Death of Salesman

Parents misguiding their children with high expectations

Excerpt from ABC News

Healthy Expectations vs. Unrealistic Intrusions

Dealing with parents' disappointments is a nearly universal issue, says Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of Nobody's Baby Now: Reinventing Your Adult Relationship With Your Mother and Father.

"We spend our lives trying to meet our parents' expectations, trying to make them happy," she said.

Expectations can range from the profound to the trivial. Parents may have issues with their children's career, marriage, city of residence, and decisions to have or not have children. They can also object to what clothes their adult children wear or the kind of cars they buy.

Parents only rarely decide they want to interfere or meddle in their adult children's lives, though, says Meri Wallace, the director of the Heights Center for Adult and Child Development in Brooklyn, N.Y., and author of Birth Order Blues.

"I think it is natural for parents to have expectations for their kids," she said. "We want our children to do well in life. We want them to succeed in school to have friends and be happy. It makes us feel like we've done a good job."

CNN News

Kids are gifted with 18 years of childhood. That's it — less than two decades before the cruel, dark, real word overtakes their bliss. Yes, I want mine to do well in school, and learn the virtues of compassion and empathy and hard work. But I also aspire for them to jump on our trampoline until their legs sag from exhaustion, and ride their bikes up and down the street until someone lets loose a loud whistle, and play tag next door in Ashley and Emily's yard and chase down the ice cream man and watch in amazement as the pink petals fall from our cherry blossom tree.

If they wind up at Yale, and they're happy, I'll be thrilled. If they wind up collecting garbage, and they're happy, I'll be thrilled, too.

That's my end game.

Relationship back to Death of A Salesman

Biff and Happy fail to live up to Willy’s standards and expectations to be well liked and successful. Willy believes the boys should make a good living, be good looking and popular . By moving out to the west to pursue happiness, rather than to pursue a career, Biff deeply disappoints Willy. While talking about Biff to Linda, Willy states, “How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!”(5 Miller). Willy, like thousands of other parents, has set expectations for his sons and is disappointed when they fail to meet his expectations. ABC News did a study to show how kids spend their entire lives trying to make their parents happy with the standards they set. An interviewed parent states “We want our children to do well in life. We want them to succeed in school to have friends and be happy. It makes us feel like we've done a good job." Although the expectations placed on the children in some circumstances may seem extreme, goals may seem to be out of reach that are set for children, the expectations are made to help their children strive to achieve goals and becoming successful.

College Loans and Rising Cost of College

Excerpt from CNBC

The High Economic and Social Costs of Student Loan Debt

The numbers are staggering: more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, 40 million borrowers, an average balance of $29,000.

It's not hard to find indications that student debt is a large (and growing) problem. But unless you or someone you love holds student loans, it can be hard to feel the problem's immediacy.

That may not be the case for long. Mounting student loan debt is ricocheting through the United States, now affecting institutions and economic patterns that have been at the core of America's very might.

Men and women laboring under student debt "are postponing marriage, childbearing and home purchases, and...pretty evidently limiting the percentage of young people who start a business or try to do something entrepreneurial," said Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and the former Republican governor of Indiana. "Every citizen and taxpayer should be concerned about it."


Relationship back to Play

During this time, Willy is becoming overwhelmed by the sudden rise in the New York population. Willy tells Linda,“There’s more people! That’s what’s ruining this country! Population is getting out of control. The competition is maddening!” (Miller 7). There are more and more people moving into New York, leaving less jobs. Willy is upsetted by this new competition in the business industry and being compared to better salesmen. The competition is also replacing the type of business Willy is used to. Willy expects the promotion, owning the company, because he was friends with the old boss, but that’s not how business works anymore, things are changing and Willy does not like it.


Explosions in Social Media

Relationship back to Play

According to Willy, popularity is key. Willy tells his sons,“That’s just what I mean, Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interests, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want” (Miller 21). Willy believes and teaches his sons that if a person is well liked, there is no need for hard work nor honesty. Willy has the misconception that if you have good looks and popularity, can get anything in life.


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Not Enough Work for Working People

Huffington Post Excerpt

Here's The Painful Truth About What It Means To Be 'Working Poor' In America

In a nation that has long operated on the principle that an "American Dream" is available to anyone willing to try hard enough, the term "working poor" may seem to have a bright side. Sure, these individuals struggle financially, but they have jobs -- the first and most essential step toward lifting oneself out of poverty, right?

If only it were that simple.

According to 2012 Census data, more than 7 percent of American workers fell below the federal poverty line, making less than $11,170 for a single person and $15,130 for a couple. By some estimates, one in four private-sector jobs in the U.S. pays under $10 an hour. Last month, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, despite overwhelming public support for the measure.

And these numbers don't say anything about the many Americans who earn well above the official poverty line and still barely stay afloat. In HuffPost's "All Work, No Pay" series, the working poor told their own stories, painting a devastating portrait of their day-to-day struggles.


Relationship back to the Play

Willy is constantly weighed down by debt. He has a constant struggle with coming up with enough money to pay his mortgage as well as continue to support his family while making no commission and no salary. When entering home Linda tells Willy, “Well, there’s nine-sixty for the washing machine. And for the vacuum cleaner there’s three and a half due on the fifteenth. Then the roof, you got twenty-one dollars remaining”(23 Miller). Willy is visibly upset and overwhelmed with the amount of payments he has due while attempting to live off of the fifty dollars he takes from his neighbor weekly.



Works Cited

ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.


"Parents, Why Are You Pushing Your Kids? - CNN.com." CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.


Holland, Kelley. "Looking for the next Crisis? Try Student Debt." CNBC. CNBC, 15 June 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Miller, Arthur, and Gerald Clifford Weales. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1996. Print.


Wing, Nick. "Here's The Painful Truth About What It Means To Be 'Working Poor' In America." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Written By

Isabelle Warren

Molly Looney

Gina Purpora