Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman Theme of Respect and Reputation
Reputation is one of Willy’s primary concerns. He thinks that all you need to succeed is to be attractive and well-liked. Ha!—if only it were so easy. He celebrates his son’s popularity in high school, asserting that it is vastly more important to be fawned over than to be honest or talented. This might be true if you're Kim Kardashian, but alas, the Loman family has nothing on the Kardashians. Much of the time, Willy considers himself a well-liked man. He aspires to be just like a salesman he knew whose death was mourned far and wide. Despite his fixation on reputation, Willy and his family members are neither well-known nor well-liked, and Willy’s funeral is sparsely attended. Harsh.
Questions About Respect and Reputation
- To what extent does being well liked matter in the business world of Death of a Salesman?
- Who, if anyone, is well-liked? Does any link seem to exist between being well-liked and behaving virtuously?
- Let’s talk about Dave Singleman, the well-known salesman, and his death. How is he mythologized? How does his death compare to Willy’s?
- How does Willy idealize his sons, and especially Biff? How does he idealize Ben?
Chew on This
Willy’s obsession with being well-liked hurts his reputation by detracting from his focus on working hard, living ethically, and behaving virtuously toward others.
Willy mythologizes important figures in his life in order to validate his dreams. If others can achieve his hopes, so can he.