Saturday, August 30, 2014

Defining "Success"

Throughout the play, the word "success" is thrown around a lot, especially by Willy and Biff. Willy obviously wants success for himself and for Biff, but it seems like Willy has a very specific idea of what being successful means, while Biff feels like it's way more open. Willy's definition of "success" is the very conventional interpretation of the American dream, with the housewife, successful and respected offspring who's achievements he can be proud of, his son was even a big football star. It's literally as stereotypical as it gets, and this is before "Leave it to Beaver" came out which is usually the go-to example of that classic American nuclear family. Willy wants this kind of thing for Biff, but Biff isn't necessarily sure that it's even what he even wants. He enjoys manual labor and working on a farm and feels like that's what will make him happy. I'm still not sure if Biff is saying that's what they all SHOULD be doing, or if it's just another thing that should be ACCEPTED to be doing. One thing is for sure though, Biff definitely thinks that Willy's definition of successful is a shame and doesn't even exist since they've all had to fool themselves and each other into thinking that's what they have, while Willy just considers everything in Biff's life to just be straight up failure.


  1. I love your reference to "Leave it to Beaver." I believe what makes Death of a Salesman so profound is the fact that Arthur Miller unmasks the fallacy of the American Dream. Shows of the 50's such as "Leave It to Beaver" made an attempt to depict the unreal expectations of both men and women alike. This fictitious dream has become a habitual act. We are wired to dream for wealth, success, etc. The problem is not the insubstantial idea we are designed to believe, but lack of free thought. Extricate yourself from the perception of success and happiness is sure to follow.

  2. I agree with Katie, the reference to Leave It To Beaver was great. It's crazy to see such differing views of the time. On one hand, you have a happy-go-lucky family enjoying middle class wealth; on the other hand, you have Willy Loman, a man driven to madness by his inability to achieve that wealthy status. I think it's still very represented the same ways today. You see these television shows, these movies, showing successful, wealthy people doing luxurious things. But in reality, most of us will never see that kind of success or monetary wealth. The misrepresentation of the American people can seriously harm the American people. If we don't achieve these things, and the media tells us that's what it takes, it can drive us a little mad. Also a society which levitates around selfishness really does not do the people well, instead it harms us.