As Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Character is made up of principles and values that give one’s life direction, meaning and depth. Famous figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson have believed that one can only experience true success and happiness by making character the foundation of our lives. However, in the play, Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller depicts the last days of a tired old salesman who throughout his life, believed that personality will make one successful. However, this salesman, who goes by the name of Willy Loman, was not granted happiness and fulfillment. These come from developing character. Thus, Willy’s failures as a businessman, husband, and father stem from his failure of character.
In the Death of a Salesman, Willy’s failure as a businessman was due to his failure of character. Willy Loman was never honest with himself and thus he never knew himself. Although, Willy was very good with his hands, he was heavily enchanted by the idea of being a salesman due to a single person, Dave Singleman. In the Second Act, when Willy tries to convince his boss, Howard, to not fire him by giving him his life story, Willy says to Howard,
And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greater career a man could want. ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people? (81)
As shown in this scene, Willy gains satisfaction from having people remember and love him, because such love would validate Willy’s success. Thus, Willy’s admiration for Singleman’s success has led to Willy to believe that in order to be successful, you need to sell yourself. But this leads to Willy only selling himself but not his own products. In the business world, tangible things, such as money, are the only things worth noting. Relationships are temporary and once they’re lost, one will have nothing. One cannot hold relationships in their hand. This is shown when Willy goes back to old locations to find out that all his old buyers are gone. Also, Willy did not really have a knack for sales, as shown by the fact that he struggles to pay off debts throughout the years. Willy was a handy man who knew how to use a hammer. However, Willy never recognized the fact that he could make a living out of this because he doesn’t know himself. In the Second Act, after Willy suicides to give insurance money to his family, his son, Biff, says “You know something, Charley (Willy’s friend/rival), there’s more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made.” (138) This scene shows the fact that the true Willy Loman‘s true place in society rested in a toolbox, not a suitcase. Biff’s epiphany shows us that Willy never showed his true self to his clients where he sold himself,...