Death of a Salesman Discuss the significance of the flashbacks. Why are they included and what do we learn about the characters?

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Death of a Salesman

Discuss the significance of the flashbacks. Why are they included and what do we learn about the characters?

        The flashbacks that we see in this play, 'Death of a salesman', are all coming from Willy Loman, the father of the the family and the main money earner. He brings mostly all of the money back to the family from his job as a salesman. We realise that this is a stressful situation for him because he has to earn enough for all four members of the family. From what he tells us he is a well liked man that does well in his job but we soon find out that he over-exaggerates about his popularity and his wealth as well. These flashbacks may be a way of Willy getting away from his troubles, a place that he can relax and re-live the good times that he has had before.


        The first Glimpse we get of Willy's flashbacks is when Happy and Biff are talking in their bedroom and below them they hear Willy mumble 'You gonna wash the engine Biff?'. Throughout the flashbacks we see that Willy most refers to Biff and the times he has had with Biff. We do not know why this is, but it is probably because of the current situation that Biff and his father are going through. Biff and his fathers relationship used to be good because Biff was the well liked one in school and was always succeeding. Due to a occurrence, Biff's personality changed and he lost all of his confidence. He started looking for jobs and ended up working on over twenty jobs, which he did not stick too. He then ended up working on a farm and his dead detested this. Maybe his father would have liked Biff to follow in his footsteps, but Biff prefers to be outdoors, surrounded by nature. In the same flashback, Willy tells Biff to 'be careful with those girls' which tells us that Biff was very popular amongst the girls and therefore was probably popular with everyone. In Willy's mind this means that he has brought up his children the right way because he thinks that popularity is everything, if you a popular you are successful. We can clearly see that Biff is the favourite son because Willy always tells Biff that he is doing a great job whilst he tells happy that he is doing all right. He always replies to Biff and kind of blanks Happy out. Willy tells Biff he has done a good job but does not refer to happy at all. Then when happy says 'I'm losing weight, you notice, Pop?' , Willy shows that he does not care and continues talking. Happy is always trying to seek his fathers attention but never seems to succeed. Willy applauds his sons bad behaviour when Biff takes the football, because it can be classed as stealing. Willy tells Biff that it is fine because his is well liked, 'If somebody else took that ball there'd be an uproar'.

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        Willy likes to show off to his kids and he tells them a 'secret' that one day he will have his own business and it will be bigger than Uncle Charley's. He tells his kids that Uncle Charley is 'liked, but he's not – well liked', implying that he is more liked than Uncle Charley. Willy also tells his kids that he met the Mayor and that he sold a bill there. He once again over-exaggerates and tells his kids 'I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own', ...

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