The death of a salesman is a play that illustrates the struggles of an ordinary family. The Lomans are not without conflict and expectations. It is evident that the desire to succeed and the failure to do so have largely contributed to the conflict in the family. Willy Loman the head of the family is illustrated as a man who is fragile and of unstable mental condition. This fact is illustrated by the fact that he was speeding and could not remember what happened in the past five minutes. Willy cannot help himself from being angry with his son who has failed to succeed in anything that he does. Although the fact that his son is a failure, he is nevertheless happy to see him since he is a father. Linda his wife, however, loves him despite his shortcomings and welcomes him home when he gets back. She is a woman who does her best to bring her family together despite their arguments and fights. She does her best to succeed as homemaker by resolving the issues that arise amongst her family members.
Biff, Willy's son has failed to find a suitable career where he can earn a respectable living. Although Willy is not successful as a salesman, he expects his son to have a much higher standard of himself to elevate his living conditions. This fact makes Biff be angry because his father expects him to assume his role as a salesman a job he detests. His father has lived his whole life being a salesman and has not realized his dream. Willy's job a salesman has not given him the success that he has always dreamt of. This has made him mentally unstable and his failure has on occasion made him attempt to commit suicide. His years in service of his company have yielded nothing that he or his family can be proud of. His failure to succeed, as a salesman, has made Biff believe that salesmanship is not a worthy career to pursue.
Biff believes that he is not suited to do business but for the sake of his father's health and everybody's sake, he will try it. He succumbs to pressure by his mother who believes his attitude towards his father and his refusal to take his advice has largely contributed to his father's poor condition. Happy feels that Biffs failure in business is largely contributed by his lack of patience and pleasing clients. Biff does not agree and believes that they were better off doing something else like carpentry. Biff is not happy by the fact that his father's job has been considered lowly by people and they have been laughing at Willy behind his back for many years. It is his opinion that if his family had left the city to do something else they would be better off. This provokes Willy who believes his son looks down on him and has no respect for him.
Willy often is overwhelmed by his failure as a salesman, which has not helped him succeed as an inspiration for his son. He believes Biff has the capacity to succeed if he is sufficiently motivated. Despite the conflict between Biff and his father, Happy, his brother, is rather successful in his job. Happy feels that although Biff considers him successful he has not achieved what he believes to be his ultimate goal. This has made him confused and lonely in his own world. He sees himself as a man who has achieved what he wanted and yet there is no room for rising up in his career unless his boss dies. He gets a feeling of being derailed. His success, however, does not give him any satisfaction a fact that leaves him confused and unhappy. He eventually realizes that he has to get married and settle down.
Linda on the hand has stopped being optimistic from her husband. She accepts who he is and loves him despite his shortcomings. The fact that Willy has not made much of himself for the many years he has served as a salesman, she refuses to give up on him, and clings to the hope that their situation will improve. She plays a major role in bring her family together and resolving conflicts when they arise. As a mother, she has succeeded in raising her two sons and holding the family together. Linda feels her husband's company has been unfair to him for not giving him a suitable post despite the years he has served in various field offices over the years. She is of the view that her husband's years of service and dedication to his work should have earned him recognition and fair compensation.
When Willy is transferred to Boston, he refuses to go saying that a position should be found for him in the New York office. He realizes that given his age and the years he has served his employer are good reasons for him to be given a position in the head office rather than be shipped off to a remote field office. His boss is surprised to see him and enquires why Willy is not in Boston. Willy tries to negotiate with his boss to give him a position in the New York office. He tries to manipulate him but fails and in the process he flashbacks to his past narrating the events that led him to become a salesman. He reminisces on the tale of a successful salesman whose death was moaned for months and his funeral was attended by hundreds of salesmen and buyers.
It is evident that, in telling the story of a successful salesman, he realizes that his dream of being a successful salesman will never be realized. He resigns to the fact that his death will not be as eventful as he would have wished. Willy realizes that he has no chance of becoming a successful salesman and on contemplating his situation decides to go to Boston. Although Willy does not realize it, his outburst has convinced his boss that he is no longer a viable asset for the company. When Willy offers to go back to Boston, his boss declines telling him that he needs to rest, and he fires him. Willy does not take his firing kindly, and he believes he should be kept on since he does not want to impose himself on his sons. He does not want to appear as needy to his sons as that would mean that he was wrong about salesmanship being a job worth having.
When Biff meets Willy at the restaurant, he demoralizes his father more by indicating that he did not get the job he went to interview for due to an argument as to whether he had worked previously as a salesman or a shipping clerk. The fact that Biff refuses to acknowledge that he had worked as a salesman and in the process failed to secure a job depresses Willy. This revelation and the fact that he has been fired Willy leaves the restaurant an angry man. On getting home Biff and Willy, engage into an intense fight where Biff finally admits to his father with tears in his eyes, that he is a failure and his father should release him from his expectations and dreams of Biff becoming a successful businessman. Willy is surprised that Biff likes him, and his wife Linda assures him that he loves him. This action by Biff appears to bring the family together, and Happy promises to get married and achieve his goal of being the store manager, before the end of the year.
Willy is taken by the events he takes time to think. He realizes that he is of no much use to his family without a means of income. He acknowledges that he has not succeeded in his dream to be a successful salesman and that he is of no help to his family. He decides to commit suicide and ends his life leaving his family in grief. His funeral is attended by his family and friends. Linda wonders why people did not come to his funeral and she concludes that they blamed him for his failures and eventually his death. She wonders why he did not hold on because they were almost clear of their debts. All they needed was a little salary. Charley, Willy's friend disagrees with that observation; that no man is content with a little salary. Everyone wants more no matter how much he gets.
A salesman's success is not measured by the number of years he has served nor is it measured by the number of places he has visited during his career. I believe the success of a sales man is measured by the impact he has on his buyers as well as his fellow salesmen. Most importantly, it is measured by how much he has achieved as an individual and the effect has on his family and his friends.