Death As The Final Installment Payment
The classic tragedy by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, is not only a tragedy involving the main character, Willy Loman, but it is also a scathing attack on the values behind American capitalism and consumerism which disabuses the reader of any illusions pertaining to the “American Dream.” Willy Loman is a husband and father of two who has toiled as a salesman and is nearing retirement age. The only problem is, Willy’s debts and lack of economic success have not enabled him to prepare for a relaxed life after retirement. Instead, his debts acquired through American capitalism’s installment plan and his inability to “charm” his employers and customers any longer make him contemplate suicide as the one way he will be worth something in a system whose valuations are largely based on economics. We see the deconstruction of the American Dream in the play through various relationships and predicaments Willy encounters, the majority of them focusing around money.
At work Willy is considered a salesman who has seen better days. His sales are down and he borrows money from his neighbor to pretend to his wife that his sales are not only enough to pay their bills but at a high level. Linda, his wife, is not fooled by this. Nor are his employers. In one of the most emotional scenes in the drama and for Willy, his employer tells him he is no longer needed and Willy’s reaction shows the falsity behind the American Dream which maintains that all one has to do is work hard, sacrifice, and go in debt and one’s lifestyle will be free and rich. He has done a lot in the past for the firm and for Howard’s father, but Howard has little obligation to Willy based on anything other than he is now failing to be a good salesman. When he puts a concerned Willy off, Willy replies, “I’m talking about your father! There were promises made across this desk! You musn