when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career
a man could want. ’Cause what could be more satisfying than to be
able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different
cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped
by so many different people?
Willy poses this question to Howard
Wagner in Act II, in Howard’s office. He is discussing how he decided
to become a salesman after meeting Dave Singleman, the mythic salesman
who died the noble “death of a salesman” that Willy himself covets.
His admiration of Singleman’s prolonged success illustrates his
obsession with being well liked. He fathoms having people “remember”
and “love” him as the ultimate satisfaction, because such warmth
from business contacts would validate him in a way that his family’s
love does not. In so highly esteeming Singleman and deeming his
on-the-job death as dignified, respectable, and graceful, Willy
fails to see the human side of Singleman, much as he fails to see
his own human side. He envisions Singleman as a happy man but ignores
the fact that Singleman was still working at age eighty-four and
might likely have experienced the same financial difficulties and
consequent pressures and misery as Willy.