The characters Willy Loman of the play Death of Salesman, and Amada Wingfield of The Glass Menagerie share many comparable traits, but at the same time they are different in some ways.
Both Willy and Amanda live in fantasy worlds. They both wish they could revel in the past and what used to be. Amanda dreams back to when she was the pampered southern belle and was called on by many gentlemen callers. She remembers being a socialite and part of the elite society in the south. Amanda has this notion that she has to build a dowry for her daughter to make her more eligible for marriage. She also has this idea that her son is on the fast track on his job, and will one day bring them into the world of social and financial success she dreams of. She even dresses in some of her old gowns when they have company for dinner. Willy has a habit of daydreaming back to the days when his sons were still in high school and Biff was the captain of the football team.
He also imagines his older brother Ben talking to him about business and how successful he is, and asks him to come with him. He also daydreams about The Woman, and his days on the road as a traveling salesman. His inability to deal with the present is what eventually was his demise. They both had trouble with accepting reality. The reality Willy needed to accept is that he was not a successful salesman, his brother Ben was dead, and that Biff was not the success he wanted him to be. Amanda’s reality is that Laura is crippled, she is no longer a southern belle, and her son is not interested in climbing the corporate ladder at his job.
Both Willy and Amanda are also dealing with abandonment issues. Willy is first abandoned by his father at young age, and then by his older brother Ben when he leaves for Alaska. These experiences may have caused Willy to have a fear of abandonment. He is abandoned one last time at Franks Chop Shop when Biff and Happy leave him in the washroom talking to himself. Amanda had also been abandoned. At the onset of the play we find out that Mr. Wingfield and had abandoned Amanda and the children because he fell in love the long distances. This abandonment may have caused the behavior we see in Amanda, trying to take control of her children’s lives. Then Amanda is abandoned again by Tom.
The major difference between Willy and Amanda is that Willy is trying to achieve the American Dream, by doing well in sales, and having the finer things in life. But he is not willing to swallow his pride and accept a steady paying job from his neighbor and only friend Charley. Instead he continues to work on commission not making any money and having to borrow from Charley every week. If he would only accept the job, he would be able to pay his bills. While on the other end Amanda has been wealthy and had a taste of the finer things in life, and her goal is to get back there. Her first attempt at this was to send Laura to business college in hopes that she could gain a successful career in the business world and also help the family to become wealthy. When this failed she figured her last straw effort would be for Laura to get married.
She swallows her pride and begins selling magazine subscriptions because she thinks the extra money will attract suitors to Laura. She did this without complaint, even though the subscription sales was embarrassing for her. This was her sacrifice, putting herself to work, whereas Willy’s ultimate sacrifice was killing himself so that Biff could collect the insurance money. But his sacrifice was selfish, because he was so delusional, he did not think about how his death would affect those he left behind such as his wife, Biff and Happy. He did not think about how his death would change their lives. All in all we can safely say both of these characters lived very similar imaginary lives, outside of the reality of their families.