Death Of a Salesman Motifs

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Recurrent Motifs – Death of a Salesman Personal Attractiveness Motif The motif of being well liked ties in with personal attractiveness, and this is first seen when Willy mentions that he was called a “walrus” by co-workers. He says, “he will have none of it” (1237). He is so overtaken by his importance of personal attractiveness that he even encourages Biff to be like him. For example, when Bernard says that Biff will flunk math if he does not study, Willy says that Biff’s attractiveness and popularity in a football will out-win Bernard’s smarts. However, ironically, Biff does flunk that math test, which would not allow him to graduate from high school and attend university. Willy’s effect on Biff is the source of this “false pride” as mentioned by Howard. When Willy says, “Be liked and you’ll never want”, it again reinforces his value for popularity and attractiveness. These two concepts are also the causes of Willy’s need to be “well liked”. Being Well Liked Motif Willy is at the bottom of the totem pole in a capitalistic world. He owns nothing, and he makes nothing, so he has no sense of accomplishment. Robbed of this, he develops the theory that if a person is well liked and has a great deal of personal attractiveness, then all doors will automatically be opened for him. Willy built his life around these dreams. However, for Willy to live by his ideals necessitates building or telling many lies, and these illusions replace reality in Willy's mind. He tells lies about how well liked he is in all of his towns, and how vital he is to New England. At times Willy even believes his own lies and becomes enthusiastic when he tells his family that he made more money than he actually did. Willy then fills his sons so full of this concept of being well-liked that when Biff flunks math he goes to Boston to search for his father. He thought that since Willy is so
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