Death of a Salesman describes a man, Biff Loman, who had lost his identity and he lacks the ability to accept change within himself and the society. His thinking and behaviour was the outcome of his father’s mental illness and instability.
Biff was Willy’s oldest son and Willy was really crazy about him. Biff was a star football player in his high school. However, he never paid attention to his schoolwork and failed in math. And Willy was responsible for all these since he never encouraged Biff to do well in school.
Dislike for Father
When he was a teenager he discovered that his father, Willy Loman had an extramarital affair, the incident created a bad impact on Biff’s mind. He was the only member of the family who knew about Willy’s affair and started disliking his father badly.
He realized that Willy was unfaithful to his mother and it changed the whole of his perception about Willy, whom he used to adore and considered all his stories to be true, he even followed his father’s philosophy that anything is possible as long as a person is “well-liked”.
And then Biff starts deteriorating in his life. Biff never raised questions at Willy, even though he could see that Willy was going against the rules.
It is not surprising that Biff’s tendency to steal things continued throughout his adult life since Willy used to encourage Biff’s thefts during childhood and teenage, while he was growing up.
When Biff was in school he stole a football and instead of scolding Biff for his act of stealing the football, his initiative was praised by Willy.
Willy – fake
Biff finally realizes that Willy has created his fake image in front of his family, society and for himself as well. He considers Willy to be a “fake,” and stops believing him, or following Willy’s grand fantasies of success. Instead, Biff hates his father and all his ideas or philosophies.
Willy regarded Biff as an underachiever, while Biff thinks that he is trapped in Willy’s ambitious fantasies. After the incident of Bill Oliver’s office, Biff determined to cut the web of lies which was surrounding the Loman family and wanted to live in realism.
Acceptance of Truth
Unlike his father, he accepts the truth of life and realizes his failure. After Willy committed suicide Biff said that “didn’t know who he was.” There was a discord between Biff and Willy for over 15 years, and during that time he was not able to hold any job steadily.
He made his father believe that he is good for nothing, “I am a dime a dozen, Pop, and so are you”. It is believed that the character of Biff was inspired by his own life.
Arthur Miller’s conflicted relationship with his uncle, Manny Newman who was also a salesman, is considered to be the basis of dramatic confliction in Death of a Salesman.
Newman also refused to accept his failure. It’s been half a century since it was written; Death of a Salesman still remains a powerful drama.