Understanding Oneself: Self-knowledge in Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Decent Essays

Many individuals give into societal norms and their parent’s expectations instead of aspiring to find their ultimate purpose and objective. When an individual alters their perception of reality, they live an unhappy and unfulfilling life. Karl Harshbarger critiques Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in “‘I Know Who I Am’: The Revenge of Biff Loman” arguing that Biff is living in a distorted reality that supports the endless delusions he has created. Although many critics like Harshbarger tend to argue that Biff doesn’t enhance his self-knowledge, through a few telling moments that Harshbarger shines light on, it is made evident that Biff does understand his feelings, purpose and character and is desperately asking for his father’s support, acceptance and love. The self-development that Biff undergoes throughout the play is made evident consistently. Biff chooses to purse his dreams instead of giving into societal norms or his father’s expectations and becoming a salesman. Biff’s understanding of himself is made evident in three specific ways; the comparison between the two brothers, Biff’s moment of ultimate clarity at Bill Oliver’s office and Willy and Biff’s final fight before Willy’s suicide.
Although Harshbarger argues that Biff is delusional and doesn’t have a clear understanding of himself, in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” there are many comparisons that can be made between the two brothers, Biff and Happy, which expose the extent that Biff understands himself

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