Examine the relationship between Willy and his sons in "Death of a Salesman"

Authors Avatar
Examine the relationship between Willy and his sons in "Death of a Salesman"

At the beginning of the play, both Biff and Happy regard their father as a great man, a man to look up to, and a man to respect. To the boys he was seen as an ideal father, as he was never present to discipline the two and he was eager for them both, Biff in particular, to fulfil their potential and become great men However, as the play progresses, the idealistic image of Willy Loman seems to evaporate through the test of time, and at the end of the play a sad image of Willy Loman is painted with Biff claiming that his father is no more "than a dime a dozen", just like himself.

As a teenager, Biff worshipped his father, but by the end of the play he sees him as nothing more than a pretender and a compulsive liar, whose deceit and inflated expectations of his elder son has hampered any opportunity Biff had of being himself and ever telling the truth. Biff is left angered and confused when he discovers that his father has been cheating on his faithful mother and in a poignant confrontation with his father he shatters Willy's dreams and insists that they:

"...never told the truth in (this) house for ten minutes". Unlike his father and his younger brother Happy, Biff acknowledges his failure and realises that Willy "had the wrong dreams", he even realises what a "ridiculous lie" is own life had been.

The strain of having to live up to his father's inconceivably high standards appear to have been too much for Biff and before Willy dies, we see how he has lost respect for his disturbed father. In his final conversation with his father, he refers to him as 'Willy', it seems that no longer does Biff regard Willy as his father, but just a "fake" whose "phoney dreams" and constant exaggerations are the cause of Biff's fruitless life.
Join now!

Happy lived in the shadow of Biff throughout his father's life. Whilst his brother was a champion athlete, Happy was no more than a nuisance whose constant attempts at gaining attention went unnoticed. Starved of attention, Happy appeared to crave love and affection and often made attention-seeking statements to get the approval of his parents.

In Act II, when the neglected son tells his father: "I'm getting married, Pop, don't forget it", Willy just ignores him and turns his back; this is just one example of many where Willy dismisses Happy's hopes and dreams. We find ...

This is a preview of the whole essay