How do Willy's actions affect his friends and family?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman effectively drags down everyone around him. His impact on his family is almost entirely negative, despite the love that holds them together.

Willy’s tendency to lie and to falsely present himself can be seen in both his son’s.

  • First we find this in the case of Biff, who steals sports equipment. He steals because he feels he is entitled. His friend, however, suggests that this sense of right and wrong is not universal. There is a larger moral code that rules the world and which will crush any Loman who tries to stand up against it.
  • In Happy, we can see Willy’s willingness to lie (and to cheat romantically) on display as Happy blithely and baldly lies to the woman at the restaurant. He inflates his own importance in the same way Willy does.

Though Willy doesn’t have many friends, he manages to both insult and rely upon his neighbor who offers Willy a job – which is refused, for pride – and who gives Willy small amounts of money to pay his bills.

In these ways we can see Willy’s negative effect on the people around him. However, Willy is also imbued with an ability to dream and to inspire, momentarily, a belief in himself. This is passed on the Biff and it is what lifts the spirits of the whole family, occasionally.


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Death of a Salesman

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