Why does Willy tell Howard about Dave Singleman when he asks if he can stop traveling in A Death of a Salesman?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This of course is a highly significant scene as it comes as Willy gets fired by the company that he has worked for for so long. Willy refers to Dave Singleman as he is a deeply important figure for Willy, and inspired him to become a salesman in the first place. Dave Singleman, to Willy, captures the essence of being a travelling salesman. He workes until the age of 84 successfully earning his living as a salesman and was immensely popular. Note how Willy was struck by meeting Dave Singleman:

And when I saw that, I realised that selling was the greatest career a man could want. 'Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?

Not only does Dave Singleman therefore represent the reason why Willy went into his particular profession, but he also represents the way in which being a travelling salesman has changed. Back then, Willy tells Howard, it was all about "personality," with the opportunity to "bring friendship to bear." Now, as the efficient, slick and ruthless way with which Howard treats Willy amply demonstrates, it is "all cut and dried." Again we have another example of Willy being unable to accept the reality of the present and looking back to a brighter and better past.

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