Willy Loman, the protagonist in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, liked to imagine that there would be hundreds of people at his funeral. The essence of his very being, which, at times, he uttered almost like a mantra, was that if he were well liked, then he would be successful. This philosophy is an understandable one, especially given the line of work that Loman was in: sales. This profession requires a God-given ability to read and influence people, more so than any sort of actual skill. His tragic flaw, or the event that would eventually lead to his undoing, however, was the fact that he allowed his mission statement to completely consume him. The words took on lives of their own, and, essentially, the whole became greater than the sum of its parts.
Willy was an uneducated man. This is not to say that he was unintelligent, however. In fact, it was quite the opposite. At a very early age, Loman became aware of the fact that he had a way with people. When he came of the age when men go out into the world and stake their fortunes, he did the smart thing… and decided to capitalize on this innate talent. He took the job of salesman and, for many years, did quite a good job of it. I mean, he rallied enough money to raise a family with two children… and maintain all the necessary trappings that are associated with it. The Loman family wasn’t rich, not by any stretch, but they were happy.
Life was good for Willy, for many years. His business philosophy and naturally charming personality combined to make him a gifted salesman. Every new client that he acquired, however, brought with it more time on the road, away from home. He, despite the odds, managed to maintain relatively positive relationships with his wife Linda and sons Biff and Hap.
Linda, as Loman himself put it, was his “cornerstone.” She was a good woman. The timeframe in which Death of a Salesman was written, the mid 1900’s, was drastically different from that of today, especially in the way of...