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One problem Willy has is that he does not take responsibility for his actions; this problem only gets worse because of his lies. Biff looks up to Willy, so when he finds out that Willy has an affair in Boston, Biff is petrified. Biff realizes his hero, dad, the one he wants to impress, is a phony and a liar. Willy destroys Biff's dream of playing football by saying he does not have to study for the math regents, he also Willy telling Bernard to give Biff the answers. When Biff fails the regents, he does not want to retake the test because he is so disgusted with his hero and does not want to succeed. Not only did Willy destroy Biff's dream, he also broke his vows and refused to admit it. Biff is a failure, in Willy's eye, in most part due to Willy and what happened in Boston. Willy refuses to take responsibility for what he did, so he lies about Biff. Willy tells Bernard that Biff has been doing great things out west, but decided to come back home to work on a "big deal". Willy knows that Biff is a bum who has not amounted to anything, but he refuses to take responsibility for what happened in Boston, so he changes the story of Biff's success. Throughout Willy's life he continued to lie. It might have stopped if Linda did not act the way as she did. Linda is afraid to confront Willy, so she goes along with his outlandish lies.
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Holden, like Willy, does not find what he needs in the people around him. The adults in Holden life are phonies who fail him. Like many confused teenagers, Holden looks up to his parents, but they let him down. Devastated by their son Allie's death, Holden's parents suppress their pain by smoking and drinking. Holden cannot talk to his parents, so he turns to Carl Luce, his old school advisor. Holden is confused and he bothers Carl with many sex questions, which aggravates Carl. Carl Luce leaves Holden because Holden behaves childishly. Holden then turns to his old teacher, Mr.Antolini. Holden can talk to Mr.Antolini; he tells Mr.Antolini what is going on with him. But like most people in Holden's life, Mr.Antolini disappoints him; Holden believes that Mr.Antolini tries to make a sexual advance on him. Although it is not a sexual advance, Holden thinks it is and feels more alone than ever. Now Holden cannot trust any adult in his life. Holden's disgust with adults depresses him because when he needed someone to talk to, there was no on there.
Holden's disappointment led him to want to be a "catcher in the rye", but he is not because he does not protect people's innocence, in fact in some incidences he makes it worse. For instance, Holden believes Jane Gallagher is perfect and innocent. He can protect Jane's innocence by not talking to her, this way he will never see any flaw she might have. Not talking to Jane kills Holden, because he has no one to talk to, but he misguidedly is trying to protect her innocence. With regard, Holden did not have to protect Allie, because Allie dies before he can be corrupted. By dying young, Allie's innocence is preserved. Holden tries to preserve Phoebe's innocence as well, but he cannot. He attempts to protect her when he tells Phoebe that she cannot run away with him, but he cannot stop her from growing older. Phoebe is a kid and children long to be older; they want to reach for the "gold ring". The gold ring symbolizes growth, and when one reaches the gold ring he or she is older and has achieved their goal. Holden, trying to be the catcher, actually does the opposite for Phoebe. He corrupts her by letting her take the blame for having the cigarettes and for lying. Holden then realizes he cannot preserve any innocence, because he cannot fix every bad thing: "You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any" (204). Holden's obsession lands him in a mental institution, because his dream to be a catcher in the rye was also his challenge and this was only further complicated by Jane and Phoebe.
Macbeth has an obsession just as Holden did, but Macbeth's obsession is for power and is further instigated by Lady Macbeth and the witches. The first step in Macbeth's lust for power is the murder of King Duncan in order to become king. Previously, Macbeth liked the king and was a loyal soldier, but Lady Macbeth helps change that. In her "unsex me" soliloquy, Lady Macbeth challenges her husband's manhood by calling him a coward. Macbeth then decides to kill Duncan in order to be a man. But Banquo knows of this deed, so Macbeth decides to kill Banquo and his son Fleance, to silence them. Although Fleance escapes, he was marked for murder for seemingly no reason. Macbeth's thirst intensifies when he is faced with another threat. The witches tell Macbeth, through the apparitions, to beware of Macduff. Without thought of any repercussions, Macbeth sends an army of men to kill everyone in Macduff's castle. Instead of just killing Macduff, Macbeth is so obsessed with bloodshed that he demands everyone to be killed. Macbeth's insatiable ambition is exacerbated by Lady Macbeth and the witches, but his blood thirst cannot be credited to anyone, but to Macbeth's own insanity.
Macbeth's other challenge is his overconfidence which is further aggravated by the witches and his own blood thirst. Macbeth believes himself to be invincible because of the witch's prophecy. Early on in the play, Macbeth is self-assured, until he is taunted into committing murder. Macbeth kills Duncan and Banquo and in doing so gains more self-confidence, bordering on delusion. This makes murder easier for him to commit. His confidence continues to build when he goes to the witches for the second time. They tell him he will not die until the Great Birnam Woods move up to Dunsinane Hill further he will not be harmed by anyone woman born. Through the witches' riddles, Macbeth is under the perception that he is untouchable. So when the English army marches and it looks like the Great Birnam Woods are moving up Dunsinane Hill, Macbeth remained secure. The apparition said he would not die until this happens, yet, he remains confident. His assurance continues, even when he is left alone in the castle to fight an entire army. In the end, Macbeth is left to fight Macduff and Macbeth still believes he cannot lose because of the witches' prophecy. Even when Macduff reveals that he is not born of woman, he is born of caesarian section; Macbeth remains confident and still fights him. Macbeth's overconfidence is sustained by the witches' riddles and they help to bring him to his tragic ending.
Willy, Holden and Macbeth had several challenges that helped to lead them to their demise. These characters wanted to be someone they weren't, and temporarily they all manage to succeed. However, upon closer examination, they gained nothing; if anything, they lost. Willy wanted to be a success; Holden wanted to be a "catcher in the rye"; Macbeth wanted to be king. While all three "dreams" are admirable, the methods and/or rationalizations they use to reach these dreams is what created the obstacles that ultimately brought them down. Like many, these three characters faced challenges and those challenges were aggravated by the people closest to them causing their life to travel in a downward spiral. After all, the moment they seek to do more or look for help, is the moment they begin heading down the spiral to face either death or insanity.