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The student news site of Colonia High School

The Declaration

The student news site of Colonia High School

The Declaration

Death of a Salesman explores the tragedy behind failure

The Death of a Salesman
Photo Credit: Photo via Arthur Miller under Creative Commons Licence
The Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller in 1949. A play about the lives of the Loman family and their failures.

Do people like to fail? Some would argue no because seemingly there is only loss when you fail. But this isn’t the case, people stray away from failure because they think it means they aren’t good enough.

Failure is Important

Success is what everyone strives for, but not what everyone achieves. Failure is far more common than people think, and is completely normal. But the value of failure is often overlooked, it is just as important to fail than it is to succeed. 

Seeing the Value in Failure

Failure has a negative connotation with it, which motivates people in order to avoid a bad outcome. While failing isn’t innately a good thing, there are positives to it. For example, in Uncharted Territory a High School reader; “A Personal Prologue” the author signed up to take the PSAT despite him being academically uninterested.

The following quote describes his experience; “I did not prepare for it; in fact, the night before the test turned out to be an unfortunate and untimely rite of passage: getting drunk for the first time at a party.”

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He showed up to the test hungover, subsequently, he left the testing location and took a nap. Waking up later, he realized that he was at a low point in his life. In a turn of events, he got a book and started reading. He went on to become a teacher because he had found his passion.


An argument could be made that this was one experience, but Angel Perez, author of “Want to Get Into College? Learn to Fail” and CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, states; “The reality is, perfection doesn’t exist, and we don’t expect to see it in a college application.”

Perez, also being a Dean of Admissions, is a very significant figure in arguing about the value of failure. He states that he gets excited about hearing what failures applicants have and how they learned and experienced from them.

This is in contrast to all of the perfections people try to point out in themselves. The value of failure is hard to pinpoint, but through these experiences, it is clear that failure isn’t as horrible as many believe. 

A Fictional Example

While the previous real-life experiences are key to finding the value of failure, what about a fictional example? In The Death of a Salesman, the Loman family tries their best to avoid failure wherever and whenever they can. Leading to a very dysfunctional and destructive system.

Willy, Biff and Happy’s father, is so insecure about his financial situation he would lie to his sons’ faces. He claimed he was famous wherever he went, and was well off, hoping his sons would believe him and strive to be like the person he claims to be. Eventually, the positive perspective Biff has of him vanishes, as Biff learns his father is having an affair.

The Fictional Outcome

Willy, who has avoided admitting how much of a failure he is, brushes this off as a horrible coincidence. Earlier in the play, his wife, Linda, is seen repairing stockings, which Willy gets very aggressive about.

He is insecure about how he isn’t getting paid enough to afford new stockings when they break, and yells at her, telling her to never repair stockings again. Biff never really wanted to do what his father did, he wanted to work on a farm and make a living there. Seeing his fathers failure he wanted to be different, but he too doesn’t make a lot of money.

This quote shows the passion he has for working on a farm; “There’s nothing more inspiring or beautiful than the sight of a mare and a new colt.” While being content with his occupation, his payment leaves a lot to be desired, putting him at odds with where he really wants to go in life. This predicament leads him into trying to be a salesman to please his dad, the interview goes horribly. This failure, along with Happy finding out about the affair, all culminated into the final moments of the play, where Willy commits suicide. 

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About the Contributor
John Kucel
John Kucel, Reporter
John Kucel is a 17-year-old Senior at Colonia High School. Kucel has an older sister and enjoys spending time with her and their family. Kucel is an advocate for calisthenics, a type of body weight exercise, and cold showers. In his free time he often is working out or playing video games. Kucel is a conservative that pushes for the truth to get out regardless of the topic. Kucel plans on going into the police force one day and hopes to have a happy family. Currently, Kucel is employed at the WCC where he has been working for a year. He plays hockey and hopes to get into track or wrestling eventually.   

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Death of a Salesman explores the tragedy behind failure