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WILLY: What’s the mystery? The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich! The world is an oyster, but you don’t crack it open on a mattress! (Act 1)
Willy's insistence that finding success is as easy as wanting it reveals total faith in the idea that he can get rich quick. It's interesting that his brother actually made his fast fortune in Africa rather than America. We wonder how this computes with Willy's faith in 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?