My Life in New York City
My name is Charley and I am an older man living in an apartment complex in New York City in the 1950’s. I am a large man, and this physical trait lends to my immovability as a person; when I set my mind on some task, it’s going to get finished. I’ve been told that I’m slow of speech and laconic, and I suppose these characteristics fit me well. I’m rather conservative by nature and I don’t really like radical change but I’m a forgiving and reasonable man who tries to help the people around me as best I can. This especially applies to my friend Willy Loman who as of late is getting very stressed out.
I do what I can to try to relieve his stress through some late night poker sessions but it just isn’t enough. I’ve even offered the man a well paying job to get him back on his feet but he’s too damn proud to accept my aid. But that’s enough about Willy. The only family I have left in this world is my son Bernard and I’m so very proud of him; he’s making something of himself, he’s going to be big someday, presenting his cases in front of the Supreme Court! Not only that but he already has a wife who’s given birth to two beautiful boys.
I’m so happy for him. As to my occupation, I work in the same business I have for most of my adulthood. By now I’ve risen into a management position pulling in a reasonable salary, easily more than enough for myself. This essentially means I end up giving Willy at least fifty dollars a week and the man still will not come work for me. That stubborn pride of his will one day be his downfall. Being Bernard’s father, I have come into contact with Willy’s two boys, Happy and Biff, on more than one occasion, as well as his wife Linda.
In fact, even though there is no relation between us, I’ve come to be known as an uncle to the boys, a sort of second father to them. I’ve seen them come to age along with my boy Bernard and when any one of them succeeds, I can’t help but feel proud. They’re both good boys, just like Bernard, but I feel Willy pushes them a little too hard. If he’s not pushing them then he’s not paying them any attention, especially the younger of the two, Happy. I’m not trying to tell him how to raise his kids, and if Willy ever heard me give advice to him about childrearing he’d go into an almost murderous rage.
I think it would be for the best if I just kept my mouth shut and went along with things. That’s the way with Willy, you always have to tread carefully when in a conversation with him. More than one time I’ve tried to have a civil conversation with Willy but he always turns my words around and gets insulted. After that, he gets very irrational and inconsolable and starts yelling at the top of his lungs; more often than not I end up having to leave his presence. The poor man, he’s under such stress. If only he’d let me help him.
But unfortunately Willy’s pride gets in the way of reason; he just can’t see the bigger picture no matter how much I try to point it out to him. His wife Linda’s a good soul, who puts up with all of Willy’s nonsense simply out of love for him. And she does put up with a lot. But she endures because Willy and the boys need her, and because she needs them. She does her best to help Willy in this troublesome time of his life, but he usually ends up pushing her away. I can feel for her in this respect, I know how hard it can be to try and try to help someone you care about but they just won’t listen.
I like Linda and I’m glad she’s in Willy’s life otherwise he’d be in much worse shape. Throughout my life and through all my encounters, especially with Willy and his family and my boy Bernard, I strive to be a mediator. My primary goal is to keep the peace and see everyone lead happy lives. If there are people I care about in need and I have the means to help them, then I will try to best to give them assistance. Of course, my aid can be turned down, and that leads to untold frustration. I try not to influence the actions of others but if I do, I try to better their lives.
This is just the nature of my personality. If all the people in my life can be made happy, then that in turn makes me happy. I encourage my son at every step, pushing him to succeed where others may fail. He’s such a good boy and has surpassed all my expectations. Willy on the other hand is the biggest problem to my plans of peace. Everything I do with Willy seems to get complicated and a resolution is rarely reached. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve offered him a job only to get turned down because he “already has a job. More accurately, he thinks he has a job when in reality he drives hundreds of miles to his next sale only to sell nothing and return home empty handed. How can he not see this? If only he would suck up his pride just once and accept some help. If that was the only problem I have with Willy it would be tolerable. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. I went over to his house the other day to play some cards and take off some steam. He looked pretty stressed so I though this would help. Then he starts acting weird and distant and calls me Ben. Who is this Ben?
Anyway, I win the next pot and rake in the money when he grabs my hand accusing me of cheating. Cheating? How could he be so bold? That was enough for me needless to say and I picked up my cards and left that moment. Another time we were playing cards and he suddenly starts yelling at me that I don’t know how to eat. When I start to joke with him he gets insulted and yells at me saying I don’t know what I’m talking about. I can never win when it comes to Willy Loman, but that doesn’t stop me. I may be a slightly slow man in speech, but if I’m anything, I’m persistent.
He’s my friend and has been such for too long for me to back out on him now. I’ve come to the conclusion that Willy will not agree with anything I say unless he said it first. Another case in point is when Biff was stealing lumber from a building around town. I warned Willy about that, but to no avail. Guess what happens next? Of course the watchman chases Biff. I’m beginning to think I will never be able to influence any of Willy’s actions, regardless of what I do. The only thing I can do for him is to give him fifty dollars a week so he can support his family and pretend the money is his.
If this is what it takes to at least see a smile on his face, so be it. Maybe I should try harder to get him to see reason, try harder to get him to work for me. But even as I think this, I know it’s not true. I can offer all the advice possible, but the only thing I do that seems to have an impact on Willy is when I’m giving him money. I’m doing all I can to help him, and I’m comforted by that thought. I would hate to see anything bad happen to Willy, but if something does happen then I have the knowledge I tried as best I could to help him in any way possible, he just chose not to accept my advice.
No matter how much Willy resists, I will always be there for him. I will do everything possible to help Willy and his family; offer any aid, financial or otherwise. I can tolerate all that Willy does: the fifty dollars a week, the insults, the pride, but sometimes he just pushes me too far. Now I’ve always been able to control my actions and emotions before, but when Willy came walking into my room asking for $110 I admit I snapped. How many times have I offered him a job? He can make fifty dollars a week working for me and then he’ll never have to ask me for money.
I know the problem is not lack of motivation but rather than damn pride of his. Well anyway, the encounter begins with Willy and Bernard together, talking in a room. Bernard brings up the subject of what happened to Biff while he was in Boston and Willy takes offense to this question, hollering at Bernard as if the question were a direct attack on Willy’s character. As soon as I enter the room, Willy quiets down and I’m able to say my goodbyes to Bernard. As Bernard exits, I now turn my attention to Willy. I know why he’s come, or at least I think I do, so I count out the fifty bucks and get ready to end this encounter.
I have an accountant waiting on me inside so I’m anxious to get this business finished and return to work. I’m tired from a days work and I’m a little sad Bernard is leaving, although I’m very happy he’s making something of himself. Between these conditions and the stress Willy has been putting me under, I’ve just about reached my limit for how much of Willy’s nonsense I can put up with. Little do I know he’s not in here for the usual fifty, this time he needs more, sixty dollars more. So I give him the money and he pauses. Oh no, I know what’s coming now but I don’t like it. Charley, can I borrow $110, I’ve got insurance to pay. ” I figure if there’s one time I can reach him it’s now. Again I offer him the job and again he turns it down claiming he has a job. This is too much for me to handle though, it’s gone too far and I snap and start yelling at him. Even though Willy has pushed me to the limit, I will continue to help him whenever I can, and this is no exception. I give Willy the extra money and see him on his way. Maybe next time Willy will listen to me, maybe next time Willy will accept my advice.
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