Death of a Salesman


Biff says, "He had the wrong dreams." What was wrong about Willy\'s dreams? Was there a right dream for Willy? Is Willy ever a success? Explain. What dream could Willy have followed successfully?


In Arthur Millers’ Death of a Salesman, we see how the American Dream had such a great impact on the lives of people, and how it meant a promise of freedom and opportunity for everyone. People believed that by working hard they could accomplish anything they wanted, along with financial support for their families and a happy home. Willy Loman, the main character in the play had a strong belief in the American Dream and worked very hard to accomplish his goal of becoming a successful salesman. Willy was only one of the victims of the American dream, whose life was ruined from the unreasonable goals he had set for himself. His dream of becoming a ‘well-liked’ and ‘popular’ salesman destroyed both his life and that of his family, as he did not have the temperament or the personality of a salesman. Willy of course did not see this and believed that he would someday be able to fulfill his dream, if only he worked hard enough.


Willy’s dreams were idealistic and he was too stubborn to see that they were not going to happen. His inability to reach his dreams led him to live in fantasies, this was his way of getting away from reality and not having to face the fact that he is not, and never will be what he dreamt of his whole life. He fantasized of his popularity; something his boss called ‘false pride’. His dreams were not well suited with his personality and the skills he had. Willy was excellent with working with his hands and making things. He most likely would have been successful if he had pursued a career in carpentry, as he was talented in that field. Willy choose a career that meant he would be rich if he was successful and completely disregarded his talents. He felt that he was ‘too good’ for carpentry and saw himself as being superior to others. He felt that salesmanship was the only field for successful people, and not being able to succeed in that field himself, passed on his ideals to his sons. Although both his sons were different from each other, their father was a role model for both, someone they looked up to and admired. Willy had wanted them to succeed so badly; he felt that if they succeeded then he would be part of that success. This is why he set certain expectations for them, and made them feel that they needed to accomplish their father’s ideals.


Biff, the favored son, loved his father and had a strong relationship with him until he came back home and saw what had become of his idol. He found out about the affair and the lies his father had told him. This completely changed his views of his father and made him feel like he was cheated his whole life, thinking that his father was the ‘perfect figure’. Being hit with the truth, he was devastated and felt that he had to change and make up his own goals that would make him happy. Biff realized through his father’s failure that the American Dream was not for everyone and that not everything can be accomplished by hard work. For example, to become a salesman, you need to have technique, skill and be able to attract people to your product. You have to have good relations with people and know just exactly how to sell your product. It is not just motivation and hard work. This is what he meant when he said, “He had the wrong dreams”.


Willy had high dreams for himself and for his sons, he was never satisfied with what he had and always wanted more. When he fails as a salesman, nothing else, not even the love of his family and his talent as a carpenter are enough to comfort him. He feels that anyone who cannot succeed in business has no point to live. When Charley offered him a job, Willy rejected thinking he was ‘too good’. Thinking he was