This is a play written in the 1940s by Arthur Miller, the famous American playwright. It is a play about the Loman family and raises a counterexample the illustration that tragedy is the downfall of great men. Although Loman himself has tragic error or flaw, his downfall is just like that of an ordinary man. The play shows the democratization of forms of tragedy of ancient times. The main character of the play Willy Loman, is obsessed with greatness thereby setting the stage for his downfall as at his age (sixty three), he though and was highly convinced that he was capable of greatness. His misconception that greatness comes directly from his popularity and personal charisma added the final blow to a recipe that is clearly for disaster. Tripod explains the other characters in the play include Biff and Happy Loman who are Willy’s sons and Linda Loman, his wife.
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Biff is eldest son in Loman household. He has grown from a once high school football legend to a man, who in his thirties rarely shows the boyish affection, enthusiasm and confidence he used to portray earlier. He now seems like a sad, frustrated and deeply troubled man who occasionally drifts away and escapes into dreams out of reality. His father had betrayed him along time ago by getting involved in an affair that Biff came to discover. Ed, Marie and Napierkowski explains that Biff blames his father for his mishaps and misfortunes especially when he explains the reason as to why he steals thing as an adult is that his father did not give him proper guidance as a child whenever he was caught stealing.
Biff Loman is a catalyst (CliffNotes). He is continuously driving his father’s thoughts and actions all through the play. Whenever the present is not acceptable, wily retreats to the past and whenever he does that, Biff is always there. Before his trip to Boston, Biff adored his father, believing all his stories and philosophies that as long as a person is popular, he can be successful. He never questioned his father though he knew he was making grave mistakes thus giving him the idea that he cannot be bound by any social expectations or rules. On realizing that his father was cheating on his mother, Biff rejects Willy and considers him a fake. He begins to despise his dad, his philosophies and everything that he represented in his life.
Biff’s biggest problem therefore arises since as much as he despises will, he cannot change the fact that he is his son (CliffNotes). Although he is not a womanizer as his younger brother, he has established in himself the ability and tendency to manipulate and exaggerate reality to his favour. He seems to think that he was Oliver’s salesman rather than he actual position as a shipping clerk. He comes to realize his misconception when he confronts Oliver and he later comes to terms with the reality, illustrating his difference from Willy who never embraces the fact that he has been living a lie. He is grateful to know that he is no what his father wanted him to pretend to be but what he wants to be.
He says that in that house not one person can say the truth for en minutes and thus severs himself from will. He however, almost immediately, acknowledges the act that he is also a fake thereby dissolving the idea that he could hold a grudge on his father. Unlike his father and brother, Biff is compelled to find the truth about himself. He recognizes his failures and manages to confront it eventually. Even their name difference suggests his polarity. They happily and willfully carry themselves while Biff wallows in self deception.
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According to Shmoop University Biff is the only character that shows personally growth in the play. Although he is a kleptomaniac and shows all the vices in the book, one cannot help but notice that he is a likeable person. Even though he can seem desperate to please and impress his dad, he realizes his flaws and shortcomings. His father however has always been crazy about his son and was sure he was heading to eminent success despite their constant cross conversations.
Through Biff, we are reminded that the American dream cannot be for everyone. Instead of seeking money, fame and success, he has the desire to live a basic life. He wants people to notice, appreciate and love him for who he is. It is sad as miller portrays how Americans, Biff included, are victims of the success of their own country. Just as is the case of Biff not able to love or even understand his own son, so is America’s inability to understand those who value the simple pleasure of life above the rat race. At the least, this is what Arthur Miller (118) seems to argue in his book The Death of a Salesman.
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