Death of a Salesman is a tragic story of the hopeful dream of one salesman that led to the damnation of an entire family. Willy is a man who is lost in the past and his mind is constantly tormented with the hopes and dreams he had years ago that have since fallen through. He wants Biff, his son, to be successful, and yet he himself is lost. Willy tells Linda, his wife, "In the greatest country in the world a young man with such - personal attractiveness, gets lost." Willy believes that all it takes to become successful is to be well liked, and is evidenced by this quote and others like it.
The Loman family is wrought with dysfunction, stemming from these false dreams and hopes Willy has imbued in his sons. Biff and Hap have always been shown that a business career is the only way to achieve success. Yet, Hap has taken this course, and through the boys'' dialogue we see that he his not happy, nor is he successful. Biff asks Hap, "You''re a success, aren''t you? Are you content?" Hap replies, "Hell no! But then, it''s what I''ve always wanted. My own apartment, a car, plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I''m lonely." Willy''s definition of success, similar to the life Hap lives, is not really valid. Hap doesn''t understand or realize this, though.
In reality, Willy is not well liked, and he has a very hard time selling. He tells Linda, "The trouble is, Linda, people don''t seem to take to me." Nonetheless, Willy still inflates his image for his sons and himself. Appearance is so important to Willy he tells his sons, "That''s why I thank Almighty God you''re both built like Adonises." In the Loman household, that is the key to the high country: be well liked, look good.
Biff sees that Linda''s hair is gray and says, "Dye it again, will ya''?" showing his inability to see change. Willy has this same inability. In fact, it is probably Willy that passed this attribute onto his son. Willy tells Biff, "Don''t be so modest. You always started too low. It''s not what you say, it''s how you say it, because personality wins the day."
One can see that Happy has a desire to get Willy''s attention, and please him. Happy tells his parents, "I''m gonna get married, Mom. I wanted to tell you." Also, Hap''s sporting goods business idea does not seem sound. He simply made it up knowing that it would please Willy. Such lies and deceit are a vicious cycle in the Loman household: Hap and Biff will soon be making up stories to cover for their last one, leading the family lower and lower.
The flashback where Biff finds Willy with the woman is an important part of the story. Up to that point in his life, Biff always believed that his father was beyond reproach. Biff placed him on a pedestal and had worshiped him. The knowledge of his father''s unfaithfulness shatters this ideal that Biff has held for so long. It this event that sparks the turmoil Biff suffers for the next fifteen years.
Most of the story is full of deceit and pompous lies to cover up the reality that bites at the soles of the shoes of this poor family. Willy Loman had a dream that was not realistic. His pursuit of this dream led his entire family to suffer. In the end, he thought he had no choice but to kill himself and try to make things better.