Willy Loman’s Obsession to Accomplish a False Dream

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Accomplishing a dream or a goal is one of the most important achievements in anybody’s life. In Arthur Miller’s story, Death of a Salesman, becoming a successful (well liked and wealthy) salesman, seems to be the one and only dream that defined the purpose of Willy Loman’s life.

In order to accomplish his lifetime dream, Willy should have taken certain aspects into consideration, he should have identified himself with the dream he wanted to pursue, he should have given importance to the talents and gifts of his own, and he should have realized that he was not successful as a salesman like Biff was able to in the Requiem. Willy’s dream was to become a successful, well liked salesman. Unfortunately, he never identified himself with that dream. He just wanted to be like a man he once met, and he told Linda about it, “His name was Dave Singleman… and he’d drummed merchandise in thirty-one states.

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And old Dave, he’d go up to his room… ? I’ll never forget? and pick up his phone and call the buyers, and without ever leaving his room, at the age of eighty-four, he made his living” (Miller, 81; act 2). By this, Willy states that meeting Dave gave him the idea that being a successful salesman would be easy and he created his view of success based on this man that he idolized; Willy thought that being a salesman would be a simple task, and that it would bring him nothing but great things such as wealth, social status, recognition and idolization. Willy was blinded by the image of Dave and other wealthy successful men.

He wanted others to feel about him the same way he once felt about his father, his brother and Dave. He thought that if all those men could do it, he could do it too. Willy believed that if he became a salesman, by the time he was an older man, he would be just like his brother and Dave; he assumed he would be wealthy, idolized and recognized by his significant others and by the world. Willy believed that his life would be easy and that he was going to be able to retire, to provide for his family, and to enjoy the rest of his life without any struggle or hardships.

Maybe if Willy Loman would have tried to accomplish his own dream and follow his heart instead of trying to be what other men in his life were, he would have been successful in life; he also would have been a great husband, and a better father than the father he was to his sons, Biff and Hap. On the other hand, Willy never took into consideration for his success two important factors that he already had to his advantage, and that most people need in order to be successful and accomplish any dream. The panegyric talent and skill he had with his hands, and the great amount of love and support he had from his wife and kids.

Instead of focusing on the ingredients he already had, for his own original recipe, he focused on following and emulating others’ recipes and also on trying to figure out what the ingredients for their success were. Throughout the story, Willy’s family members, as well as himself, constantly brought up the fact that he was great with his hands. Willy said, “All the cement, the lumber, the reconstruction I put in this house! There ain’t a crack to be found in it anymore” (Miller, 74; act2), and Linda said, “He was wonderful with his hands” (Miller, 138; requiem).

According to such quotes, we can clearly see that Willy was striving to be successful in the wrong field, and that he would have been extremely successful as a carpenter or handyman. Willy’s dream was strongly motivated by all the wrong reasons. These reasons made him neglect his wife and his sons. Janet Witalec a critic of Miller’s play said, “Willy’s commitment to false social values? consumerism, ambition, social stature? keeps him from acknowledging the value of human experience? the comforts of personal relationships, family and friends, and love” (145).

This statement acutely supports the fact that Willy was blind due to his obsession with success, that he could not see in himself all the potential that his wife and his kids saw in him or the support they would have given him if he would have followed his heart and done what he was good at, instead of doing merely the impossible to be a successful salesman. Last but not least, unlike Biff, Willy failed to recognize he was not a successful salesman and that he had the wrong dream. Instead, he preferred to pretend he was successful as well as to live a fake life made out of fantasies, lying and cheating.

Linda, Willy’s wife, knew exactly what was going on and what Willy had been secretly doing so she decided to let Biff know it, “Why shouldn’t he talk to himself? Why? When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend to me that it’s his pay? ” (Miller, 57; act 1). By this, we can see Willy was not doing well and that he had been trying to cover the sun with one finger. He was not even capable of making enough money to pay the bills. Instead of recognizing his failure, he lied and tried to make everyone believe that he was still successful and well liked everywhere he went.

According to Witalec, Willy had many more reasons that prevented him from accepting and acknowledging that he was a failure, “By taking money from Charley, instead, in the guise of a loan, Willy is able both to retain his self-esteem and to cling to his self-delusions. ” (149). In other words Willy also had selfish reasons that made him deny he was chasing the wrong dream. In the Requiem, Biff is the only one that came to the realization of all of Willy’s mistakes, as well as of all the things he had done wrong. Everybody else wanted to either keep pretending Willy was successful, or to keep making up excuses for his failure.

Biff clearly shares his realization with everyone towards the end, “He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong” Biff says, “He never knew who he was” (Miller, 138; requiem). With these statements, Biff certainly lets us know he was the only one capable of truly understanding what Willy’s problems were and why he was not able to be successful. In conclusion, Willy is a perfect example of all the things that could go wrong when chasing the wrong dream, especially when is done with wrong intensions and for the wrong reasons.

In order to accomplish dreams and goals, people should always make sure to take many aspects in consideration, define their dream, take in consideration their talents and acknowledge and accept dreams are not guaranteed to be accomplished. There are many messages in Death of a Salesman that should be detected by the reader; one of them is to define him or herself as an individual and to follow his or her heart and dreams, no matter what others will think or what their dreams are. Willy Loman was not trying to accomplish a dream of his own; he was blinded and obsessed by trying to accomplish a false dream.

Works Cited

  1. Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books, 1986. Print. Witalec, Janet. “Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. ” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Vol. 179. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 144-244.
  2. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. LINCC, Library Information Network for Community Colleges. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. http://galenet. galegroup. com. db11. linccweb. org/servlet/LitCrit/lincclin_hcc/FJ3543300161

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Willy Loman’s Obsession to Accomplish a False Dream. (2016, Dec 02). Retrieved from


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