In Death of a Salesman, examine where there are true and false values.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the strongest display of false values in the drama is the idea that drives Willy in that money and material wealth is what defines success.  Willy's primary motivation to be a "something" is a construction that is only measured by money and economic representation of the good.  For Willy, this pursuit is one that is rooted in false values.  Willy's entire conception of self is driven by a desire to appropriate the world in accordance to false values, or elements that are not lasting.  Biff points this out to his father:

You were never anything but a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them! ... I'm nothing, Pop. Can't you understand that? There's no spite in it any more. I'm just what I am, that's all.

Interestingly enough, this moment reveals an instant in the drama where real values are illuminated.  Miller stresses that the open and honest exchange between individuals about who we are, what we believe, and the essence of our identities form the "real values" that define being in the world.  When Biff recognizes that he is what he is, "that's all," it is an instant where there is honesty and an embrace of real value.  This is where the drama suggests that Willy will always come up short and fail to understand reality.  Biff summarizes this in assessing his father's life as one in which he "never knew who he was," holding on "to all the wrong dreams."  This honesty and courage to look life in the face and recognize it for what it is within its pain is where there is a true value emerging in the drama.

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Death of a Salesman

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