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Willy's Inability To Adapt To Modern Society In Death Of A Salesman

2225 words - 9 pages

Willy Loman is an old salesman (63 years old) who is no longer able to earn a living. He receives only a small commission as he ages, and he slowly loses his mind and attempts to kill himself by inhaling gas from the water heater or from crashing his Studebaker. Dave Singleman is his role model, he wants to become well liked and rich. He spends most of his time dreaming instead of doing anything to improve his life. He is obsessed with the post-war interpretation of the American Dream. In the end, he kills himself by crashing his car, hoping to get the life insurance money for his family.
He is fervently determined to succeed in his contemporary competitive society. In a conversation with his children about Bernard, he enumerates a few features he presumes as important if one wants to have success. Willy tells his children that Bernard might get the best grades in school, but they will certainly have more success than he will as they are “[…] built like Adonis’s” (Miller 34). Willy assumes that it is necessary to be attractive to become successful. Additionally, he says that it is “[…] the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead” (Miller 34). Moreover, Willy states that “it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it – because personality always wins the day” (Miller 70). Willy believes that if he wants to become a successful businessperson, he has to impress people with his appearance and with his looks; he has to seduce his customers with his personality and his charm. Willy has his own role model he looks up to - it is Dave Singleman, who incarnates what Willy so adamantly wants to be, as he became a successful businessperson. Through him, […] [Willy] realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be […] remembered and loved and helped by so many different people? (Miller 86)
It gets obvious that next to becoming successful, Willy also longs to be regarded by other people, he wants to be known and popular, he does not want to lead the life of a nobody. However, it is not enough for him to be liked; Willy wants to be “well liked”. Charley realizes this strong need of Willy to be respected and liked by everybody, but when being asked why everybody has to like him; Willy knows no answer to this (Miller 104). In my eyes, Willy’s need to be liked shows that he has many self-doubts. He does not want anybody to think that he might not be the successful salesperson he pretends to be. For that reason, he always longs for reassurance that other people – mostly people who have success, like Charley and Bernard – are not well liked either. (Miller 30, 33). To sum it up, Willy presumes ”[…] a brash personality, a ready smile, a fast joke, and a glittering appearance - as the key to fame and fortune […]” (Nelson 105). Does Willy fail because of society or does society let him fail?
One of the reasons for Willy’s failure is...

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