Death of a Salesman
Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
BEN [chuckling]: So this is Brooklyn, eh?
BEN: Opportunity is tremendous in Alaska, William. Surprised you’re not up there. (Act 1)
The American West is portrayed as a land of opportunity waiting to be tapped. Willy is haunted by the fact that he didn't accompany his brother to Alaska. It seems like sometimes he feels that this missed opportunity is the thing that robbed him of a chance at the American Dream.
WILLY: Now all you need is a golf club and you can go upstairs and go to sleep. [To Ben] Great athlete! Between him and his son Bernard they can’t hammer a nail. (Act 1)
Willy, like his sons, feels better able to compete in the physical sense than in the economic realm central to the American way. What's interesting is that this is one of the few things that Willy isn't delusional about. His boys are better at sports, and he is good at building things. Has Willy simply pursued the wrong American Dream for his entire life? Would he have been happier as a laborer rather than a salesman?
WILLY: That is a one million dollar idea.
BIFF: I’m in great shape as far as that’s concerned!
HAPPY: And the beauty of it is, Biff, it wouldn’t be like a business. We’d be out playin’ ball again…
BIFF [enthused]: Yeah, that’s…
WILLY: Million-dollar! (Act 1)
While Biff and Happy are interested in finding work that is tolerable, Willy is fixated on ensuring that the boys find a lucrative profession likely to lead them down the path to success and greatness. Is Willy so bad for wanting this? Are Biff and Happy so bad for wanting to be… happy?