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WILLY: ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people? Do you know? When he died—and by the way he died the death of a salesman, in his in his green velvet slippers in the smoker of New York, New Haven and Hartford, going into Boston—when he died, hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral. Things were sad on a lotta trains for months after that. (Act 2)
Willy idolizes Dave Singleman's death because to Willy, being widely known and widely mourned is evidence of a successful life. To Willy, a grand, well-attended funeral is the greatest achievement a person can have. He ultimately seems more concerned about what people think of what he does than what he actually achieves himself.
WILLY: Without a penny to his name, three great Universities are begging for him, and from there the sky’s the limit, because it’s not what you do, Ben, it’s who you know and the smile on your face. It’s contacts, Ben, contacts! The whole wealth of Alaska passes over the lunch table at the Commodore hotel, and that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked! (Act 2)
Willy desperately asserts that being well liked is enough to get you concrete wealth – yet this is clearly untrue in the context of the play. Instead, the play seems to suggest that hard work and daring will get you rewards. Is this totally true, though? Willy does have a point. Even today a lot of people do make a lot of money in just the way he describes above.
WILLY: I’ve always tried to think otherwise, I guess. I always felt that if a man was impressive, and well liked, that nothing—
CHARLEY: Why must everybody like you? Who liked J.P. Morgan? Was he impressive? In a Turkish bath he’d look like a butcher. But with his pockets on he was very well liked. (Act 2)
Charley is a pretty realistic guy. He tries to make Willy see that being well-liked isn't as important to success as Willy thinks it is. Of course, Willy refuses to see the truth of this.