How  does Willy's illusion of being successful lead to faliure?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we see Willy Loman’s failure as being connected to his great and false pride, we can easily draw together Loman’s financial and familial failures with the notion of “the illusion of success.”

One poignant instance of pride getting in the way of Willy Loman’s success can be found in his repeated refusal to accept a job from Charley. Willy effectively chooses to be a beggar rather than earn a living as he accepts charity from Charley, yet refuses to accept a job from him.

It is Willy’s pride that keeps him from accepting the position. For Willy, this would be an admission of defeat. In order to maintain the illusion of his own success, Willy cannot accept a job from Charley.

A need to be liked and respected is what apparently drives Willy into delusion, but it is also related to a thematic truth to this play. Every person is unique, but not everyone is great. This is Willy’s most flawed dream – that being one-of-a-kind means you are a also a great human being.

"Biff: Pop! I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!

Willie: I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!"


Biff comes to realize that he is an average person capable of average things. Willie refuses to accept this, because of his dedication to the erroneous view that in order to be liked and to be respected one must also be great.


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Death of a Salesman

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