Willy Loman Character Essay Research Paper It

Willy Loman Character Essay, Research Paper

It is every father’s dream for their children to grow up and lead a better life

than they did and provide for their family better. Willy Loman was no exception

to the rule, because he wanted the best for his children from a very young age,

especially for his promising son Biff. Biff was loaded with potential as a boy

in high school, and Willy recognized it and promoted it more than he needed to.

Although Biff sees his life as not a complete failure, his monstrous adolescent

potential transformed into years of failure, and blame for this must be put on

the shoulders of his father. As the old adage goes, "like father like

son." This could be attached to the relationship between Willy and Biff but

some would contend that it would be taking a lot away from Willy. While many of

his tactics on raising his children were skewed, it is conceivable to say that

he worked as hard as he could to provide for his family. He was never afraid of

work. No matter how terrible he was at it he was always able to convince himself

he was good, which helped him earn the money his family needed. Of all the

terrible things, though, that Biff took from his father hard work was not one of

them. Hard work is something that Biff can never say he was a part of. He always

looked for the easy way out and when he found it he took it. People will contend

that Biff is not a failure only because Willy messed up raising him. They would

say that Willy may not have been the best father but it was Biff who made the

decisions that ruined his own life. Decisions that Willy had no control over. Is

that really true though? Willy had a complete influence on those decisions

because the only ways in life Biff knew were the ones that he was shown growing

up by his father. As a star football player in high school, Biff had it all. As

Happy unmistakably said, "he has a group of girl’s following him

everywhere, now that he’s captain." Growing up Biff idolized his father,

and the attention was returned from Willy to him. Willy saw his son as a child

who could do no wrong. Willy pushed him to have a "conquer the world"

attitude which he thought would push him to success. It was a selfish action

though because Willy wanted Biff to succeed only so he could feel as though he

had done a good job raising him. Unbridled potential like Biff had, sometimes

needs to be allowed to develop on its own and not be prodded and urged the way

Willy did. Obviously Biff did not respond to the pressure and stress that Willy

put him under at a young age so his talents and ability were wasted throughout

his whole life. Willy’s downfall as a parent was not that he wasn’t interested

or involved in his son’s life, but rather his neglect to see what Biff needed

from his father. From his youth as well, Biff was influenced by Willy regarding

illegalities such as stealing and lying. Willy felt as though Biff should, and

could, make his own rules for life. When he stole a football from the team he

was praised rather than scolded by his father. Willy thought, "coach will

probably congratulate you on your initiative." He let Biff drive without a

license as well as encouraging him to steal from a nearby construction site.

Willy was ignorant to that fact that Biff was a different person than he was.

Willy was so caught up in the fact that his set of morals (or lack there of) was

successful that he preached them to Biff, where in fact the only reason Willy

saw them as successful was because he was so optimistic/unrealistic in looking

at his own life. As a result of incident like these Biff never learned right

from wrong, which haunted him later in life. Biff spoke so beautifully and

eloquently about the Dakotas and Texas, that it seemed as though those were

places he could succeed in and spend the rest of his life in prosperity.

However, he was not able to hold down jobs in those areas because of stealing

incidents. Had steeling been discouraged or even not been promoted in his life

from an early age he might have been able to settle down in an area he liked and

made something of himself. Like his father Biff is not realistic. He refuses to

actually see what he has done, or has not done in his life. Biff however is

aware of his own unhappiness which separates him from his father. Biff does not

accept responsibility for his actions though. He is afraid to grow up and take

on the world head on. He admits this to his brother Happy, when he confesses,

"I’m still a boy." This coming from a man who is 34 years of age.

Having idolized and mimicked his father as a child this is not surprising. Willy

has a skewed view of life to say the very least. He sees everything as

romanticized, and convinces himself that everything is fine and dandy. When a

possible problem arises he convinces himself that it is someone else’s problem

or that it will fix itself. Even as an old man Willy has characteristics of a

child. He never truly matured mentally in his life because he rebuffed any

notion that his life was not totally fortuitous. Willy is obviously a drone. A

worker. He is a dime a dozen, and everyone realizes it except him. Even his name

alone suggests that he is a drone. Willy Loman, or if spelled differently Willy

Low-man. With a role model like this it is not surprising to see how Biff has no

grasp of reality and probably never will. A different rationale for Biff’s

failure and unhappiness in his life has to do with his brother Happy. When they

were in high school Biff was clearly the favored child by Willy, whom each

admired greatly. This favoritism was an enormous disservice to Biff because, as

he later realizes nobody gives you an inch in the real world. Happy was used to

playing second fiddle to Biff in his father’s eyes. This didn’t stop him from

trying to get his father’s attention though. He would literally jump in front of

Willy in attempts to steal some of the attention that was constantly focused on

Biff. Several times Happy has to say to Willy "I’ve lost weight dad, do you

notice," to get a response. Unlike his brother Happy was prepared to go

into the world as a regular person. He was able to accept his role as a laborer,

nothing more and nothing less. Big things were expected of Biff but not so much

of Happy. As adults it is somewhat the opposite. This is not to speculate that

Happy is this huge success, but he is more of one than Biff is. This role

reversal is hard for Biff to comprehend and accept. He had lived his whole life

thinking and being taught that he could do nothing and still get by in life.

Where everything was handed to Biff as a child, Happy had to work for things a

little more. Not to say that Happy hasn’t absorbed any of Willy’s teachings

though. Happy is not perfect by any means. He takes bribes and has affairs with

engaged women but he sees his role as a human and accepts it. This is something

Biff cannot do. The thing that separated Biff and happy in this area is the

favoritism Biff had received at a young age. While Willy was giving Biff a free

ride as a kid, set was setting him up for failure later on in life. Seeing how

Willy and Biff’s interactions at the beginning of the play result, only enhances

our sentiments about Willy’s ignorance. Arthur Miller wants us to see that their

is only one way to achieve prosperity or the American dream, and it is not

Willy’s way. Following orders, pretending to be liked and living in a dream

world will only end in failure. He wants us to see that to succeed you must have

character and backbone. A leader will go farther than a follower. Willy was even

unable to live his life vicariously through his son because of the mistakes he

made. It is not how much you know or who you know, but what you do with it.

Arthur Miller would agree with the famous proverb, "The human mind is

bigger than the human heart, but will take you less far." At the time of

the play Willy would not have accepted this train of thought. It is possible

though, that looking back on his life and Biff’s that every single Loman family

member would take that quote to heart.


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