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Examine Arthur Miller's presentation of the characters of Charley and Bernard in "Death of a Salesman". What do they contribute to the play as a whole?

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Introduction

Examine Miller's presentation of the characters of Charley and Bernard. What do you think they contribute to the play as a whole? On close examination of the characters of Charley and Bernard, their significance and contributions to the play as a whole become evident. Each character influences and changes the play in a unique way highlighting certain factors about the play, that would otherwise go unnoticed. After establishing the family and their home life, Miller then introduces to us Bernard in act one page 24 "Bernard enters in knickers. He is younger than Biff, earnest and loyal, a worried boy". Bernard is Charley's son, an academic child who works hard at school and tries to influence biff into doing the same "Biff, where are you? You're supposed to study with me today" (pg25), " you won't graduate" (pg25). Willy's immediate reaction is to mock Bernard showing that perhaps Willy doesn't place much emphasis on the value of education "what're you looking so anaemic about?" ...read more.

Middle

this is important as Bernard now carries his own sports equipment as opposed Biffs. On page 71 Willy is heard getting off the elevator and heading towards Charley's office. Bernard and Willy's new relationship is presented to us in a conversation in Charley's office. Bernard, now an accomplished lawyer is going to fight an important case in Washington, and is staying with friends who own their own tennis court "I'm going to Washington in a minute", "I'm staying with a friend who has a court" (pg72). Willy falsely welcomes Bernard's success and replies, " His own tennis court, must be fine people, I bet" (pg72). Bernard feels uncomfortable in the presence of Willy's admiration and so changes the subject "very nice, dad tells me Biffs in town" (pg72). Willy realises Biff is not doing anything commendable and so again changes the subject "well he's been doing very big things in the west", "did I hear your wife had a boy" (pg72). ...read more.

Conclusion

As well as being a friend to Willy, Charley is also a father, and can therefore be used as a comparison to Willy's fathering skills. On hearing of Bernard's success on page 72, Willy then asks Charley "you never told him what to do, did you? ", "you never took any interest in him" (pg75). To which Charley replies "my salvation is that I never took any interest in anything". This is the point where Willy's failure and Charley's success as a father becomes apparent. This is one of the reasons for Charley's presence in the play. However, the other reason for Charley's presence in the play is far more controversial. It comes on page 76 where Charley agrees to pay Willy's insurance for him "Here, pay your insurance", Charley again shouts to Willy as he is leaving "and pay your insurance", " did you hear what I said". It doesn't become clear till the end of the play when Willly dies that Charley, paying off Willy's insurance is indeed symbolic to his death and in fact the main contribution Charley gives Death of a salesman. ...read more.

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