Willy Loman’s death was caused by his inability to face reality and could have been avoided if he and his family had been honest with themselves regarding their shortcomings. Instead, they lived in a world of
denial, which spawned additional lies. Willy’s character deficiencies, moral indiscretions, and inability to differentiate past from present created nearly all of the family’s issues and led to his demise.
Willy Loman is a man with two distinct personalities. The first personality lives in the present where he is a broken man in his early sixties, who feels he is more valuable to his family dead than alive. Willy is nearly unable to tell the truth about any part of his life. He is also a horrible husband, who has been unfaithful to his wife Linda and routinely responds to her with anger. Willy is ineffective as a salesman who has been stripped of his salary and eventually he is fired. Lastly, Willy is a proud man, too proud to accept a job working for Charley, but that does not keep him from borrowing his money each week while telling Linda that he earned it selling his wares.
The second personality is living fifteen years ago, believing that he and his family are bound for greatness. One recurring flashback involves Willy’s son Biff when he was a high school football star. Most of these flashbacks involve his recently deceased brother Ben, who achieved all the success that Willy desires for himself.
The effect of these two personalities was extremely apparent and painful for Willy’s family. One moment Willy would fondly recall Biff’s football career and then criticizes him for his inability to hold a job, the next minute. In end, Biff began to understand his own problems and attempted to explain that he was a “phony.” Willy could not recognize or grasp Biff’s realization, due to his inability to separate the present from the past.
Further moral and character traits about Willy Loman include his unquenchable desire to excel in business, at any cost. He views business success as one of the significant barometers of for a man. Willy would boast about his sales or his wonderful sons, like most everything else he said, these stories were fabrications. Lastly, Willy was afraid to face reality and in the end, he showed exactly how cowardly he was, by committing suicide.
Willy Loman’s decisions caused terrible pain in the lives of his family. The best example was when Biff was failing mathematics in high school. His teacher, and Bernard the neighbor, constantly reminded Biff of how serious this situation could be to his future. Biff did not change his habits and the teacher failed him. Willy did not force Biff to take summer school and Biff did not graduate. Willy did not help Biff to understand the ramifications of his actions and Biff struggled to find work as an adult.