Son Of A Salesman. (Death Of A

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Son Of A Salesman. (Death Of A Salesman) Essay, Research Paper
David Stankunas
3.28.99 per. 5
AP English
Death of a Salesman topic – #1
Son of a Salesman
A father is an important role model in a young man’s life; perhaps the most important. A father
must guide his children, support them, teach them, and most importantly, love them. In the play
Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller, an aging salesman of 63, Willy Loman worked
all his life for his children. Happy and especially Biff, his two sons, where his pride and joy and
his reason for living. Willy tried as hard as he possibly could to provide for them, to support
them, to mold them into men; but he failed. Willy’s greatest fault, perhaps, was his inability to
see his sons for what they really were. Biff and Happy were never destined to be great men, yet
Willy always believed in them. Although Willy’s hope is touching, it is also foolish. Willy
Loman’s blind faith in his son Biff’s abilities destroyed Biff’s sense of moderation and modesty.
Despite Biff’s obvious incompetence and mediocrity, Willy vehemently refused to accept his
son’s failure to “make the grade.” Biff “stole himself out of every good job since high school!”
(131), yet Willy cannot accept that his son is a “dime a dozen” and declares that Biff is merely
failing to spite him. “I want you to know…where ever you go, that you cut down your life for
spite!” (129). By blaming Biff for his problems, Willy clears himself of all guilt. Willy cannot
realize that it was his ineptitude as a father that created Biff’s character. If Willy was a little
more aware of his son’s situation, his true character, Biff may have realized sooner that he was
not “a leader of men.” When asked whose fault it is that he never accomplished anything, Biff
answered “…I never got anywhere because you (Willy) blew me so full of hot air I could never
stand taking orders from anybody! That’s whose fault it is!” (131). If only Willy would have
recognized his son Biff’s mediocrity instead of believing he was a great kid, Biff may have
become a good man. No matter what Biff did, Willy would never believe it was because he was
incapable of success.
Unlike his older brother Biff, Happy did not receive the affection or attention he craved from his
father. Willy’s preoccupation with his more attractive, better-liked son Biff, left Happy trailing
in his sibling’s footsteps. Happy always tried to get his parents’ attention, hoping one day he
could please them. “I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop?” (29). “I’m gonna get married, Mom. I
wanted to tell you.” (68) Yet Willy never noticed his younger son’s accomplishments. The lack
of recognition from his father only made Happy try harder, but he could only do so much.
Happy, not unlike his older brother Biff, was not a great man. In hopes to please his father,
Happy also went into the “selling” business, but met little success. He was “one of the two
assistants to the assistant buyer” and was miserable. Biff questioned Happy, “Are you content,
Hap? You’re a success, are’t you? Are you content?” (23), and Happy responds, “Hell, no!” Yet
Happy stuck with his job, longing to one day please his father. Even after Willy’s death Happy
did not give up on his quest. “I’m gonna show everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in
vain.” “I’m staying right in this city, and I’m gonna beat this racket!” (138). Happy, still trying to
please his father from beyond the grave, dooms himself to live the same life, and perhaps death,
of his father. Happy never knew his father, and if he had, he may not have respected him so
much. If Willy had talked with his son Happy, opened up to him, Happy would have probably
chosen a different path of life. Instead, Willy focused his all his attention on Biff, leaving Happy
a lost child, yearning for attention, willing to do anything to receive it.
The lack of morals in the Loman household also contributed to Biff and Happy’s degeneration.
The two boys didn’t have a positive role model in their life. When Biff stole a football, Willy
congratulated him on his initiative. Willy prompted his sons to steal building materials for a new
stoop. Biff’s kleptomaniatic tendencies most likely came from his father’s acceptance, and even
approval, of his thievery in his younger days. When Biff found Willy in an affair with another
woman, all respect he had for his father whatsoever was lost. It was at that point when Biff
realized that the one man, the only man, he ever looked up to was nothing more than a “fake”,
and Biff lost all reason to his life. Everything that Willy taught him was destroyed on that one
night. Every rule, every piece of advice, was nulled by that one act of adultery.
Willy Loman tried his best to be a good father. He encouraged his sons, he worked all his life for
them, and he tried to help them in any way he could. The only problem was, although his heart
was there, Willy just wasn’t a good father. Willy did his best to raise his sons, but tragically, the
more he tried, the worse they became. Ultimately, Willy failed as a father, but he did try his best.
He loved his children, in some cases, too much. He loved them blindly, and never once
questioned their greatness. Although love like that is touching, it also harmful. Willy’s delusions
of grandeur for his sons hurt them more than it helped them.
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