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WILLY: Oh, I’ll knock ‘em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me.
[They move onto the forestage]
LINDA: Oh, don’t be foolish.
WILLY: I know it when I walk in. They seem to laugh at me.
LINDA: Why? Why would they laugh at you? Don’t talk that way, Willy.
[Willy moves to the edge of the stage. Linda goes into the kitchen and starts to darn stockings.]
WILLY: I don’t know the reason for it, but they just pass me by. I’m not noticed. (Act 1)
Willy contradicts himself by saying that he is both well liked and ignored, suggesting that he frequently deceives himself about his success. However, the truth seems to always be just under the surface. This tortures him and eventually drives him insane – literally.
WILLY: That’s just what I mean, Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. You take me, for instance. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. "Willy Loman is here!" That’s all they have to know and I go right through.
WILLY: A hundred and twenty dollars! My God, if business doesn’t pick up I don’t know what I’m gonna do! (Act 1)
While Willy continues see himself as successful and well liked, reality occasionally forces him to acknowledge his financial problems. It's hard to ignore it when you just don't have enough money to pay for what you need.
WILLY [now assured, with rising power]: Oh, Ben, that’s the whole beauty of it! I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand. Not like-like an appointment! This would not be another damned fool appointment, Ben, and it changes all the aspects. Because he thinks I’m nothing, see, and so he spites me. But the funeral—[Straightening up] Ben, that funeral will be massive! They’ll come up from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old timers with the strange license plates—that boy will be thunderstruck, Ben, because he never realized—I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey—I am known, Ben, and he’ll see it with his eyes once and for all. He’ll see what I am, Ben! He’s in for a shock that boy! (Act 2)
Willy's musings about diamonds and his funeral foreshadow his death. This all becomes incredibly tragic later on when nobody really shows up at Willy's funeral at all. By Willy's own standards, his life and death have been totally unsuccessful.