Willy Loman and the American Dream

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​Willy Loman, in the play Death of a salesman, believes that being physically attractive and well liked by people, are the only necessary ingredients to attain the American dream. Willy works his entire adult life trying to become an astounding salesman, such as Dave Singleman. In Willy’s mind, Dave is the epitome of a successful salesman and “thus, the dream has shaped in Willy’s mind. All his life has been spent trying to imitate this person” (Danqing 27), until he finally realizes that his hard work has got him nowhere. “I’ve got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground” (qtd. in Delbanco and Cheuse 332). All of the actions Willy makes and the choices he decides upon, come back to greatly affect him and his family. Willy Loman in Death of a salesman becomes a victim of society’s superficial expectations as he relentlessly tries to pursue his idea of the American dream. ​Willy so greatly desires a life with money and admirers that he eventually drives himself crazy as he tries to attain his dream. Willy is constantly mumbling on about nonsense throughout the play. He talks to himself, he talks to people that he creates as figures of his imagination, and he day dreams about the past. Over hearing him arguing with himself, leaves Biff and Happy worried about their father’s state of mind. Linda, Biff, and Happy are talking in the kitchen as Willy walks out, continuing to ramble on and on to himself. Biff’s fears are heightened when “Linda reveals that Willy’s car accidents have actually been suicide attempts” (Moss and Wilson, par. 23). Not only does Willy talk to himself, he also gets caught up in memories and finds himself talking to his deceased brother, Ben, out loud. As Charley and Willy are playing cards the image of Ben enters the room. Willy, speaking to Charley, remarks, “I’m getting awfully tired, Ben” (302). As he continues to carry on conversations with Ben and Charley simultaneously, Charley catches on to Willy’s odd behavior. Not only are his sons and wife noticing his deteriorating psychological condition, but Charley is witness to it as well. Willy, caught up in his failures, “had to fantasize in order to avoid the realities [he] could not handle” (Shockley, par. 7). Through his day dreaming and reminiscing he tricked himself into believing that his distorted illusions were in fact, his reality. When Ben was 17 years old he went into the jungle and came out three years later as a rich, envied man. Willy idolizes him for this reason and values his big brother’s opinions. It is also apparent that even though he holds Ben with the highest of regard, he also seems jealous since he turned down the opportunity of a lifetime to make a fortune with Ben in Alaska. Ben not only is the symbol of success to Willy, “he also represents the road not taken. In other words, he is, in many ways, Willy’s alter ego” (Centola, par. 13). Willy strives for his older brother’s approval and assurance because he lacks those qualities which Ben possesses; security, identity, self-confidence, and a legacy to leave behind. Willy may not realize that he seems crazy as he talks to himself, but he does notice that he is losing it when he cannot even remember his drive to Boston. Willy was on his way to Boston for a business trip when his mind slipped into a stupor. He knew that he needed to turn around and head home when, “Suddenly I realize I’m goin’ sixty miles an hour and I don’t remember the last five minutes. I’m—I can’t seem to—keep my mind to it” (289). His mind is so preoccupied with his business and trying to attain his unrealistic American dream that he cannot even control his own reality. Zheng Danqing explains Willy’s dilemma as, “too much illusion consumes up his energy and confuses his mind” (28). Willy has lost his ability to focus on the present because he is obsessed with fulfilling what he believes to be his destiny. ​When Willy Loman’s quest for success and identity as a...
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