The most obvious thing about Willy is that he functions off the lies that he has told himself. He has convinced himself that he is good at his job and well-liked, when the truth is, he is neither. Throughout the play, Willy switches between the present and scenes from the past as he recounts events of the past. Some believe that this is a sign of dementia, however, it appears to be a way for him to escape the truth of his situation and the reality of who his sons are.
In the play, Willy puts the expectation of success upon himself and Biff. He desires to have the American dream and he convinces himself that he has achieved it despite the fact that he has to borrow money from his neighbour Charley in order to pay his bills each week. When he learns that Biff has tried to get a loan to start a business, he commits suicide so that Biff will have the money that he needs. This is the biggest example of the fact that Willy did not live in reality because if he did he would have realized that the chances of Biff actually using the money to build a business was nil. This is because Biff is the manifestation of all of Willy’s negative attributes both real and imagined. However, unlike Happy who has embraced the American Dream to his own detriment. Biff cannot allow himself to do this.
Willy’s responsibility for the situation that his family is in is rather substantial. It is his inability to face the truth that was the cause of his family’s downfall. First, he refused to accept
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At one point in the play, Willy says, “Biff is a lazy bum”(16). Moments later in the same conversation with Linda, Willy adds, “There’s one thing about Biff, he’s not lazy”(16). Even when confronted by his boys, Willy is unable to deal with the truth, that his sons won’t amount to very much at all. He ignores reality very well, and instead of pointing out that Biff hasn’t established himself yet, Willy tells Biff, “You’re well liked, Biff….And I’m telling you, Biff, and babe you want…”(26). The boys are clearly aware of their status and the status of their father, and Happy is found putting Willy’s personality in a nutshell, “Well, let’s face it: he’s [Willy] no hot-shot selling man. Except that sometimes, you have to admit he’s a sweet personality”(66). Obviously, Willie’s failure to bring up his children effectively, and his delusional thinking including denial of reality helps fortify his depleting condition and confusion.
Toward the end of the story, Willy realizes that his life is falling apart: Biff does not have a stable job or family, is making only commissions for his job, his refrigerator and car are in despair, and he talks to himself. Willy just cannot figure out what has gone wrong, especially with Biff who to him seemed so promising because of his good looks and his charm with others. When Biff comes home again, Willy gets real nervous and starts talking to himself (Act I. Scene I). He is stressed out that Biff has done nothing with his life so he starts seeing visions of the past. When Willy talks out loud while seeing visions, he is trying to discover where he went wrong as a person and father. To find where he went wrong he begins to ask anyone in visions or in person. One character that he frequently asks for advice throughout the drama is his older brother Biff (Gross, 319-321).
While the play primarily focuses on Willy’s dream, Death of a Salesman also observes Biff and his American Dream, which may be construed as the “right” one. Compared to his father’s, Biff’s dream is a simple one: own a ranch and labor in the countryside close to nature, happy and content. And yet as his father increasingly pressures him to pursue a dream more aligned to his own, Biff experiences an identity crisis of sorts, desperately seeking to please Willy by taking a job in business but always failing in his efforts. Eventually, he realizes that he cannot be his father, and, at Willy’s funeral, contrasts his earlier statement regarding Willy’s state of mind with one regarding his own person: “I know who I am, kid” (Miller 111). Though at the start of the play it was Willy who thought Biff lost, it is now the reverse. Willy, with his aspirations for renown and major success, found himself perpetually adrift in the world, struggling to make ends meet and maintain his family ties. And yet while Willy suffered at the hands of his American Dream, Biff prospered (although not monetarily) in his “proper” American Dream, experiencing true contentment in his craft. While Willy faced constant confusion and an almost bipolar personality disorder owing to his erroneous endeavors, Biff’s main insecurities and difficulties were those brought on by his father’s notion of success. In other words, Willy’s American Dream caused nothing but suffering for him and those he loved, while Biff’s American Dream would have allowed him peace of mind had it not been for his
A common occurrence in the play is Willy constantly alternating between past and present, shown by the numerous times where he is living his past and believes it is happening in the present. This mental condition pertains to bipolar II disorder, where Willy suffers from delusions and hallucinations in extreme forms causing racing thoughts (An EMS Guide…). Not only does it reflect the complications of his bipolar disorder, it shows that his tangential thinking is out of his control, as he imagines “sounds, faces, voices, [that] seem to be swarming upon him” (Miller 136). This indicates that Willy as a character cannot differentiate his own thoughts from reality, which concerns his family to a point of guilt, shown when Happy says “[s]omething’s happening to [Willy]… [h]e talks to himself” (Miller 21). Not to mention, hallucinations are similar to conditions for posttraumatic stress disorder, specifically when the victim experiences a vivid recall to an event (Gurevich). In particular, at one point Willy constructs Ben’s persona indicating the madness dwelling in Willy’s mind. He then tries to relate the idea of success with Ben’s achievements when explaining “[Ben] was rich… [t]hat’s just the spirit I want to imbue [my children with]” (Miller 52). In doing so, Willy feeds false hope from his past into his children since he fails to
The relationship between Willy and Biff is complicated. Actually, Biff is everything for Willy. He doesn’t do well as a salesman anymore, so this situation makes him depressed but at least there is Biff. So Willy believes that Biff will reach the success and his dreams will become true. That makes him want Biff to take some responsibility, in other words this is a big pressure on Biff. “How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!” says Willy and then Linda says “He is finding himself Willy.” Then Willy answers again “Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!” This shows how Willy mad at him because he thinks they couldn’t reach their dreams because of Biff. Willy says “Sure. Certain men just don’t get started till later in life. Like Thomas Edison, I think. Or B.F. Goodrich. One of them was deaf. I’ll put my money
Biff said when realizing the type of house he grew up in. Everyone in the Loman household was unsatisfied, the family left unstable. The top of the causes for the problems in the Loman household lead to Willy. Growing up Willy never had a true support system. His father left him at a early age. And his brother went to Africa. With all this abandonment in life, Willy learns to live on the dependency of being well approved of by others, and following a dream he saw as the “American Dream”. This dream led Willy into more failure than it did success. Willy never knew when to look at reality or chase a dream. When it came to a point in life when he realized he could no longer achieve this American Dream, he tried to live it through his sons. He never held his kids accountable for their faults because they were “well liked” Willy sees how much people like you as an equivalence to a human's success in life. Linda once said, “I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.” Willy filled all his actual doings in life, with dreams and visions of a successful him or of anything to make the pain of his actual life
Willy is like an impetuous youngster with high ideals and high hopes. Children always have high hopes for their
Willy’s biggest issue with his son is that he let him down by not being any more successful than him. He feels like Biff is failing on purpose just to make him look bad. Although, he has no decent job and is single; Biff has become disoriented about life. Earlier in the play Biff tells Happy, “I tell ya Hap, I don't know what the future is. I don't know - what I'm supposed to want” (Miller266). Biff once looked up to his father as a role model, but lost all faith in him once finding out that he was having an affair. Ever since he has rejected Willy’s commitment of being a husband and also a father. To add to his ruins are Willy’s ideas of how Biff should get ahead in life. Willy taught Biff that popularity was the right way to get to the top, rather than hard-work and dedication. Trying to live by his dad’s standards caused Biff to fail high school and become unable to put forth the effort to become
Because of Willy' incapability to accept Biff for who he is, Willy's failure increases. Willy wants Biff to be the best because he might be a failure as a salesman but he does not want to be a failure as a father. But in some ways he is a failure as a father because he never lets Biff be his own person. It is always about what Willy wants, a "his way or the highway" sort of deal. His not accepting Biff for who he is causes Biff not succeed and because of this Biff and Willy failure becomes one in the same .
To begin, Willy could be described as having a case of misguided life goals paired with self-deception. Willy was unable to admit to his faults. His pride was so boisterous that he would lie to his own family, borrowing money every week from his neighbor, Charley, and claiming that it was his salary. Due to extreme insecurities, Willy compulsively lied to himself and his family in effort of making himself feel better about who he really is, disguising his self doubt and inner anxiety with profound arrogance. Willy raised his sons to believe that in order to be successful, one must be well liked. “Be liked and you will never want.” (1.3) He often lied to them and exaggerated his success, which led them to believe that everything was as good as he claimed them to be. Willy even encouraged deceit in his oldest son by urging him to steal things and cheat on tests. In Willy’s own delusional world, he is a largely successful and well liked salesman with sons destined for greatness, taking every opportunity to brag about these false perceptions. He lied about almost everything, even the quality of
And such a hard worker. There’s something about Biff- he’s not lazy.” This is just of the many examples that shows that Willy is not stable. Willy doesn’t change because at the end of the play when Biff tries to confront Willy about his suicide attempt, Willy doesn’t do anything about it.
Willy is unable to accept reality. In his eyes he is living a horrible life with a dead-end job that is going nowhere. He perceives himself as a failure as a father because he cannot provide for his family and therefore he sees himself as a loser. Throughout the play, you can easily sense Willy’s unstable relationship with his family especially his eldest son, Biff. This constant tension with Biff is noticeable within the first act of the play and it is not until later on in a flashback, the audience learns that Willy once cheated on his wife and Biff found out about it. This family conflict, and Willy’s personal concepts on what makes a man successful, adds to his strive to be great and make up for his past. It is not his intentions that are weak, but the way he approaches
He gives up on his dreams of being rich and prepares to return to a simple life he enjoys. Also being back home and building a stronger relationship with his father,makes him realize how he wants to help Willy. While Biff is speaking, he mentions why he gives up the idea of being successful.“BIFF: He walked away. I saw him for one minute. I got so mad I could’ve torn the walls down! How the hell did I ever get the idea I was a salesman there? I even believed myself that I’d been a salesman for him! And then he gave me one look and — I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! We’ve been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk.” (page 76). He believed this was his only chance of being rich so when his old boss didn’t recognize him , he knew he wasn’t gonna get anywhere . This is when he dumped the idea of being successful. Throughout most of the play, he procrastinates for a simpler life. So the acceptance of the thought of the American Dream not happening, works out well for Biff. A very important aspect through this play is the relationship between Biff and Willy. Biff saving Willy from suicide shows just how much he want to help his father. In act 1 page 51 :Willy [staring through the window into the moonlight]: “Gee, look at the moon moving between the buildings!” [biff wraps the tubing around his hand and quickly goes up the stairs.]This shows biff wanting to protect Willy because he removed the tubing willy was using to try and kill himself, something Linda was telling him about in the beginning of the book. While helping his father Biff also realizes that he is ready to return to a simple life he enjoys. In act 1 pages 13 and 14, Biff even invites his brother Happy to live with him out West to start up a ranch and speaks about it with enthusiasm.Biff says to Happy, “ Why don't you come out West with me?... mabe we could buy a ranch.Raise cattle, use our
This is what Willy has been trying to emulate his entire life. Willy's need to feel well-liked is so strong that he often makes up lies about his popularity and success. At times, Willy even believes these lies himself. At one point in the play, Willy tells his family of how well-liked he is in all of his towns and how vital he is to New England. Later, however, he tells Linda that no one remembers him and that the people laugh at him behind his back. As this demonstrates, Willy's need to feel well-liked also causes him to become intensely paranoid. When his son, Biff, for example, is trying to explain why he cannot become successful, Willy believes that Biff is just trying to spite him. Unfortunately, Willy never realizes that his values are flawed. As Biff points out at the end of the play, "he had the wrong dreams."
After that, Biff "laid down and died like a hammer hit him "(1392). Biff had never dreamed for himself, being concerned only with fulfilling his father's wishes. When Biff realized that Willy was not the great man that he thought he was, his dreams became nothing to him, as had his father. And so, Biff became a drifter, living only on a day to day basis. Lastly, Biff is the only character who achieves any real growth in the play. Throughout the play Linda has remained static, always steadfastly supporting Willy, and believing he is incapable of flaw. At Willy's funeral, Happy says, "I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It's the only dream you can have-to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I'm gonna win it for him"(1415). His father died deluding himself, and apparently Happy is going to do the same. It is only Biff who realizes "[Willy] had all the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong The man never knew who he was"(1415). Biff has accepted the fact that he was not meant to be a salesman and must seek another path in life. Having made these observations, it quickly becomes clear that Biff's character is as vital to the play as is Willy's. Without Biff there would be no play. Therefore, Biff's role in "Death of a Salesman" is important because he is the focus of Willy's attention and distress, his own conflict is