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Essay about Willy's Inability to Adapt to Modern Society in Death of a Salesman

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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] real...


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...s personal failure and betrayal of his soul and family through the meticulously constructed artifice of his life. He cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself as a literal “loman” or “low man.” Willy is too driven by his own “willy”-ness or perverse “willfulness” to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has forged. Still, many critics, focusing on Willy’s entrenchment in a quagmire of lies, delusions, and self-deceptions, ignore the significant accomplishment of his partial self-realization. Willy’s failure to recognize the anguished love offered to him by his family is crucial to the climax of his torturous day, and the play presents this incapacity as the real tragedy. Despite this failure, Willy makes the extreme sacrifice in his attempt to leave an inheritance that will allow Biff to fulfill the American Dream.


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