willy do?’ However, this is flawed thinking, as he’ll end up falling into the same trap as Willy himself. A common denominator with these three characters is the way they deal with troubles in their lives. This is something they both inherited from Willy. They deceive both themselves and others into thinking that everything’s all right, and will be all right when nothing could be further from the truth.

We see this broken down by Biff during his final confrontation with Willy when he states that Happy isn’t actually the assistant dealer and that he stole suits and Oliver’s fountain pen. He finally tries his best to put a dagger into Willy’s life philosophy by saying they weren’t meant to be big, mirroring his mother at the beginning when she says ‘why does every man want to rule the world?’. Willy isn’t able to accept this, leading to his final murmurings talking about how big Biff will be with the money earned subsequent his suicide. They all deceive themselves and ultimately pay the price, having to come to terms with reality, which is also one of the themes in this story. Everyone has trouble in their lives, and there’s always an area for aspirations, but when people let them cloud and judge they become more asphyxiating than inspiring.

It takes a true balance to achieve success, and ultimately, that’s what the readers are lead to believe the Loman family is lacking. Illusions are what people all deal with.

Everyone deals with illusions, as they’re a reality, but warped. Finding one’s own reality, while fighting through one’s own illusions to reach our own truths in life. This is an incredible piece of literature and a true reflection on aspirations and dreams, and our troubles trying to reach them. This is something which can and will remain relatable for ages to come; as long as there’s a human on earth there’s always going to be a dream, and there’s always going to be a will, and regardless of the troubles, where there’s a will there’s a way. Whether this means falling down in the search for truth we don’t know. It’s individualistic, but that’s why the Death Of A Salesman is so amazing. It reaches all of us, no matter where we are in life because we all want something.


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