Willy Loman is the main protagonist in the play Death of a Salesman. In the Beginning of the play, Willy returns home to Brooklyn early from a sales trip. “At the age of 63, he has lost his salary and is working only on commission” (Litcharts). Giving the audience clues that a successful economic worth is non-existent in this case.
His oldest son Biff, recently came back home to figure out his life. He had before “labored on farms and ranches throughout the West for more than a decade” (Litcharts). Willy believes that Biff had not previously lived to his full potential. Willy develops a lot of false hope throughout the play, giving us insight on his version of what being successful is. Biff reveals to his younger brother Happy, that he feels more satisfied by outdoor work than by his previous attempts to work in an office setting. Biff does not fall into the trap of trying to prove himself to other people, he is content with his own life of doing what he enjoys. His only problem is trying to prove himself to his father, Willy.
The audience never actually learns what Willy sells in the text, but that he has “systematically bought into a version of the American dream in which charisma and luck count for more than diligence” (Litcharts). All through Willy’s family life, he constantly presents himself to his family as being on the border of huge success. Although he privately wonders why he is not “rising to the heights that he believes he is capable of reaching” (Litcharts). He pushes his own vision of being an admirable father to his sons, while also trying to prove an unattainable economic worth. Only his troubled sales job fails to support his mindset. This separation between his dreams and reality results in a mental breakdown, given by hints of his diminishing mental state throughout the play. He relives significant recollections of his past he never learned from. Providing the audience with important evidence on his backstory, and multitudes of mistakes.
Willy invested in teaching self-confidence to his sons, but this dream only influenced Biff to become disillusioned and Happy to become shallow and later in life. Willys wife, Linda, is very disappointed in them due to these growing behaviors. Willy’s death represents a final transformation in the play, turning himself into a product of the family’s only chance at wealth. His life insurance policy. He failed to realize his family loved him, especially his wife, who looked past his failing economic worth and saw him as the real, and vulnerable person that he was.