Death of a Salesman Act 1 I thought it was interesting the way Willy seems to always contradict himself. On page 36, after stating to his wife Linda that he will be a great success at work next week, he claims “You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me,”. He also flips between calling Biff a “lazy bum” and then a “hard worker”. This contradiction between fantasy and reality seems to help Willy cope with his unsatisfactory lifestyle.
Because of the abandonment from his father and brother at an early age, Willy has never been taught a healthy concept of self-worth and therefore tries to measure his self-worth by the standards of the famous American Dream, which in itself contradicts reality. The myth of the American Dream has its strongest pull on the individuals who do not enjoy the happiness and prosperity that it promises. Willy pursues the fruits of that dream as a panacea for the disappointments and the hurts of his own youth.
He is a true believer in the myth that any “well liked” young man possessing a certain degree of physical faculty and “personal attractiveness” can achieve the Dream if he journeys forth in the world with a can-do attitude of confidence. Unfortunately, Willy has a corrupted interpretation of the American Dream that clashes with that set forth by the country’s founding fathers; he is preoccupied with the material facets of American success and national identity.
It is important to examine the evolution of Willy’s relationship with his family, as the solid family is one of the most prominent elements of the American Dream. In the present, Willy’s relationship with his family is fraught with tension. In his memories, on the other hand, Willy sees his family as happy and secure. But even Willy’s conception of the past is not as idyllic as it seems on the surface, as his split consciousness, the profound rift in his psyche, shows through.
No matter how much he wants to remember his past as all-American and blissful, Willy cannot completely erase the evidence to the contrary. He wants to remember Biff as the bright hope for the future. In the midst of his memories, however, we find that Willy does nothing to discourage Biff’s compulsive thieving habit. In fact, he subtly encourages it by laughing at Biff’s theft of the football.