What are Willy's suicide attempts?Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman the character of Willy Loman feels that he has nothing "anchored", nor "planted" to leave as a legacy for his children, Biff and Happy. For this reason, he has no other choice than to offer the only thing he does possess: A life insurance. Therefore, in a tragic way, Willy Loman gives his life on behalf of his children.

The character of Willy Loman represents the quest for prosperity and for a good life. That is Willy's personal version of "The American Dream". Erroneously, Willy chooses to get it the easy way: By following other people's plans. One of the men whose dreams he follows is his brother Ben, who becomes a rich man once he leaves for the jungle. He also once asks Willy to move with him to Alaska to get into business, but Linda (Willy's wife) refuses to. The other man whom Willy wants to emulate is salesman David Singleman who is legendary for having become rich from his hotel room.

The problem with Willy is that he does not realize that these are the dreams of other men, their passions, and their destiny. Instead of finding his own passions and using his own talents, Willy feels the need to follow (as Biff says himself) the "wrong dreams" all along. For this reason, Willy ends his life with nothing that he can show for. His only legacy is all the bad advice he gives his two boys as they grow old. As a result, they too have ended up nowhere.

Hence, Willy has done several attempts to commit suicide. The first is by driving his car off a bridge, and by crashing his car. He also tries to suffocate himself by hooking up a part of the basement's gas heater tube so that the gas might get him. In his final moment, Willy dies by finally crashing his car for good. He confesses to his neighbor and only true friend, Charley, who tells him

Nobody's worth nothing dead.

But Willy does not listen. Unfortunately for Willy, his "American Dream" is focused on money, and it is only money what gives value to life (in his mind). Therefore, when he has his last hallucination he sees his brother, Ben, urging Willy once again to come with him to the jungle, to make it rich. Similarly, Willy pays his last adieu to his family, and leaves the home to strike it rich- to kill himself for his 20,000 dollar insurance.

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Death of a Salesman

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