The key to happiness is often unveiled by our dreams. To unlock one’s happiness, one must find the right key. However, a lock will only unlock with one key.
The wrong key will not open the lock no matter how hard one tries. So the dreams of someone else cannot bring one happiness. Just as in the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Willy is trying to find happiness in someone else’s dream.
Instead of finding his own key, he makes up a reality in which he pretends to be happy. By failing to discover one’s personal and realistic dreams, one cannot be truly happy with their life.
Willy is often led to failure through the creation of unrealistic dreams. Willy Loman’s father left him at a very young age. Since he wasn’t given any as a child, Willy develops dreams and expectations that his father might have had for him.
When his older brother, Ben, “walked into the jungle and [came] out, at the age of twenty-one and he was rich”, Willy adopts him as a father figure because of his success. His lack of attention as a child causes Willy to create a world in which he pretends is well-liked.
He chooses the occupation of a salesman after meeting a man by the name of Dave Singleman. Willy liked the idea that Dave could “pick up the phone and be remembered and loved by so many different people”. The combination of Dave Singleman’s popularity and Ben Loman’s success is what Willy thinks his father’s dream was for him.
Willy pretends that he’s good at his job and brags that he is known in all the cities he sells in. In fact, Willy does not make a lot of sales and doesn’t have many friends, which makes him unhappy. Instead of accepting his talents and using them, he clings to the dream that one’s friends determine one’s success.
He would rather “borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend” it’s his salary than accept the fact that “there’s more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made”. He has to prove to his sons that he’s good at what he does and tells his boys that he’s going to be “bigger than Uncle Charley!
Because Charley is not well-liked”. However, his dreams start to take over his reality when Willy starts talking to himself to the point that “it’s getting embarrassing”. He has to convince himself of his success and that his dreams are right. To Willy, the ultimate success of his dream would be to have a funeral like Dave Singleman’s.
He thinks that his suicide would prove to his sons that he’s worth something and is well-liked because of the many people that would attend his funeral. The fact that there are very few people at his funeral proves how he has been living a false dream all his life and that his success was made up. The lack of his own dream has led Willy to self-destruction.
With another’s dreams imposed upon him, Biff cannot discover his own desires. Growing up, Biff received a lot of attention from his father. Willy saw him as everything he had wanted to be when he was young. To him, having Biff follow in his footsteps and be a success was a way to accomplish the dreams he could never succeed in.
Biff took everything his father said to heart. He is told that his “personal attractiveness” and leadership skills will get him further in life than his schoolwork because “the man that creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead”. He is constantly put above everyone else, especially his brother. He’s told to “show him how to do it” when Happy is cleaning the car.
When Biff stole the football, Willy says that “if anyone else took that ball, there’d be an uproar”. Biff understands that to mean that it’s alright to steal. He plans to go to university, be a star football player and become a salesman because that’s what his father wants. He never stopped to think what his own dreams were.
Only with self-discovery can Biff develop and follow his own dreams. After flunking math, Biff goes to Boston to see Willy. There he finds that his father is having an affair. At this point, Biff recognizes that his father’s stories of great accomplishments are lies. He doesn’t want to have the same dream as Willy anymore. He realizes that it will not get him anywhere in life, although he “doesn’t know what [he’s] supposed to want”. He tries “twenty or thirty different jobs since [he] left home” but can’t seem to latch onto anything and stick with it.
He has been following unrealistic dreams his whole life and now doesn’t know what to do without a dream at all. It’s not until he’s in Bill Oliver’s office that Biff realizes “what a ridiculous lie [his] whole life has been”. His family made up stories about their success that weren’t true. He begins the self-discovery process and finds that he likes ranching and working outdoors.
He comprehends that his father blew him “so full of hot air that [he] could never stand taking orders from anybody”. He tries to explain to Willy that he’s “a dime a dozen” yet is alright with that fact. He would rather be happy living his dream than living in a fake reality in which he pretends to be successful.
Willy doesn’t want to accept Biff’s decision and doesn’t know how he feels until he starts crying. At Willy’s funeral, Biff understands that his father “had the wrong dreams”. Through self-discovery, Biff was able to save himself from the same fate as his father.
When one resides in a world in which one lives in someone else’s dreams, one cannot find contentment. Dreams are one’s own; they cannot be borrowed. All one must do to find them look inside one’s self and discover what one truly wants. With the right key, the door will be opened to a world of possibilities.
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