Death of a Salesman Essays

Submitted By stb2012
Words: 1397
Pages: 6

How Is Success Measured?

Success is hard to define. To some it may be simple and to others more complex, but either way it is a way to improve and better one’s life. The characters in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, all have their own version of success. Each character goes through different struggles, but how they handle those struggles determines how successful they are. There are many differences between the idea of success between Willy, Biff, Happy, Ben, Bernard, and his father Charlie. For some people success comes easy. There seems to be no effort put into it. Ben seemed to have this luck in Death of a Salesman. His philosophy of success is to go where the work is, and take the bull by the horns. From Willy’s perspective, Ben was getting lucky with all of the opportunities that came his way, but the truth was that Willy had some of those great opportunities even one presented by Ben, but there is something holding Willy back. Ben is a man that has learned from his experiences and does not let the unknown scare him. Throughout the play he “was able to take a risk and stray from the world of fierce ambition and competition”(. When it comes down to it, motivation is the key to success, and Ben is certainly motivated. As an example, Ben goes where the work is. Ben is one of the most idolized men in Willy Loman’s life, “mentioned often with godlike veneration.”(Tompson). He posses the “grab the bull by the horns” mentality and in a way cheats his way to the top. He tells Willy that he went into the jungle doubling as a metaphor for the work force. Unlike Willy, Benjamin has made a name for himself, has become rich and successful, prosperous and confident. Arthur Miller writes, “Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. [. . .] And by God I was rich” (Miller). Ben then goes on to describe to Willy that “the jungle is dark but full of diamonds” meaning to say that there is no way to know if he’ll be successful when he goes out to Alaska but good things come out of hard work. Also the darkness he is referring to is the evil that is out there in the world.
Having this trait is almost a necessity in today’s society. There is no time or ability to just sit around and wait for good things to come. “The Economist” stated that Miller’s play is even more timely now than it was back in 1949. No one really had to fear that new technology would replace them in the work place.
Throughout Death of a Salesman, Willy pursues concrete evidence of his worth and success. He had a vision of what he wanted for his family. It destroys him that he is unable to provide for his children the dreams he had envisioned. He was once good at his job but as a salesman with age things can become more difficult to sell and others who are older than them may just see them as senile. He believes himself to be vital to the company, but in reality it's the company that's vital to him and his feelings of self worth. To Willy, part of success is being liked. He likes to work with his hands and to stay active, not lazy. As business starts slowing down what most Americans would do today is get a new job. But Willy Loman had faith things would get better. All of these factors begin to mess with his head. When Bernard keeps telling Biff that he needs to study, Willy says to Biff “Bernard is liked but not well liked”(Miller) , this displaying Willy’s vision of Bernard as unsuccessful. These almost discouraging words also influence the way Biff finishes school. Instead of encouraging his son to study, Willy actually gets mad at Bernard for hassling Biff about the test. By doing this, Willy unintentionally sabotages is son’s success. Willy’s ineffective parenting technique in one of the leading factors that cause trouble later in life for Biff. Without encouragement to put as much energy into his school work as he did football, he failed math as a senior and was not able to use his…