Success is being able to achieve what you want. In Arthur Millers Death of a salesman, the characters, Willy, Biff, Happy, and Linda all have their own ideas of what success is and their own American Dream. But the Loman family lacks the ability to make the necessary and suitable choices to pursue the American Dream. The Lomans idea of what it takes to be a success has a lot to do with their inability to achieve the American Dream.
Willy Loman is the main character in the play. He is a 60-year-old traveling salesman. Willy works hard to provide for his family but his problem is that he wasted his life trying to seek the wrong product, his personality. He worked hard to gain wealth on the basis of being liked (). Willy says, Its not what you say; its how to you say it-because personality always wins the day (). Willys false belief in what it takes to be a successful salesman is not the only problem, but also he made the wrong career choice. Even though
Willy is skillful with his hands and believes a man who cant handle tools is disgusting, he chooses to a lifetime career as a salesman. He had a dream, the wrong dream, a dream built upon a lifetime of poor choices and false values.
Biff has been raised with the wrong values, since his father, Willy, encourages him to ignore athletics and personality and to steal. Willy took interest in his sons lives based off of the success he could thrive upon them. For example, Willy blocks out the thoughts of Biff stealing. Biff does not know what to do with his life and has a conversation with his brother Happy, I tell you HapI dont know what the future is, I dont know what Im supposed to learn. What dya mean? -Hap I mean, I spend six or seven years after high school, trying to work myself upyknowshipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another and its measly manner of existence To get on that subway in hot mornings in summer to devote a whole life to
keeping stock and making phone calls, the selling, the buyingto suffer for fifty weeks a year for the sake of a two week vacation? When all you really desire is to be outdoors with your shirt off (1784). Biff feels like he still a boy in a mans body and that maybe if he was married and settled down he would be content. He thinks about settling down and marrying a woman much like his mother, Linda. Although Biff and Happys futures were small and depended on the way they were brought up, biff is the only character that truly turned out to be successful. He is successful because he is the only one who can confront reality and see through the rose colored glasses. Everyone else had a false sense of reality and could not see or admit the truth. Biff, on the other hand, is comfortable with the fact that he is just an average man, something Willy, was never able to accept. Another reason Biff is successful is because he chases his dreams and what he enjoys doing in life. Biff
knew that the life of a salesman was not his own dream but his fathers dream for him. All Biff really wanted was to be able to work with his hands and enjoy the simple things in life. Towards the end of the play, Biff tries to confront his father and get him to see how false his dreams were, and accuses Willy, of having false dreams. In accepting the truth about his father, Biff is able to make a decision about his own future based upon a realistic view of his capabilities.
Happy Loman is the younger of Willys two sons. He is thirty-two, two years younger than Biff. Happy is tall, and powerfully made (1783). He owns his own apartment and works at a department store and he is wanting for a promotion as a merchandise manager. He, like his brother is lost, but in a different way, for he has never allowed himself to turn his face toward defeat and is thus more confused and hard-skinned, although seemingly more content (1783). He says Sometimes I sit in my
apartment- all alone. And I think of the rent Im paying. And its crazy. But then, its what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddamnit, Im lonely (1785). Happy is the neglected son of the family. Throughout his life, he has always been second string to Biff in Willys eyes. He is moderately successful, but he is still lonely, since he knows that he is missing the love and care that his parents pay to Biff he longs for a girl, just like Biff he wants a woman like their mother. He says to Biff, Thats what I long for somebody with character, with resistance! Like Mom, yknow? (1786). Happy want to complete his fathers dream to be a successful salesman and to come out number-one man. In the end he says, All right, boy. Im gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. Its the only dream you can have- to come out number-one man. He fought it out there, and this is where Im gonna
win it for him (1845).
Lindas wants a happy family and security. She wants her sons to be good and act proper. She tells her boys, Be good. Youre both good boys, just act that way, thats all (1843). She shows her concern for her son Biff by saying, I dont know. I think hes still lost, Willy. I think hes very lost (1781). She wants safety for her husband because he is her security. Her focus seems to be around Biff instead of Happy because she never even talks about him except to comment on what he has done for Biff. At the end, Lindas idea of success may still be achieved through her sons. She may adjust to the loss of her husband by simply pretending that hes another trip.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Literature Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Bennett Morrison. McGraw-Hill: The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. 2007, 2002, 1998, 1994, 1990, 1986. 845.