Death of Salesman

Satisfactory Essays
Willy’s Idea of Success is Misguided

Willy Loman, the main character in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, is idealistic, stubborn and has a false sense of importance. He exhibits skewed perceptions of society that have a negative impact on him and his family. Willy believes that his philosophy of life is one that will guarantee himself and his family a life of wealth and success. Willy cannot achieve this success because his perceptions and methods to obtain it are wrong.
Willy thinks that a part of a person’s success is measured by how well liked and how many friends an individual has. This is illustrated when Willy says “It’s who you know and the smile on your face! ... and that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!” (Miller 86). The context of this quote makes it seem that this is applicable to anyone who believes Willy’s philosophy that being well liked is in direct proportion to success. Willy believes that it is the Loman family that is guaranteed success because they are well liked and have great personalities. Willy believes that he will be more successful than his neighbor Charley because he has a better personality and is liked by others more then Charley. Willy says, “Bigger then Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not-liked. He’s liked, but he’s not—well liked” (30). Willy and his family know that Charley is a good businessman and earns a good living. The Lomans will never believe he is successful because he lacks the ability to be well liked, which is the trait that is imperative for Willy’s definition of success. Willy equates success with being well liked, and by saying that Charley is liked, but not well liked is the same as saying Charley is successful, but not very successful. It is this belief that by being well liked, Willy has an advantage over all others. Willy tells his sons, “…Be liked and you will never want…” (33). This quote exhibits his philosophy of how success and being well-liked are one in the same. That by being well liked, doors of opportunities leading to great success will open.
Willy feels that personality and presentation are the most important aspect of creating opportunity for yourself. Willy advocates that how one presents oneself is more important to success then doing one’s job well and presenting oneself poorly.
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