© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman


by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman Willy Loman 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, whom Willy criticizes in the quote above, is really as unpopular as Willy makes him out to be.

WILLY [stopping the incipient argument, to Happy]: Sure, he’s gotta practice with a regulation ball, doesn’t he? [To Biff] Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative!

BIFF: Oh, he keeps congratulating my initiative all the time, pop.

WILLY: That’s because he likes you. If somebody else took that ball there’d be an uproar. So what’s the report, boys, what’s the report? (Act 1)

Willy elevates being well-liked over all virtues when he suggests that Biff can get away with stealing because of his popularity. In the end, Biff's tendency to steal constantly stands in the way of his path to success.

WILLY: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff—he’s not lazy.

LINDA: Never.

WILLY [with pity and resolve]: I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time. My God! Remember how they used to follow him around in high school? When he smiled at one of them their faces lit up. When he walked down the street… [He loses himself in reminiscences.] (Act 1)

Willy's reflections suggest complete faith in the notion that popularity and personal attractiveness bring success. The fact that Biff's life hasn't amounted to much, despite him being so popular in high school, is truly hard for Willy to understand. It just doesn't fit into his idea of the world.