Optimistic Reality – December Free Choice – A Polished Critical


Optimistic Reality

...the role of honesty when individuals experience the tension between optimism and reality

Text: Death of a Salesman

In order to shift from optimism to realism, truth with oneself is necessary. Truth can be attained through honesty with oneself as it immerses the individual into reality; furthermore, within oneself, honesty can provide the individual with the chance for self-discovery. Tension between optimism and reality is formed when an individual has become too affected by their dreams and ideals and become incapable of discerning reality. Reality is necessary in life, as without it, one cannot truly understand one’s self identity. Arthur Miller showcases the role honesty plays during these tensions in an individual’s life using Biff Loman’s change between optimism and realism from his play, “Death of a Salesman”. Miller suggests that during times of tension between optimism and reality, an individual must be honest with themselves, revealing truth that releases that tension – causing self-revelation. 


When Biff fails to be honest with themselves during times of tension between optimism and reality, he becomes illusion-ed by dreams and thus, cannot discern reality. This leads to a lack of understanding in one’s self identity. Biff showcases this through his dreams of receiving money from Bill Oliver. From this alone, it is noted that Biff is entranced by his optimism towards his dream. By continually getting advised and encouraged by his father, Willy Loman, he became hypnotized by optimism and too hopeful about his dream. At this point, tension is created between optimism and reality and since Biff lies to himself through optimism, he cannot break that tension and return to reality. Optimism develops an illusion within an individual that makes them believe that reality is better than it already is. Optimism, however lies within the reigns of the abstract, which is why in order to balance out the optimism a concrete truth is needed – honesty. Without honesty, it becomes impossible to escape optimism and enter reality. In Biff’s life it becomes apparent as he believes that he is meant to be a salesman due to his charm. This showcases how this optimism has affected his understanding of himself. He cannot see his own identity because optimism has shaped it for him; thus, honesty is needed in order to break the tension between optimism and reality. When honesty does take effect, however, reality becomes clear to the individual


Self-revelation occurs within Biff when he becomes honest with himself and understands the reality compared to the optimism. Biff demonstrates this when he explains to his father Willy that he was a cheat in the past and tries to convince him that they were not as great as they thought they were by saying “We’re a dime a dozen”. This quote explains Biff coming to terms with the reality of his commonness. Furthermore, by doing so begins to understand his self identity. At this point, the tension between reality and optimism is broken, and reality is clear. Due to Biff’s honesty with himself, he is able to realize the truth of his situation and find reality as he does when he speaks of his realization of who he was in the past. Identity is found from when Biff starts realizing the confines of a salesman job not being for him because he enjoys the outdoors. Biff understands more about his identity only because he is disillusioned from the optimism coupled with dreams. Since the concrete idea of truth came from his honesty with himself, he was able to break the tension between optimism and reality – ultimately leading to self-discovery. When tension between optimism and reality is truly broken, one truly understands what their dreams should be. 


By using honesty as a mechanism to break the tension between reality and optimism in his own life, Biff is able to truly find his purpose and chase his real dream. Biff states that they always had the wrong dream after his father’s death which is why he plans to leave and start a ranch. This evidence explains how an individual has realized reality and what optimism has done, and now has decided to pursue his real dream. Others may argue that Biff may be falling into another tension between optimism and reality by chasing a dream, however, now that he is honest with himself, it becomes impossible to fall into the tension. Furthermore, due to his self-discovery, he knows that his dream is for him because it is what he truly enjoys. It is only due to the honesty that now Biff is able to stay within reality, even if optimistic, because the concrete truth of honesty can balance out the abstract idea of optimism manifested illusions. In this case of optimism, illusions cannot be created because an individual is always facing reality through honesty with himself. Should an individual forget to stay honest with themselves, they will return to the illusions and will become unable to discern between optimism and reality. All in all, individual’s need honesty in order to break the tension of reality and optimism, to truly chase their dreams without being caught in the tensions.


Individual’s when experiencing the tension between optimism and reality, honesty with oneself is needed in order to create truth – allowing an individual for self-discovery and a reality with optimism. A reality with optimism is essentially an individual’s pursuit of a dream while still remaining within reality. In Arthur Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman” Biff Loman explains the role of honesty when an individual experiences tension between optimism and reality through his journey of chasing a false dream, leading to self-revelation. Miller suggests that in order to break the tensions between optimism and reality honesty with oneself is needed, which is able to lead to self discovery, but ultimately: an Optimistic Reality. 


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