Miller’s statement implies that Willy was in such a rut, knowing that he could not afford to pay for his appliances or even for his automobile, that he risked everything to succeed. The government however, in Willy’s world, defined what succeeding really is. Socialism means the substitution of governmental judgment for that of the individual and for individual ambition as well” (Myers 3). Willy’s ambitions involved obtaining a new career closer to his family and being able to afford all of his material objects. “Committed himself so completely to the counterfeits of dignity and the fake coinage embodied in his idea of success that he can prove his existence only by bestowing ‘power’ on his posterity, a power deriving from the sale of his last asset, himself” (Miller 1594).
It is clear that the government played a major role in creating those ambitions. Biff’s social struggle included living up to his father’s expectations, of which his father did not necessarily approve of, until the end of the playwright. The government as a whole decided what was acceptable in society, and what was not, which is true to this day. Society has demanded a great deal from its inhabitants for thousands of years, especially in the United States. We soak up the governments and large corporation’s idealism everyday through nearly every source of entertainment we consume.
A good example of true socialism would be a class-system, such as in central Asia, specifically China and India. For many years the Chinese and Indians have accepted a socialistic way of life, judging and ranking their citizens merely by blood-line and skin-color. For instance, both countries considered lighter (paler) skinned individuals as having a higher status compared to darker-skinned individuals. Therefore, even today, the sales of large amounts of skin-lightening creams exist in the Asian market.
The largest contradiction I have come to understand is that exerting too much effort into an ideal ultimately ends in disaster. We witness this by examining Willy Loman. He, as a salesman, has an extremely stressful lifestyle. He ponders as to what he will do about his son Biff, and how he will be able to afford his bills. His lust for existence drove him mad, and eventually became the exact thing that invoked his demise. The ideas of success vary between characters in Death of a Salesman. Happy understood success as being able to provide for his family, more than merely financially.
He always made statements on how him and Biff would open a sporting goods store, and be successful. Willy’s idea of success, in my opinion, was confirming his existence in society as a hard-working, honorable American. He however, drove himself mad as life-events spiraled downwards. Biff pursued to do something with his life, making his father happy in the process. Biff provides evidence of struggle by suggesting “When all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella.
And still – that’s how you build a future” (Miller 1429). That statement defines a key point in the story, because it symbolizes how each character yearns to get ahead and be successful. Miller’s playwrights were heavily influenced with Socialism, as Helge Nilsen states, “Human beings are sacrificed to economic interests in ways that are not only immoral, but even criminal in nature” (1608). That statement suggests that Miller purposely set each character up, in order to have a certain Socialistic ideal embodied within their personalities. Biff, however, has begun to rebel against his father’s ideas and to feel his way towards different standards, meaning those that Miller associates with the socialist society” (Nilsen 1609). The value of success is very difficult to measure.
Each and every individual has their own understanding of success, as did Biff, Happy, and Willy. Society, for the most part, has labeled success as obtaining financial well-being. If someone were to be well off financially, then they are considered successful to the majority. Socialism has embedded that concept in our minds, from childhood to the present day. The socialist mentality is usually also an atheistic mentality, where atheism is understood not so much as the disbelief in God as the hatred of God – an attitude as precarious logically as it has been destructive in practice” (Kimball 16). That statement indicates that Socialism is equivalent to brainwashing an individual’s values. Willy’s goal in life, in my opinion, was to be successful enough to instill the correct ideals in his children’s mind, and to also recognize his own existence. Biff’s situation, in Willy’s mind, was a major conflict in his life.
Without Biff becoming successful and making something out of his life, Willy would not exist and live up to his own ideals. Biff’s goals however, were filled with confusion and insecurity. Biff exclaims, “I’ve always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all I’ve done is waste my life” (Miller 1429). From that statement, I presume that Biff would like to fulfill his father’s request of not wasting his life. We witness that towards the end of the playwright, when Biff begins to sob and then embraces Willy.
That moment in the play contributes a large amount to the irony towards the moral of the play, to exist is to meet one’s ideals. Willy’s realization however, brought upon his demise. Death of a Salesman’s overall plot and theme brings out a powerful message to today’s society. In our country today, individuals do not necessarily seek certain prospects out of pure joy, but rather out of financial greed. For example, class-systems still exist to this day in some countries, and diminish the value of overall life for the less fortunate.
The ultimate downfall of Willy was that he consumed himself of his true values. His urge to make money and be a great salesman drove him wild. He did not realize what Biff was attempting to do until it was too late. As Nilsen stated, “But Biff continues his attempt to break through to his father’s feelings and establish a genuine connection and respect between them. Hence his plaintive cry: ‘Pop, I’m nothing…I’m just what I am, that’s all’” (1611). Since Biff did not abide by the socialist ideals of the time, Willy was determined to correct it.
I believe Willy could not handle the pressures of life, and therefore ended up where he did. In this essay I have written about the effects of Socialism on the characters of Death of a Salesman. I described the effects social struggle, contradiction, ideas on success, their goals and Willy’s ultimate downfall. Writing on this topic was quite interesting, because it made me open my eyes on the current situations of our nation. Overall I believe Socialism is expressed greatly in this playwright, and that it teaches the reader that certain ideals such as financial prosperity are not always the answer to life.