Jarrod Cook

English Block 1

Death of a Salesman essay #4

Mrs. Rifenberick

September 2, 2002


Willy Loman, a character in the book Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, commits suicide by means of wrecking his car.  Willy faces many problems throughout the book and has been attempting to kill himself for a while now.  He has been constantly drifting into visions of the past when his days were better.  He was a salesman, but as he grew older it grew harder for him to make his trips to Boston to sell.  His life as he knows it is falling apart around him.  His son, Biff, who he had such high expectations in life for has turned out to become nothing but a bum and a thief.  Willy believes that Biff hates him because he caught Willy cheating on his wife, and Biff’s mother, with another woman, and that Biff refused to finish high school and became a bum just to spite his father.  Willy has been attempting to kill himself by wrecking his vehicles and breathing gas through a rubber hose but does not succeed in killing himself until the end when he realizes that his son doesn’t hate him but that he in fact loves him.  After realizing that he is loved he, out of love, sacrifices himself to make a better life for his family.

            Willy’s suicide was an act of love more than anything else.  Willy just wanted to be able to provide for his family and now that he no longer had a job he believed his insurance would be the best way to do so.  Willy wanted the best for Biff, which was proven when he said, “Can you imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket?”(135).  Before Willy had actually committed suicide he had already attempted the act many times.  Willy’s previous attempts were intended as an escape from facing reality.  He did not want to tell Linda that he had not been selling good, so he borrowed money from his neighbor Charley to cover it up.  Once Willy had been fired suicide then would have turned into an attempt to escape shame, if it had not been for Biff.  Biff made his father realize that he did love him.  Willy also realized he loved Biff and wanted to give him the best life possible, but that required money.  Willy knew of only one way left to get this money for Biff, suicide.

            Willy’s act of suicide may have been out of love for his family, but it is not the way he should have handled this situation.  After Willy had been fired he was stuck between a rock and a hard place, he now had no way of supporting his family and at his age it would have been impossible to find another job.  On his way home that night he stopped by the office of his friend and neighbor whom, after hearing about Willy’s situation, offered him a job at his business.  Willy answers, “I can’t work for you, that’s all, don’t ask me why”(98).  Willy would much rather save his pride then his family so he turns down the offer.  Willy should have just swallowed his pride and took the job instead of taking his life.   Now he has been left out in the cold, unemployed and penniless the only money that remains being his life insurance.  Willy then comes to a decision that he must support his family and give them the opportunity to make something good out of their lives, so Willy makes the ultimate sacrifice.

            Although Willy’s act of suicide was out of love, it is not a courageous act.  Willy, to proud to lower himself to accept a job offered by a friend or any other job besides a salesman, took the coward’s way out.  There were plenty of options left for Willy.  Just because he was fired does not mean his life had to end, if he did not want to accept the jobs offered to him then he could live off government money such as social security or unemployment.  Willy would have had it easy from then on anyway, like Linda says during Willy’s funeral “I made the last payment on the house today…We’re free and clear”(139).  Willy chose none of these but instead left Linda, now a widow, and the kids to fend for themselves.

            Willy, a salesman who thought he was one of the best, was in fact nothing but a proud coward.  He started to tire in his old age and could no longer perform his duties as a salesman.  He had too much pride; he had built himself up so much as one of the best salesman there ever was that once he no longer had a job he thought that he was to good for any other job.  Willy may have lacked courage but not love; he just wanted what was best for his wife and kids, even if he didn’t know what these things were.  He loved his family so much that he made the ultimate sacrifice to give his sons a chance at the good life.