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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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Why does Willy reject Charley's job offer?

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Willy has had a competitive relationship with Charley ever since they have been neighbors. This has been for a long time, long enough for Biff and Happy to think of their father's friend as Uncle Charley. The card games between Willy and Charley symbolize their competitiveness. Charley has obviously been much more successful over the years. He can give Willy fifty dollars every week without expecting to get repaid. But Willy insists that the money is only a loan which he will positively pay back. He does not want to admit to Charley or to himself that Charley has beaten him in the game of life. If he were to go to work for Charley, this would be the same as an admission of defeat.

Then when Willy has to realize that Charley's son Bernard has been vastly more successful than his own son Biff, it would be utterly impossible for Willy to accept Charley as his boss, someone who would assign him to a territory and keep giving him orders. Willy's refusal to concede defeat symbolizes the way capitalism makes everyone compete, whereas it would be more sensible for everyone to cooperate.

Essentially, it is Willy's inflated and unrealistic pride that keeps him from accepting Charley's generous and very sensible job offer. When Willy is having his big argument with Biff towards the end of the play, he says, "I'm not a dime a dozen. I'm Willy Loman." That is both comical and pathetic. He certainly is Willy Loman—a nobody, a loser, a "hard-working drummer who ended up in the ash can," as Biff calls him.

Willy seems to have no choice but suicide. He can't handle the New England territory. His boss won't assign him to a territory close to home. He can't bring himself to go to work for Charley. He can't keep borrowing fifty dollars a week from Charley indefinitely, because the total debt would mount so high that he could no longer pretend to himself that he would be able to pay it back. Neither of his sons can earn enough to support him and his wife, and he is probably too proud to accept money from them anyway.

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Willy has too much pride to accept Charley's offer of a job, yet Willy regularly goes to Charley when he needs money to make ends meet. Although Charley is incredibly patient with Willy, Willy gets exasperated with his neighbor because he doesn't seem to appreciate Biff's athletic ability when Biff is in high school. Willy even insults Charley on several occasions when Charley is just trying to make conversation such as when Charley asks Willy how to go about putting up a ceiling. A gifted carpenter, Willy just retorts, "A man who can't handle tools is not a man." Charley is never rude or abrupt with Willy. He even tries to tease Willy into a good humor from time to time such as when he tells Willy that "Ebbets Field just blew up." Willy, however, has little sense of humor.

Willy must respect Charley because Charley has a successful business, but Willy is reluctant to admit he isn't doing well until Howard fires him. Even then, though, Willy turns down Charley's offer of a job. Willy simply can't allow himself to be obligated to Charley for more than $50 or so a week because Willy is always hopeful that his business will get better---that is, until he makes the decision to take his life.  That decision seems to be the only choice that he sees to help his family. Willy cannot understand how Charley, a man who doesn't seem to have what Willy thinks is necessary for success--personality--can be so successful.

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In Act 2 of Death Of a Salesman Willy Loman is offered a job by his neighbor, Charley. Charley and his son Bernard are the antithesis of Willy and Biff. Willy, always proud, pushy and with delusions of grandeur, expected only the utmost from Biff, and always put down his neighbor and his child in favor of Biff being a big, football player and he a salesman.

However, it turns out that it was Willy who came down in his luck, Biff ended up being a loser, and it was Charley's support of his son (not him being pushy) that turned their relationship successful. Bernard ended up being a lawyer, and Charley a successful man who was even able to offer a job for Willy.

Willy rejected because of his own ego. His situation was bad enough for him to even borrow money from Charley instead of working for him. It would have been an even deeper humiliation and blow to his self esteem.

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Essentially, he rejects the job out of pride. Willy is too proud, and is confused as to why Charley is successful in the first place, since Willy does not really respect Charley has a businessman.

Willy is not really arrogant, but his sense of pride is too strong to allow him to accept a job from Charley. However, he's not too proud to accept 'loans' of $50 a week from Charley.

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