Death of a Salesman, a play by Arthur Arthur, is a story of salesman Willy Loman, who fails in business due to his inability to adjust to the changing business environment after the World War II period. Willy’s role model is his brother Ben on the American business; Ben believes in individualism and the notion of “self-made man.” The ancient philosophy from businessmen like Andrew Carnegie, who started from humble beginnings and created an enormous amount of wealth, mostly inspires Willy (Basara, 2019). However, his inability to adjust to the modern-day business makes him fail in his business. He is rooted in the ancient philosophy of “winner-take-all business, which is inapplicable in the modern business. With that, there is a challenge to the American dream and its applicability to modern business. Should business people be encouraged to abandon the old American dream and adopt a modern version where everyone is included and materialism avoided? The American dream has been materialistic, and hence the question is not easy to answer among many business people (Basara, 2019). This paper delves into how pride killed Loman’s dream of becoming a successful salesman.
Willy was a salesman whose father died while he was still young. His father was a successful traveling salesman and was also one of his role models, as well as his brother,Ben. His abandonment makes him materialistic, full of pride and selfish, which fails his career. Individualism was encouraged in the American Industrial age, which urged individuals to use any business tactic that was available (Åberg, 2019). Generally, the American dream is worshiping wealth more than anything else and this predicament affects Willy greatly. He continues to cling to materialism rather than adapting the new business culture. His career is in the verge of collapsing since in the past, he was successful salesman, but with the new business climate he cannot stand a chance. From the way he describes the reason for his failure to his wife Linda, it shows his pride. He says, “You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don “t seem to take to me…I don “t know the reason for it, but they just pass me by” (Act-I. 732-3,741-2). In act 1 of the play, he shows his materialism and individualism when he says, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead” (Act-I. 646-8).
According to Can, “Abandoned at an early age by his father, Willy has tried all of his life to compensate for his painful loss” (Can, 2019). Ben, his brother and role model, reminds him of how successful salesman their father was in selling homemade flutes countrywide. This is where an illusion of a close-knit family is created and which Willy misses. The car is a symbolism of togetherness – to bring the family together – and Willy commits suicide in his car after realizing that he is not in control of his car as well as his car. The suicide was to maintain the illusion of sacrificing money to Biff in order to fulfill his dream, too. According to Ribkoff, “Driven by shame, he kills himself in order to preserve his dream of being “well liked” and a successful father and salesman” (p 48). It is pride that kills Willy since he can’t stand his guilt and shame.
Among other symbolism is the silk stockings representing the shame that exists between Linda and Willy. Willy’s failure in providing for what his wife, Linda, desires is represented in this silk stockings. When he finds Linda sewing silk stocking for herself, he is reminded that he is inadequate. Biff, seeing his father giving away silk stockings made by her mother, Linda, feels betrayed. He feels that his father has always taught him lies. Biff angrily describes the act as phony and fake – , “You gave her Mama “s stockings!….. You fake! You phony little fake! (Act-II. 1291,1296). According to Nahvi, “The trust Biff had given Willy now seems misplaced. Yet, Biff shares this knowledge with no one; instead this secret becomes the controlling element of his own life” (p 36). This causes Will to lose faith in himself, his drive to success, and his dream. Biff and Willy avoided talking about their guilt and shame beginning that day and that eats their daily lives away slowly.
To conclude, it is pride that affects success of Willy as a salesman. He is working hard to be like his father who was successful and at the same time holding on to the old American dream of materialism and wealth. Willy is in hardship having to grow without his father and thrives by all means with the philosophies of Andrew Carnegie, who was a successful entrepreneur in the steel industry. In the play, symbols are used to convey a message such as car to convey togetherness and silk stocking to convey guilt and pride. The American dream cannot survive in modern business and is a point that every salesman should consider before they fail in their career.