Willy's story in Death of a Salesman is that of a common man devoted to,and ultimately defeated by,a false system of values. Do you agree?"Willy's story in Death of a Salesman is that of a common...

Willy's story in Death of a Salesman is that of a common man devoted to,and ultimately defeated by,a false system of values. Do you agree?"

Willy's story in Death of a Salesman is that of a common man devoted to,and ultimately defeated by,a false system of values. Do you agree?"

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kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I also agree with the statement. Willy is constantly exasperated with his lack of success despite trying to play by the rules of the society in which he exists. He tries to be the hero himself, but lacks the luck, wit and charm of those around him. He is an ordinary man, hard working, keen and expectant, but nothing comes to him. Willy then tries to mould his sons to be great, but they too emerge confused and unsuccessful. Linda is the stoic, adoring wife reduced to darning socks and propping up each of the men in her life.

The whole family are destroyed by the expectations upon them, and as a unit they implode at Willy's suicide.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I completely agree with this statement.  I think that Willy ends up becoming a victim to the perception that money and materialism is synonymous with happiness.  The idea of "making it" and accomplishing the American Dream for Willy is a material one, driven by dreams of wealth.  For Willy, the idea of being "a someone" is determined through money.  These values are transmitted to his sons, and becomes the reason why the relationship between father and sons is a frayed one, at best.  This admiration for money and Willy's coveting of it is reflected at many points, but no better is it seen than with his imaginary conversations with Ben, his older brother.  This idealized vision of the elder brother is brought out with Ben's statement of,"By God, I was rich!"  The manner in which it is said and Willy's reception of it is one where Willy's obsession with money is an evident one.  The false system of wealth that drives Willy is not his creation.  Rather, it is the construction of the matrix in which Willy lives, something that is identifiable with modern audiences whose pursuit of their own similar visions of the American Dream is not lost on its author in his description of his viewing of audiences' viewing of his work:

[Audience members] were weeping because the central matrix of this play is ... what most people are up against in their lives.... they were seeing themselves, not because Willy is a salesman, but the situation in which he stood and to which he was reacting, and which was reacting against him, was probably the central situation of contemporary civilization. It is that we are struggling with forces that are far greater than we can handle, with no equipment to make anything mean anything.

In this construction, Willy's embrace of a false system of values that was thrust upon him is the reason for his undoing.

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