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Death Of A Salesman Essay

1237 words - 5 pages

Death of a Salesman

There are some who would argue that it is precisely the ultra-capitalist mentality of individuals like Willy Loman that has propelled the American Economy to global dominance, but Arthur Miller’s classic work “Death of a Salesman” begs the question: at what cost? What does it do to a person, this desperate need to “be number one man?” Each of Willy’s sons draw a different lesson from his life and their assertions about how one should live offer a compelling choice for modern readers. A psychological need to be the best, a deep desire for being universally liked, and an irrational longing to impress strangers with wealth and status are heavy burdens to carry – ...view middle of the document...

This perspective means doing anything to win, climbing atop corpses of rivals in a winner-take-all cutthroat competitive economy. This is the dark side of the American Dream. This is the thinking of Enron executives and malicious political operatives, it is also the thinking that Happy Loman has inherited from his father and has largely internalized.
Happy Loman struggles with many of the same problems Willy does. He hates his job and often complains about it. At one point Happy is enthusiastically discussing with Biff, the possibility of the two of them going into business together out west. Happy declares “that’s what I dream about Biff. Sometimes I just want to rip my clothes off in the middle of the store and outbox that goddamn merchandise manager.”(1463) Happy clearly desires to go with Biff and do work he will enjoy that is meaningful to him but he is so instilled with a desire to “win” that he feels he cannot ‘give up’ by turning away from the shameful pursuit of cheap thrills and frivolous pleasures. Happy tells his brother that he has to “show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade. I want to walk into the store the way he walks in. Then I’ll go with you Biff. We’ll be together yet, I swear.” (1463) He casually mentions sleeping with many women at least one of whom was engaged to another man at his company. Happy derives a perverse pleasure from this because it’s yet one more way to “beat” the competition. He says to his brother “maybe I just have an overdeveloped sense of competition or something , but I went and ruined her.” (1463) Happy has totally bought in to the capitalist consumer culture. There is in his mind no longer such a concept as ‘enough’ and he spends all of his energy trying to beat others in order to win his father’s approval. Willy has clearly saddled his youngest son with much of the same “ambitions” but what about Willy’s oldest son Biff Loman?
Biff has a different perspective than Happy. He is thirty four years old and has been “finding himself” for a decade much to his father’s chagrin. Biff has begun to develop an alternative view of his father and the lifestyle he leads. Gradually he begins to feel that something is fundamentally wrong with this way of thinking and way of living. He wonders if it’s not more important in life to spend time doing things that...

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