Compare the father-son relationships in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe [Okonkwo & Nwoye] and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller [Willy & Biff].

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Inez Schroder                Tuesday, April 27, 2010

English                Comparing the Father-Son relationships

Compare the father-son relationships in ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe [Okonkwo & Nwoye] and ‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller [Willy & Biff].


        The father-son relationships in Things Fall Apart’ and ‘Death of a Salesman are extremely similar. ‘Death of a Salesmanis set in New York, in the late 1940’s. It is about Willy Loman, a salesman in his late 60s, his wife Linda and his two sons Biff and Happy. Willy Loman is a thorough believer of the concept of the American Dream, but he holds on to it so tightly that everything in his life falls apart. He wished so much for his son Biff to be successful, but when Biff finds Willy cheating on his mother, he himself loses all faith and now, in his early thirties, he has no wife or children and jumps from one job to the next. In the end, Willy commits suicide. “Things Fall Apart” is set in Umuofia, what is now Nigeria, in the late 19th century, and it is about Okonkwo, who has risen from nothing to a very high position. He is afraid of being like his father, whom he views as weak because he had not titles, was in debt and possessed no yams. He despises the fact that his first son, Nwoye, is a lot like his father. When Christian missionaries arrive in Umuofia, Okonkwo immediately dislikes them, and when they start to integrate in the society Umuofia and its people are forced to adapt their customs to the white man’s. The gentle ‘new faith’ attracts susceptible Nwoye, who doesn’t like the cruel aspect of the Igbo religion, and this makes Okonkwo shun his first son. When the white man tries to impose its culture on the Igbo culture, ‘things fall apart’.

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        The general similarities between “Things Fall Apart” and “Death Of A Salesman” are simple to find. Both sons appear as ‘failures’ in their father’s eyes, fro example. Nwoye is a failure to his father because he is to soft, and too lazy, [‘Okonkwo’s first son, Nwoye…constant nagging and beating’ p.10] much more like Okonkwo’s father. Biff is a ‘failure’ in Willy’s eyes, because Biff finished high school with a promising future, but fails anyway in the end [“Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such – personal attractiveness, gets lost.” Act 1]. ...

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