Did Willy really have the wrong dreams?  Why and how do we know that?“He had all the wrong dreams, all, all wrong.”

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The characterization, conclusion, and overall tone of Death of a Salesman all suggest that Willy had the wrong dreams.  Willy is caught up in an ideal based on his interpretation of the American Dream.  He believes that he must be successful in his career, and that this success is defined by both money and reputation.  He pushes this dream onto the lives of Biff and Happy, and Willy's ideals begin to consume the way he views the world around him.  Both Biff and Happy shy away from Willy's praise and badgering about their careers which causes a disconnect between the sons and the father.  However, Willy does not regard the distance between him and his family because his dreams have taken over his state of mind.  At the end of the play, Willy has committed suicide because he cannot deal with the feelings of disappointment that he has in himself over not living up to his imagined standard of success.  The play's conclusion defines the overall tone of the play as one that is wrought with tension  and the lingering depression that Willy feels.  If so many negative things have come from Willy's dreams, then the reader is led to believe that all along, Willy had the wrong dreams (or at least he went about trying to fulfill those dreams in the wrong way).

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Death of a Salesman

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