What are the connotations of salesman in Death of a Salesman?

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janeyb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Salesmen are looked upon favorably in "Death of a Salesman." Both Biff and Happy are proud when they think their father is a successful salesman. Willy begins bragging about how well-known and well-liked he is in the East coast towns he travels through as a salesman. He makes similar statements frequently throughout the play, though his financial situation belies the success he claims. In fact, Biff lies about being a salesman. Biff himself finally remembered that he had not really been a salesman for Oliver. As a result, Biff confesses, “… I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! We’ve been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk.” Being a salesman was a "dream." Being a salesman means having confidence, being successful. When Willy fails his sons are disappointed in him, when he was successful as a salesman they idolize him.