Death of a Salesman Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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What is the impact of Willy Loman's ambition on himself and others in Death of a Salesman?

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Death of a Salesman was first published in 1949. In creating  the character of Willy Loman, Arthur Miller aimed to mirror one of the everyday "characters" of Post WWII American society. In fact, one of the models for Willy was Miller's own uncle, who belonged to this generation and was, indeed, a salesman. The behaviors that Miller witnessed, as well as the many stories regarding early American economy framed the historical context of Death of a Salesman.  

This time in history, post World War II America, is significant because it marked the first time that Americans began to feel a sense of ownership and pride. This ownership feeling came from the surplus of goods and services that came as a result of the War, bringing tremendous opportunities for businesses, as well as many subsequent schemes for quick cash. Big corporations "ate up" the smaller business owners, and an overall sense of having "more", "bigger", and "better" began to permeate the psyche of society.

In Death of a...

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steamgirl | Student

Willy had set the bar for himself and his sons too high, which ultimately led to him losing his mind and committing suicide when all of his dreams were falling apart. It seems as if Willy regrets not following his brother, and making something big of himself that way, and therefore in his last moments is trying to justify that his choice was just as good and could still make himself and his sons great successes. His oldest boy finds no happiness in his father's career and certainly no talent in it, while his youngest tries hard to live up to his father's standards of success. This leaves his entire family in grief and misery over his lose and their own financial and career failures.

hidrofilnavata | Student

He is unable to realize his idea of the American dream thus finding himself inadequate and disappointing. When we experience the frustration of our expectation defence mechanisms are triggered in order to protect our egos. Those mechanisms can be mature or immature, his response is unhealthy denial which after years of pent up emotions finally blows up and becomes self-aggression. People around him are influenced by his dark emotions which get worse as the years pass by. Willy chose a profession that was not suited for him and instead of finding something he would excel at he kept to that pipe dream. This realisation came too late, after he had squandered his best years trying tu become a salesman from the beginning (to one to whose funeral many people came).