November 10, 2012
Death of a Salesman Essay
Like Father Like Son
In Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, Miller reveals what happens when a dream, especially the American dream, dies, as seen through the life of Willy Loman, a pathetic, self-deluded salesman. The play follows the family through painful conflicts, significant issues such as national values, and the price of blind fate while working toward the ‘American Dream’. The major problem woven into the plot discusses how Willy, insufficiently, attempts to be able to die ‘the death of a salesman’, both wealthy and comfortable. In this play, the American character is criticized because the play emphasizes how children are a result of their parents modeling by including examples such as how Biff and Happy, the unsuccessful children, believe that lying, cheating, and stealing are tolerable because of the example Willy set for them.
Furthermore, through Willy’s shallow contemptuous personality, the ...view middle of the document...
Biff gets these churl traits from his father because Willy also commits similar crimes, and does not believe they are unjust. In another instance Willy finds out that Biff failed math. Willy asks Biff, “You mean to say Bernard wouldn’t give you the answers?” (118). Biff replies “He did, he tried, but I only got a sixty-one” (118). Willy becomes surprised that Biff didn’t succeed by cheating off of Bernard. Biff recognizes cheating to be adequate because Willy basically encourages it. On the contrary, had Willy been a good role model, these emotions should be inversed. Willy should feel resentment because Biff cheated, but he instead he finds disappointment in the fact that Biff was not able to appear successful. Willy’s actions continue to influence the boys on the subject of philandering. Willy cheats on Linda, his timid wife, which gives Biff and Happy the impression that not respecting women is common. When Biff and Happy are alone in their old bedroom recalling past memories from their glory days, Happy chuckles, “About five hundred women would like to know what was said in this room” (20) to which Biff agrees. This shows them following in the footsteps of their father. Nearing the end of the book Biff comes to realize that Willy’s influence has majorly affected his character, and this affronts him. He angrily screams “You know why I had no address for three months? I stole a suit in Kansas City and I was in jail….I stole myself out of every good job in high school….And I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody! That’s whose fault it is!” (131). At this point in the play Biff becomes fed up with the actions of his father, and is resentful of how they rubbed off on him.
In The Death of a Salesman, due to Willy Loman his sons believe that lying, cheating and stealing are acceptable, because a parent is a model for children to emulate as they grow. This story plays a meaningful role in American literature because it covers important motifs involving the nation and the family itself, which can be closely related to real life experiences. People can learn from the mistakes of fictional characters to idealize their own lives. This play teaches the readers to respect core values by showcasing the state of a dysfunctional life.