Death of a Salesman


Reality and Illusion

Death of a Salesman use flashbacks to present Willy’s memory during the reality. The illusion not only “suggests the past, but also presents the lost pastoral life.” Willy has dreamed of success his whole life and makes up lies about his and Biff’s success. The more he indulges in the illusion, the harder it is for him to face reality. Biff is the only one who realizes that the whole family lived in the lies and tries to face the truth.[4]

The American Dream

The American Dream is the theme of the play, but everyone in the play has their own way to describe their American Dreams.

Willy Loman

Willy Loman dreamed to be a successful salesman like Dave Singleman who has both material success and freedom. His way to achieve success is to be well-liked, which is also the way he teaches his sons. His dream cannot be achieved in that way, and such that society becomes the reason to pushing him to death.[5] Throughout Willy’s flashbacks, it is found that he believes success is indicated through someone who is rich, well liked, and demonstrates a good personality. He believes that someone who is rich and well-liked is being successful because “Society tries to teach that if people are rich and well-liked, they will be happy. Because of this, Willy thought that money would make him happy. He never bothered to try to be happy with what he had, …” (Sarkar 5)[6] Willy also believes in order to obtain success in his life that he must have a good personality. We see that, "“He believes that salesmanship is based on ‘sterling traits of character’ and ‘a pleasing personality’. But Willy does not have the requisite sterling traits of character; people simply do not like him as much as he thinks is necessary for success,” (Bloom 51).[7]

Uncle Ben

Ben represents the ideal of American Dream. He thinks American Dream is to catch opportunity, to conquer nature and to gain a fortune. Just like what he says “Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. (He laughs.) And by God I was rich” Ben symbolizes another kind of successful American Dreams for Willy.[5]


After seeing his father’s real identity, Biff does not follow his father’s “dream” because he knows that “Willy does see his future but in a blind way. Meaning that he can and cannot see at the same time, since his way of seeing or visualising the future is completely wrong.”[8] Biff has a dream to get outside, to farm and work hard with his own hands, his father prevents him from pursuing his dream. Biff realized his father’s dream is “wrong” during his father's funeral.[5]

Bernard and Charley

One thing that is apparent from the Death of a Salesman is the hard work and dedication of Charley and Bernard. Willy criticizes Charley and Bernard throughout the play, but it is not because Willy hates them. He finds himself to be jealous of their success in their lives, and doing so without being under Willy’s standards. The models of business success provided in the play all argue against Willy’s personality theory. One is Charley, Willy’s neighbor and apparently only friend. Charley has no time for Willy’s theories of business, but he provides for his family and is in a position to offer Willy a do-nothing job to keep him bringing home a salary. (Bloom 51)[7]

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