Death of a Salesman Essay
Relationships between Willie and his sons
Willie Loman is a salesman who is constantly on the road than in his home. He also does not make much money from his sales business. However, his two sons, Biff and Happy look up to him as a role model. From the onset of the play, there is something estranging Biff from Willie. Willie has noticed that Biff has an undercurrent and becomes moody towards him. We realize that Biff estrangement from his father is as a result of Biff discovering Willie with a hooker in Boston.
When Miller wrote this play, fathers were symbols of excellence and virtue. The society expected fathers to represent the best for their children. Willie’s affair in Boston changed Biff’s life and changed him into a wanderer. Willie is sad that his son, Biff never had a job which can earn more than thirty five dollars in a week. Linda notes that Biff hates his father. She tells Biff that “Biff, dear, if you can’t have any feeling for him then you can’t have any feeling for me” (Miller 66).
Miller creates a sharp contrast between Biff and Bernard who loves hard work. Ben possesses knowledge superiority. He is not as physical as Biff. However, Biff did not believe in hard work since childhood. Willie taught him that everything in life did not rely on hard work. This idea became Biff’s downfall when he discovered that he had failed his exams.
Biff realizes that his childhood has been all lies. Therefore, he decides not to be like Willie. Biff struggles to become good after his father’s death. His father’s relationship with him created a world of lies and illusions where Biff never faced realities. He struggles to put these lies behind in order to find his true self in life. Willie nurtures Biff to have both desirable and undesirable traits during Biff’s life.
Willie brought up Happy to have little regard for women. Therefore, Happy treats women purely as objects of pleasure. Happy believes in unrealistic ideas of success his father planted in him since his childhood. He carries on with these ideas till the end of the play.
Willie’s responsibility with regard to his sons
We can say that Willie is an epitome of a poor role model to his sons. Willie gives poor advices to his sons especially about women and success. Willie advices Biff thus “Just wanna be careful with those girls, Biff, that’s all. Don’t make any promises. No promises of any kind. Because a girl, y’know, they always believe what you tell ’em” (Miller 44).
Willy’s two sons take this advice. Linda notes that Biff becomes harsh with the girls. This idea shapes Happy to become a hooker and womanizer. He constantly says that he will be marrying, but we never see that happens.
Willie tolerates Biff’s habits of stealing. Biff becomes a thief and even spends some times in jail. When Biff steals a football, his father laughs and jokes about the incident and says “Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative” (Miller 9). The ultimate show of irresponsibility is Willie’s advice about work and success. He believes that charismata and popularity are the means to success in life.
When the play comes to an end, Biff leaves illusions and faces reality. Biff realizes that his habit of stealing was a sense of resentment towards his father. This struggle is an American dream in Biff.
Biff learns that his father’s actions are worse than his words when he discovers about his affairs with a hooker in Boston. This discovery creates a rebellious Biff, distant and ashamed towards his father. Biff knows his father as his role model. However, this act changes everything.
Biff realizes that Willie’s dreams were not realistic. Willie followed a meaningless dream throughout his life even the audiences are not aware of his merchandise. Biff makes a self discovery and vows that what happened to his father will not happen to himself. Therefore, Biff abandons his father’s ways of nurturing him since childhood.
The role denial and illusion in the play
Miller presents the ideas of denial and illusion. Biff, Happy, and Linda cannot distinguish between reality and illusion to some extent. Willie’s sense of denial and illusion is paramount. Throughout the play, Willie has believed that he and his sons particular Biff will one day find great success. The audiences know that Willie is a disrespected salesman. However, he refers to himself as New England man.
Willie claims that Biff is doing big things with his life, but we know that, at the age of thirty four, Biff has never had stable jobs. Biff says that “I’m not getting’ anywhere! What the hell am I doing, playing around with horses, twenty-eight dollars a week! I’m thirty-four years old. I oughta be makin’ my future. That’s when I come running home” (Miller 90). At the end of the play, Biff discovers his true self and escapes the illusions.
The standards Ben sets further traps Willie in illusions. Willie sees Ben in his mind giving him tips on how to become successful in business. Willie struggles to live with the standards that Ben has set, but this is impossible. Willie has a confused perspective on life, and the audience cannot believe his reliability. As the play progresses, Willie hallucinations also gain momentum.
Miller further compounds characters’ illusions to their pasts. Loman’s family feels that they made mistakes in life. Willie’s ideas of success and business look brilliant if he can live to prove their potentials. On the other hand, Biff only admires the days he was an athletic at high school and the days he never discovered his father was cheating and a failure.
Willie’s idea of personality and success is illusions and sense of denying the truth. Willie believes that as a salesman people must like him in order to succeed. Willie denies hard work and engages in illusion saying that it is not what people can accomplish that makes them successful, but rather success depends on how he treats people he knows.
Willie’s sons believe that they can achieve success through good looks and charm rather than hard work. This notion has created failures in Loman’s family. Willie regrets through flashback that he instilled wrong values his sons that destroyed his life.
Willie and Linda conversation shows denial of reality. Willie tells his wife that “Oh I’ll knock ’em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me” (Miller 23). It is hard for Willy to recognize reality due to his dementia and deteriorating health both mentality and emotionally.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1998. Print.
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