Warped Values Essay, Research Paper
Willy and Biff Loman’s Destructive Relationship in Death of a Salesman
In the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, numerous examples of a dysfunctional family are illustrated. Many opinions have materialized concerning the significance Willy Loman exuded on his eldest son, Biff. How did Biff go from being a handsome, popular captain of the football team to a transient, insecure kleptomaniac who wanders aimlessly from job to job? Was there an isolated event in his life that changed him so drastically? Was he destined to become a failure because his father was a failure? What caused an abrupt and unforeseen change in such a promising, hopeful young man? In a careful analysis of the play and the principles each character portrayed, it is apparent that the origin of Biff s tribulations stem from his relationship with his father. Willy Loman s warped sociological issues he forces on Biff, are the cause of his son s repeated failures in life.
From an early age, Willy Loman instilled specific beliefs and idealistic values in his son about life and success. As a senior in high school, Biff had a promising future ahead of him. He had scholarships to three different universities. Although Biff excelled athletically, he was failing academically. His friend Bernard offered to tutor him in order to help him pass his math class. Biff missed study sessions with Bernard repeatedly, and made no attempts to improve his grades. Bernard pleaded with him to take the subject seriously. He asked Willy to encourage his son to study. Don t be a pest, Bernard! What an anemic! (1807). With this lackadaisical attitude, Willy demonstrated no concern of his son failing. Rather than encourage his son to study with Bernard, he was more interested in whether or not Bernard was popular. Bernard can get the best marks in school, y understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him be liked and you will never want. (1807). Biff was a typical young teenager who looked for excuses to not have to study. His father enabled him to ignore his grades. He knew his father would come to his rescue if he failed. As expected, Biff failed his math class and was not permitted to graduate. At this pivotal point in Biff s life, with his future at stake, he turned to his father to help him out of this mess. Biff trailed his father to Boston in a desperate attempt to save his future; what he found was not solace and encouragement, but harsh reality staring back at him.
Biff caught Willy cheating on his wife with a woman whom he frequently visited on business trips. This was Biff s first glimpse of reality. Everything he believed in came crashing down. Biff no longer cared about going to college; he became indecisive about every important choice in his life. His relationship with Willy suffered tremendously. When he came home to visit, the two fought constantly. The brawls consisted mostly of Willy s inability to accept Biff s unsuccessful professional life. While at home visiting, Biff was haunted by the lack of respect he had for his mother, Linda. In the arguments that ensued, he demanded that Willy treat Linda with respect. In response to Willy s poor judgment, Linda made excuses for him, and insisted that he be treated like a human being. In a conversation with his mother, Biff s frustration towards his father s abuse is communicated to her. Stop making excuses for him! He always wiped the floor with you. Never had an ounce of respect for you (1818). It was at the pinnacle of Willy s incoherence and delusions, that Biff realizes what he needs to be truly happy in his life.
Biff allows himself to be cajoled into a business scheme of owning a sporting goods store with his brother, Happy. This dream was conceived out of a desperate attempt to please Willy during one of their arguments. Biff gives into the idea, still trying to please his father. He plans to approach one of his previous employers and ask to borrow money for this venture. While waiting for his old supervisor to meet with him, he has an epiphany. This realization brings him to the decision of confronting his father and freeing him from the obligation of his Willy s dreams. Naturally, Willy is belligerent and refuses to accept reality. Biff, who has found his
self-identity, now looks forward to enjoying his life regardless of his father s disapproval.
Upon examining Willy s idealistic and distorted views he placed upon Biff, it can be concluded that these were the reasons that caused Biff to fail repeatedly throughout his life. Once Biff was able to accept that he was a dime a dozen (1856), he was free from the burdens Willy placed on his shoulders. all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am! (1856).