The Suicidal Causes of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman
The collapse of someone’s life, with circumstances that are great enough to lead to their suicide, requires a series of unfortunate events strong enough to kill a person’s spirits. In the play “A Death of a Salesman”, Arthur Miller writes about Willy Loman, and how he just can’t catch a break. Willy Loman’s collapse is the result of troubling aspects of his life, consisting of his unreachable goals, troubled relationship with his son, and his delusions.
To begin, Willy Loman was a man with very unrealistic goals that he sought after every day of his life.
Willy worked hard but struggled to fulfill his own goals, which resulted in hopelessness looming over him. One goal of Willy was to be a perfect salesman, and his inspiration was in the form of one man named Dave Singleman. When Willy just began his salesman career, he did have an opportunity to leave it all behind and go to Alaska with his brother to find their father, but never actually followed through on that. So when his life was set for him to be a salesman, he dreamed of the success of Dave Singleman and thought how attainable it would be for himself. Sadly, Willy was never able to achieve the green velvet slipper life.
Next, Willy was like most people who shared the acquiring of the “American dream”, which varied slightly amongst each person. Willy’s ultimate American dream was the gaining of success. Success in his mind was being well-liked, because then everything good would come to you, like being wealthy. Being well-liked never really came to Willy, and he ended up with few friends/family. Maybe if Willy didn’t have such high expectations, he would’ve been happy in life with less to worry about. However, with the unreachable goals Willy set for himself(and family), he refuses to admit to his tormenting failures, until death. In his career, even though he wasn’t the ideal salesman, he never quit trying to be the best with what little pursuit he had in him towards the end. Willy told his sons at a younger age to be successful, by being “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead, be liked and you will never want…take me, for instance” (33). This quote fulfills his definition of successful, but mainly proves how Willy didn’t give up in being who aspired. Willy set goals in life he couldn’t reach, and the disappointment with that, caused him to put his dreams onto someone more promising in the family.
A heavily weighted factor to Willy’s death was the troubling relationship with his oldest son, Biff, that couldn’t easily be fixed. To start, Willy had very high expectations of Biff, and didn’t care much about Happy, Willy’s younger son, and thought he wouldn’t amount to much. Willy put almost all his focus on improving Biff’s future and assumed he would be successful because he was well-liked in high school. Willy wasn’t a very good parent, and hence, Biff lacked certain traits, like dedication and honesty, as well as believing Willy’s American dreams would come true for him; in order to be able to become a truly successful person. The high expectations left Biff not settled in a career, which lengthened the distance between father and son. Besides the high expectations Willy had of Biff, once Biff found out about Willy’s affair, the bond between them was broken.
Biff was devastated by Willy’s unfaithfulness to Linda, and because of this, he didn’t go to summer school to fix his failed math grade; Biff later left the house because he wasn’t able to live with his father for what he had done. Biff did keep the affair a secret because he didn’t want to hurt his kind mother’s heart, even though hatred for his father was strong. After time had passed, and Biff was growing older, all Willy wanted from Biff was for him to love him. The many fights they had depressed Willy. He thought Biff still hated him, but his hatred was in what Willy made him believe; that he could be successful. Biff tells his father the truth by how he feels in fury, saying, “Pop, I’m nothing! I’m nothing, Pop. Can’t you understand that? There’s no spite in it anymore. I’m just what I am, that’s all” (132-133). Towards the end of Willy’s life, the truth sets Willy free and is now able to be comfortable with the thought of death. Willy’s mistakes with Biff is something he can’t forget but is able to powerfully convince himself their relationship has been mended.
Lastly, Willy’s mental status is shown depleting throughout the play, and his delusions are able to show how much he is truly suffering from life. Even though Willy blocks most of the reality out, he is unable to cope with his inability to achieve success; his past decisions come back to haunt him and are shown through the past and present. Willy’s most powerful delusion is in the form of his wealthy older brother, Ben. Ben has already been dead since the play has begun, but Willy sees Ben as a symbol of success. When he looks back on the times that he and Ben met about going to Alaska, or how he could’ve been successful as his brother, those are times that he’s actively disconnecting from reality. Willy tells his son’s of Ben’s success by telling them, “The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle and comes out, the age of 21, and he’s rich” (41). Willy’s conversations with Ben usually consist of talking about their father, how Biff and Happy are raised, and the success that Ben has gotten. Ben is not good at making Willy feel better about his life choices.
Ben’s last appearance is shown through making sure Willy remembers he must commit suicide to benefit his family. In addition to talking to Ben, Willy is haunted by “The Women” with whom he had an affair with. When Biff came out to Boston to see Willy, the affair was found out when the women came out of the bathroom laughing at a joke Biff told. That laugh replay’s hauntingly in Willy’s to remind him of his unfaithfulness, and the moment he was caught. While the women only appear twice in Willy’s flashbacks, she gives the opportunity for Willy to say that he’s been lonely for a very long time. Willy has been suffering for a very long time, which gives the grandest delusion of his very own life. Linda is shown with putting up with Willy’s delusions when he talks to himself and accepts the fact that his life is deteriorating. Through these talks with himself, he is able to convince himself, at times, that he was a popular and successful person. With his many contradictions in the play, when Willy “leaves” reality to talk himself, it can also be about the bad choices that he’s made that are eating him up. Each time he goes back and analyzes the past decisions he’s made, Willy begins his long realization of the end. Through these delusions, Willy is able to convince himself that his sacrifice is necessary in order to give Linda and the boys a good life.
In the final analysis of Willy’s breakdown, it’s concluded that his collapse was caused by, his unconquerable goals set in his life, his complicated relationship with his son, and the overbearing delusions he was faced with. Willy was a man who had a hard life, and just thought he would be better dead. Towards the end of the play, the reality of life was too much for Willy to handle, and the breakdown was inevitable.