Bill Cosby once said, I dont know what the key to success is, but I know that the key to failure is trying to please everyone. Arthur Miller created a character who in many ways was directly related to the statement of that exact quote.
Willy Loman was his name, selling was his game. All his life, Willy tried to achieve the American Dream. Therefore, Willy had to do things in an American way and think like a capitalist. Willy was a hard worker, yet it seemed as though nothing ever went right for him. The American society and mental outlook were probably the two most influential motives that caused the pure products of America to go crazy.
The American society operated with self-interest. People, for the most part, only cared about themselves. Willy, on the other hand, was the type of person that practically tried to please everybody. To please everybody, the act of sacrificing was inevitable. However, Willy did not sacrifice something that could have been purchased, or anything of that nature. He sacrificed his greatest possession of all: his life.
All Willy did was work, all the way until he was fired from his job. He always tried to have a normal family, which obviously never happened with two rebellious sons and a scapegoat of a wife, yet he always tried to be successful. Willy started out as a lower middle-class workingman, and in the end, he ended up that same way. He believed wholeheartedly in the American dream of success and wealth, but he never achieved it. Neither one of his sons fulfilled his hope and dream that they would succeed where he had failed miserably. When his illusions of himself began to fail under the pressing reality of his actual conditions, Willy’s mental health began to fall apart.
The mental struggle with himself proved to be too much andCaused him to commit suicide so that his family could collect on his $20,000 insurance policy. Mental outlook or our state of mind and the way people looked and understood things and events was a major catalyst in making Willy go crazy. Willy Loman was an elderly salesman lost in false hopes and illusions. The sales firm he worked for no longer paid him salary. Working on straight commission, Willy was not able to bring home enough money to pay his bills.
After thirty-four years with the firm, they spent his energy and discarded him. Willy’s sons, Biff and Happy, were also failures, but Willy refused to believe this. He wanted his sons, especially Biff, to succeed where he did not. He believed his boys were great and could not understand why they were not successful. This was a major source of conflict throughout the play.
As Willy had grown older, he had trouble distinguishing between the past and present — between illusion and reality –and was often lost in flashbacks, where much of the story was told. The mentality and capitalistic society that Willy Loman lived in, and which we still live in, drove Willy almost completely crazy. He barely knew illusion from real life. If somebody were to go into Willys mind, it is very likely that they would find a dollar bill hanging from a noose. This image would most likely represent all the hard work and effort of Willys life to achieve his ultimate goal of the American Dream.
Finally, it is believed by some people that Willy would have eventually achieved success if he had not lost his mind. Would the Loman family have ever attained the American Dream if Willy had kept his sanity?