Death of A Salesman

Death of A Salesman is one of the classic American plays.  On its release in 1949, it achieved an unprecedented status as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play.  The main protagonist in the play is Willy Loman, a traveling salesman and family man living in New York.  Married and father of two sons, he sees himself as a good provider and a very well liked man.  Herein lay the tragedy of Willy Loman the common man.Willy Loman is a man of small means.  Having a simple house on a mortgage and paying the appliances on installment portrays the commonality of this character.  He continues to work the routes because if he did not, he would not have enough money to cover the bills and in this case, he did not.  Every week, he borrows money from his next door neighbor, Charlie, who has done well for himself.  Linda his wife put it so aptly when she said, “I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”[1]This also introduces the tragedy which is happening to Willy Loman.  It shows that Willie’s mind is slipping and has been for sometime as shown by the conversation between Biff, his eldest son, and Linda.  Willy can no longer distinguish between the past and the present.  He is compensating for his inadequacies by reminiscing on past glories like Biff’s football days and conversations with Uncle Ben.  Linda, being the linchpin which holds the family together, always works at fixing the small thing like expenses to keep her husband from worrying too much and worsening his condition faster.The heartbreak Willy experiences from his sons can be mirrored in his own actions.  Happy, his second son is a womanizer and settles in the niche he is in.  Willy is the same with his adulterous relationship when he is away on business and fosters illusions about his stature in the company he works for.  Biff missed his chance at college and a football scholarship the same way Willy missed his chance at making it rich with Uncle Ben when he was extended an invitation to go to Alaska.  Through this all, Willy still fails to grasp at the truth and holds with his illusions of grandeur.  He believes that a man should only be well like in order to be successful as per his statement, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.”[2]This is the story of a man named Willy Loman, both noble and tragic.  His nobility is in the fact that he sees greatness in the menial occupation he has chosen for himself: a salesman.  He also pushes his sons to excel and be the best.  The heartache he goes through is due to his own shortcomings.  Like Don Quixote, he is the perennial optimist.  He sees gold where there is dirt and now at the twilight of his life, he realizes the mistake he made, “I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been.”[3]  His only friend Charlie further strengthens this with his statement, “The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.”[4]Trying to make up for his inadequacies, in a last ditch effort to make good, he wants his family to gain from his loss.  The life insurance he would gain would give his family the desserts he always envisioned.  “After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.”