Death of a Salesman
Respect and Reputation Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
WILLY: Don’t say? Tell you a secret, boys. Don’t breathe it to a soul. Someday I’ll have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home any more.
HAPPY: Like Uncle Charley, heh?
WILLYL Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not—liked. He’s liked, but he’s not–-well liked. (Act 1)
Willy indicates his belief that being well liked is the most important quality to achieving success. He thinks it's impossible for someone to succeed without a gang of friends around them. We have to wonder if Charley, who Willy criticizes in the quote above, is really as unpopular as Willy makes him out to be.
WILLY: You and Hap and I, and I’ll show you all the towns. America is full of beautiful towns and fine, upstanding people. And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people. And when I bring you fellas up, there’ll be open sesame for all of us, ‘cause one thing, boys: I have friends. I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own. This summer, heh? (Act 1)
Despite evidence that Willy has few friends and is unsuccessful, he insists he's revered because of his fierce belief in the importance of popularity. While it's easy to criticize Willy for this belief, he does have something of a point. People who are well liked do seem to have certain advantages – doors tend to open a little more easily for people with good reputations. Unfortunately for Willy, though, he's not one of those people.
WILLY: Bernard is not well liked, is he?
BIFF: He’s liked, but he’s not well liked.
HAPPY: That’s right, Pop.
WILLY: That’s just what I mean, Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. You take me, for instance. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. "Willy Loman is here!" That’s all they have to know and I go right through. (Act 1)
Willy's self congratulation and assertion that sheer popularity matters above all else is ironic in the context of Bernard's business success and Biff's failure. It shows that Willy's idea of what helps to make a person successful just might not match up with reality. Biff has nowhere near the reputation that Bernard does.