How are the key themes of death of a salesman reflected in Willy’s final conversation with Biff?
Death of a Salesman is a play which deals with the idea of the American Dream which was founded by immigrants, it’s the belief the anything is possible through hard work. Arthur Miller presents Willy Loman who is dedicated to the American dream but he does not realise this would be the reason for his failure. Miller explores many themes in this play these include father/son relationships, symbolism of the outdoors and the contrast between dream and reality.
Arthur Miller uses the setting of the play as metaphor, the Loman’s house is in a very cramped space, and ‘they boxed in the whole goddam ...view middle of the document...
Time and again, he wants to make sure his boys are well-liked and popular, and this is shown right through the play a good example of this is when his son Biff confesses to making fun of his math teacher’s lisp, Willy is more concerned with how Biff’s classmates react. Of course, Willy’s version of the American Dream never pans out. Despite his son’s popularity in high school, Biff grows up to be a drifter. Willy’s own career falters as his sales ability flat-lines. When he tries to use “personality” to ask his boss for a raise, he gets fired instead.
Seeds represent for Willy the opportunity to prove the worth of his labour, both as a salesman and a father. His desperate attempt to grow vegetables signifies his shame about barely being able to put food on the table and having nothing to leave his children when he passes. Willy feels that he has worked hard but fears that he will not be able to help his children any more than his own abandoning father helped him. Willy is uncertain on how to raise his sons and worries if he can provide for them, ‘nothings planted’ makes the reader feel that Willy has failed and what he’s really talking about is his sons and their future. He thinks the seeds will be something that will thrive and when he dies it will provide for others. The seeds also symbolize Willy’s sense of failure with Biff. Despite the American Dream’s formula for success, which Willy considers foolproof. Realizing that his all-American football star has turned into a lazy bum, Willy takes Biff’s failure and lack of ambition as a reflection of his abilities as a father. Linda’s plays the supporting role, she goes along with things to keep Willy happy, and she provides Willy with hope which encourages him to keep wanting his goal in life and not to give up. She is the one person who supports Willy, despite his often reprehensible treatment of her. She is a woman who has aged greatly because of her difficult life with her husband, whose hallucinations and unpredictable behaviour she contends with alone.
Throughout the film Willy refuses to take any blame for the way his sons acts and tries to ignore the problems by covering them up with his illusions, when Willy refuses to shake Biff’s hand it shows how he is unwilling to accept the responsibility also in Willy’s world a handshake symbolises a moral acceptance of a business deal.
‘I want you to know on the train, in the mountains, in the valleys, wherever you go that you cut down your life in spite.’ Willy assumes that Biff's betrayal of his expectations is intended as a punishment for his betrayal of Biff's trust when Willy had an affair. Here, Willy tries desperately to separate himself from his own guilt about both Biff's failure in life and the reality of his infidelity. This quote also links with Biff’s love of the outdoors ‘Men built like we are should be working out in the open’ this suggests that he is aiming this at Willy as this is what he should have done from the start instead...