Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman illustrates the culture of entitlement.
Miller shows us a man who fails in his own life and whose children fail also in their own lives. At a time when Willy should be retiring, he falls lower and lower on the ladder of success. First losing his salary and then losing his job. Willy’s idea of American dream and entitlement is completely contrary to reality. Willy believes that happiness will be fed to him because of his personality, but in truth, the foundations of America are based in hard work and in a person earning their own American dream. Willy is a failure as a salesman, a failure as husband, and a failure as a father. He has worked for the same company for years. By now, he should be one of the top executives, but Willy is pushed aside and finally fired. Willy makes believe that he sells amazingly and that his average is worthy of notice.
However, Willy has been dropped to commission pay. Willy believes emphatically that because of his personality he deserves a job in town. Willy’s personality is the very thing that causes him to lose his job however. “I don’t want you to represent us. I’ve been meaning to tell you for a long time now,” Howard, his boss tells him (Miller Act 2 pg. 63). Willy yells that he named Howard and that his father had appreciated him, but Willy is not in the delusion space that he believes in which a smile and hand shake is all it takes to win a man over. Willy is in the business world and he does not know how to manage the game. Willy’s sons grow up to nothing. When they were young, Willy told his sons that they would be happy and successful because they look good and are popular. He tells them that Bernard their neighbor may be smart but he is not very well liked, and that is all that matters. Bernard grows up to become a successful lawyer however and Biff and Happy grow up to nothing. After Biff fails out of math and can no longer go to college, he runs between job after job and actually ends up in prison. Biff hates his father because Willy has failed his vision of his Dad. Happy is nothing but a filthy player. He steals integrity from marriages and from the women he dates. At a time when Biff and Happy should be there to support their mother and father, they have nothing but childish words and a get rich quick scheme that fails.
The reasons for these failures are the lack of morals that Willy instilled in his sons. When Biff steals a football at his son he doesn’t criticize him at all. In fact, he says that the coach would be proud that he is taking initiative. Willy knows that his sons are stealing lumbar, but he lets them without discipline. Willy allows Biff to play around when he should study.
Worst of all is the example that Willy sets for his children, which is the reason that he is a failure as a husband. While on his business trips, Willy is having affairs. He destroys his poor wife, who does not even know. Their marriage is strained because of the secret that he is keeping from her. Mrs. Loman probably realizes that something is wrong and tries her best to repair the damage. When Biff walks in on the affair he loses all respect for his father and for the integrity that he does not have. Not only does Willy fail in intangible aspects of his life, but also, everything around him screams out failure. His hopes of growing a garden are impossible to live because the sun is blocked by the buildings of New York. His refrigerator, which he bought because it had the most adds, breaks down constantly. He owes money on the car, because it is broken. His wife tries to mend torn stockings. His ceiling needs to be repaired. It seems that nothing works as it should. Willy stuck in a world out of his time. His beliefs and ideas are inaccurate and out of date. In Howard’s office we see the extent of this when Willy cannot control the tape…