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Death of a Salesman Block 2-1
Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Character: Biff Loman
Willy Loman's eldest son, who as a child was idolized and praised for being a
"leader". He holds authorative presence and is able to get the neighborhood kids to yield to him. He was athetic and ambitious. Biff is a product of his father's constant criticisms some more encouraging than others). He struggles to find a sense of identity and is torn between doing what he loves most or what his father expects him to do. This leads Biff to be totally dependent of his father's opinion on him. Biff is expected to live the life his father never could, but is aware of his incapability to do so. He has been socially handicapped because of his father's pressuring him into being what he wants him to be. His strengths lie in his being self aware, and the fact that he tries to make something of himself and [[#|begin]] a new life, with dreams of buying a ranch out in the country and steering clear of the life of a salesman.
:"I really [[#|want to make]] you proud...I want to follow my heart but im not allowed"~anon
- (of a person or their manner) unwilling or unable to believe something.(88)
- land covered with timber-producing forests (85)
- [[#|complete]] discretion or authority (92)
- intentionally lowering the volume of one's voice for emphasis (100)
- an extremely ignorant person (97)
-a small traveling bag or suitcase. (86)
- To fail, especially in a course or an examination (93)
- a serious and intent mental state (90)
- Having or showing confidence and poise. (90)
-affected with sudden and great wonder or surprise (94)
Significant Theme: Betrayal
A significant theme would be betrayal. Take Linda Loman who is the most devoted wife a man could ever ask for. She answers to her husband Willy like he was her father. Most of the time she is worried about Willy’s health and is always saying what a good, hard working man her husband is. Based on her behavior and the way she cares for her husband the reader would never suspect Willy of having an affair with another woman she says, “
I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of [[#|money]]. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”
What Willy failed to realize was that his affair would take a great toll on his whole family when it was brought to the light. Biff had found him with the other woman and would never be the same after experiencing that kind of betrayal from his own father. Willy experiences a different kind of betrayal when he is fired by his boss Hoard. He had worked for his firm for over 30 years and was let go because he could not travel and do his usual route. The reader can almost feel the pain WIlly is feeling when he is literally begging for his job, and Howard refuses each claim. Both instances portray the theme of betrayal, in cases where the victums believe they have some sort of security; Biff, in his father and Willy, in his position at the firm.
Willy Loman walks into the same office he’s walked into for so many years to ask his boss Howard (his old boss’s son) if there is another position for him to fill because he could not go on the road any longer. His requests were futile, and Howard showing no sympathy, ignores the fact that WIlly worked for his own father before him for many years and his more preocuppied with his new recorder than Willy’s financial situation. The scene is significant because it’s when Willy is really exposed to reality. He thought it would be simple to just walk in and ask for a raise or a new position but is turned away. Willy says,
“The only thing you've got in this world is what you can sell.” and in his case it is true. His life basically comes to an end after he is fired and he ends up committing suicide, the death of the salesman.
Quote: "A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man." -Linda Loman
Linda is defending her husband again in this quote. Willy isn't a small man in a physical sense but he is a small man in a big city. He hasn't achieved much but has worked for everything he has. Linda says he can be just as exhausted as a "great man" because he has worked as hard as a great man would have to but hasn't been rewarded. The quote is made to make the reader sympathize with Willy, and understand that he is a hardworking exhausted man.
Apearence is an important aspect of life. Keeping up appearances, making sure we look presentable and appealing to the opposite sex, and or better than those of the same sex. Women in our society are all in competition, and the men are in a constant battle with each other to see who can lift the most set of weights. In the play
Death of a Salesman
Willy Loman says " I'm fat Linda" and is always praising his sons for their strong build and handsome appearances. Happy as a child says "I'm losing weight Pop" in order to compete with the attention his older brother Biff gets, who is strong and athletic. The criticisms on appearances made in the play reflect those that exist in our society. The jocks and athletes are considered stronger and more capable of things, while the "nerds" are only good for academics. Like Bernard who manages to become more successful than the Loman brothers and is humbled by his early beginnings as the boy who used to carry Biffs football helmet around. The punishment for not being asthetically pleasing to the eye in our society, is alienation and being mocked or criticized if you're female and not a size two, or male and don't have veins that bulge from mountains of bicep and tricep muscle. Even from the time period of
Death of a Salesman
the ideal appearance of the individual is determined by the society.
Theme: Overcoming parents expectations
One ongoing theme in this [[#|play]] is the pressure set by Willy on his kids to be great. From the onset Willy taught his kids that success was a thing made of
like beauty. He
all of his kids to out-grow the
lives they grew up in. One of his sons who is
affected is Biff. Biff is Willy's eldest soon and the one most
attached to his father. Although Biff cannot keep [[#|a job]] or a steady income he has one thing going for him. Change. Biff grows to the be self-aware of his situation an how he got there. He tells Willy the reason he cant hold a job is because his father made him so arrogant he could not listen to people. And he dropped out of [[#|summer school]] because he just
like math. Biff realizes the things around him and why they happen. This empowers he to do something hid brothers could not. Over shadow his fathers wishes and move forward with his life if he
to do so.
Character: Ben Loman
Ben is Willy Loman's older brother who left him when he was very small in order to pursue fortune. He intended to go to Alaska but ended up in Africa where he "hit it big." Willy looked up to his older brother his whole life and when Ben died, Willy made him a part of his delusions. Ben represents the ideal man to Willy because he struck fortune and got rich simply by traveling into the African forest. He describes Ben as "a genius" and "success incarnate." Willy sets up Ben as the role model for his own sons and he hopes that they end up rich. Also, Willy sees Ben's success as a byproduct of his charm and handsomeness. Willy prides these qualities in his own sons and believes that they will get higher because of it. Ben also represents a sort of American Dream in which a man goes from rags to riches. To Willy, he "was a man [who] started with the clothes on his back and ended up with diamond mines!" (Miller 41)
Vocabulary: (Pages 1-28)
-Page 12: "Most often jovial, she has developed an iron
of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior..."
: (noun) the act of not allowing a memory, feeling, or desire to be expressed.
-Page 12: "...she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his
nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end."
: (adjective) changing moods quickly and often.
-Page 15: "There’s such an
: (noun) a hidden feeling or tendency that is usually different from the one that is easy to see or understand.
-Page 15: "He was
, Willy. You know how he admires you. I think if he finds himself, then you’ll both be happier and not fight any more."
: (adjective) very sad and disappointed.
-Page 16: "He loses himself in
: (noun) recalls to mind of a long-forgotten experience or fact.
-Page 19: " Remember those days? The way Biff used to
: (verb) to polish with or as if with wax.
-Page 23: "You’re a poet, you know that, Biff? You’re a — you’re an
: (noun) one guided by ideals; especially: one that places ideals before practical considerations. - (That is the definition in context although an idealist could also be a person who adheres to the philosophy of idealism)
-Page 24: "I gotta show some of those
, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade."
: (adjective) having or exhibiting self-importance.
-Page 28: "I been wondering why you polish the car so careful. Ha! Don’t leave the
: (noun) a removable plastic or metal covers on the center of a car or truck wheel.
-Page 28: "Get the
to the hubcaps."
: (noun) a soft pliant leather prepared from the skin of the chamois or from sheepskin used especially for cleaning windows and cars.
Theme: "Rags to Riches"
Classic "rags to riches" stories have been a part of literature in all parts of the world but they are especially plentiful in the American culture. After all, America has always been a land characterized by opportunity in which individuals can rise above their circumstances. The "rags to riches" story is a manifestation of the American Dream in which an individual comes from the dirt-poor ground and pulls himself up by his bootstraps to become rich and successful. Arthur Miller depicts this particular story through the character of Ben Loman. Willy Loman, our protagonist is dead-set on realizing the American Dream and so he holds his brother Ben on a pedestal. Ben had the same "rags" beginning as Willy but he walked into adventure with his tough and practical demeanor. Ben says "William, when I walked into the jungle, I was seventeen. When I walked out I was twenty-one. And, by God, I was rich!" His choice to go into Africa and his resulting success is framed in the context of "rags to riches." Ben is a success in terms off the American Dream due to the way he pulls himself up from his meager beginnings. This represents the possibility that the American Dream can actually be achieved.
Description of Scene:
Biff is urged by his family to go see Bill Oliver who was his former employer. Biff goes and waits all day but only gets to see Oliver for a minute in which he realizes that Oliver doesn't even remember him. He gets angry and steals a fountain pen from Oliver's office.
Analysis of the Scene:
Willy Loman believes that handsomeness and charm is enough to propel a person up the rungs of the socio-economic ladder. He instills a superior attitude in his sons, Biff and Happy because they are popular kids. Biff is the stereotypical football star who has much promise in the eyes of his father. But Willy leads Biff to believe that he is someone special and that he will go places without working hard the way Bernard does. Willy imparts the message that Biff need only be charming to succeed but his own life doesn't reflect this. It is likely that Willy started out as a handsome and charming man like any salesman but that didn't take him anywhere. His affair with "the woman" is manifestation of Willy's feelings of inadequacy and his need to feel attractive. "The woman" lets him believe that he is still attractive enough to success. This is especially significant because a major reason why Biff is unsuccessful is because he fails a class and refuses to make it up after seeing his father with "the woman." The point where Biff sees them is a major point in which he realizes that Willy's view of the world is flawed. But he doesn't completely cast off the illusion of the American Dream until much later.
When Biff doesn't immediately achieve success after high school, he begins to steal things from his employers because he feels entitled to the power it gives him to put one over those who command him in the workplace. This shows that he has little power and that he will never be more than a common laborer. The actual turning point in Biff's own life is when he realizes this fact and casts aside the American Dream for a more realistic viewpoint. The scene in which Biff goes to Bill Oliver, his former employer to ask for a loan is when this turning point takes place. Oliver doesn't even remember Biff and this causes Biff to get angry because he believes himself to be someone special. After all, up to the last point, Willy tried to make Biff believe in his potential. To gain back some power of the situation and to retaliate with his circumstances, Biff steals Oliver's pen. That is when he realizes his condition. Biff realizes that he is nothing but a thief because he has been led to feel entitled. The reason why this scene is so significant is because this is the point at which the American Dream finally crumbles to allow for the truth to settle in.
"The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell." (Miller 97).
This quote is said by Charley when Willy tells him that Howard, who he had named as a baby, had just fired him.
Willy Loman is a naive idealist in a capitalist society. He doesn't understand that everything needs to be looked at from a marketable standpoint which is ironic because he is a salesman. He is far more concerned with being well-liked than actually pursuing any goals. His ideals are romantic even as he embarks on his life as a salesman and he gives the same views to his sons. What he needs to understand that all that really matters when it comes to people in America is the money. This point is made all the more clear through the example of Willy's boss, Howard, who fired him despite being reminded that Willy had named him as a baby. As a salesman, Willy should realize that the only thing that matters in the workplace is his monetary input. No romantic sentiments should be fostered by one who wishes to succeed. This is rather funny because Willy lives in his romantic delusions from day to day. He is a salesman who wants money but doesn't learn to calculate the world in terms of money.
Social Concern: Stealing
Generally, stealing as an act is seen as immoral and wrong because it is the acquisition of an object without the knowledge or consent of the owner. The psychology behind petty thievery, like the kind Biff does, is quite simple. People like Biff steal to take back control of a situation or to assert some sort of power. Usually people who steal feel deprived of something and therefore feel the need to take what they want. Biff is unable to become successful but he feels entitled to success so he steals small things. For example, Biff steals Bill Oliver's pen which is quite irrelevant to him but makes him feels like he put one over on the successful Oliver.
The physical repercussions of stealing are punishments like jail time. Biff mentions that he did do jail time as a punishment for some theft. The more abstract repercussions of thievery to society as a whole are a reduced moral standard and an unsafe system. Everyone all over the world steals. This particular act isn't limited to the United States. However, stealing out of a feeling of entitlement might be unique to our country. After all, Biff doesn't steal to fulfill any physical need or want but rather a desire to fight an unfair system. A direct parallel to stealing is cheating which is rampant in the competitive capitalist society of America. The system causes many to fail and they are left feeling deprived but entitled. This leads to stealing as an abstract act.
Linda Loman is the mother of Biff and Happy, and also Willy's wife. She is a very compassionate and patient character. She puts up with Willy's behavior and never discourages him. She is also very careful to make her that her sons, Biff and Happy, treat their father well .One of her character flaws or weaknesses is that she fails to wake Willy up from his delusions about success and wealth. She only encourages his desire for these unattainable things, and by doing this she only helped contribute to his eventual demise and ultimately suicide. Yet, she was the person who held the Loman family together.. She would constantly try her best to get her sons to be pleasant with their father and she would try to solve conflicts within her family too. She also played a role in Willy's death because she never confronted him about his problems and she let him live in an alter reality. She always tried to shut Biff up and she tried to ignore Willy's problems because she didn't want to hurt him.Yet, this only worsened his unstable condition . Although, she is one of the very few people in the play who is loyal and is strong . She was selfless and only wanted what could benefit her sons and Wily. She was able to sacrifice her happiness for the comfort of those she cared for, even if it meant lying to herself. For instance at one point she tells Willy ," Darling, you're the handsomest man in the world. [..] to me, you are. "
1)Page 30 : "Willy,stopping the incipient argument... "
Incipient: beginning to exist or appear; in an initial stage
2)Page 41 : "He is a large man, slow of speech, laconic, immovable "
Laconic :using few words; expressing much in few words; concise:
3)Page 44 : "Uncle Ben, carrying a valise and an umbrella …"
Valise:a small piece of luggage that can be carried by hand, used to hold clothing, toilet articles, etc.; suitcase;
4)Page 46: Willy, unnerved:" What do you mean,who died?"
Unnerved:to deprive of courage, strength, determination, or confidence; upset
5)Page 56 : Happy, surlily: "Just don't call him crazy!"
Surlily:churlishly rude or bad-tempered
6)Page 56: Happy, indignantly: "I didn't know that, Mom"
Indignantly:feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive,insulting, or base:
7)Page 43: Willy, after a pause, withering:" I can't understand it.He's going back to Texas again. What the hell is that?"
Withering:to shrivel; fade; decay:to abash, as by a scathing glance:
8)Page 36: "Willy moves to the edge of the stage. Linda goes into the kitchen and starts to darn stockings."
Darn: to mend, as torn clothing, with rows of stitches, sometimes by crossing and interweaving rows to span a gap.
9)Page 36: "No, they did a wonderful job. Then you owe Frank for the carburetor."
Carburetor:a device for mixing vaporized fuel with air to produce a combustible or explosive mixture , as for an internal-combustion engine.
10)Page 41:In all he says,despite what he says,there is pity,and,now,trepidation.
Trepidation:tremulous fear, alarm, or agitation; perturbation.
One of they key themes in Death of A Salesman is appearances. For Willy, appearances and popularity carry a lot more importance than things like hard work. Also, throughout the book, he often says that it is important to be well-liked because that will get you far in life. This concept is also something that affects Biff because Willy thinks that just because Biff is good looking, he will be successful. He doesn't push him to work hard because he thinks that his looks will make up for it.Willy is also constantly flustered by his appearance, as he thinks this might be the reason why he isn't a successful salesman.This theme shows how appearance is truly something that is very important in the real world, but what is also important for a successful life is hard work.
In this scene, Biff, Happy, and Willy are all at Frank's Chop House.As they are seated, Willy begins to drift in and out of flashbacks, and one of them is when Bernard told Linda that Biff wouldn't graduate because he failed math. Then as he comes back into the present, Willy gets mad at Biff for stealing Oliver's pen. It show how Biff still commits action like these and it's excuse of his past, when Willy made it ok if Biff stole things like a football. Also, we see how Biff's failure in making the deal with Oliver is like his failure in high school when he failed math and couldn't graduate. Willy is utterly confused between the past and the present, and in the midst of all this , he is trying to figure out what led Biff to be unsuccessful in high school. This scene leads to the scene where Willy's affair is exposed, and this was one of the main reasons Biff didn't graduate.
HAPPY: All I can do now is wait for the merchandise manager to die. And suppose I get to be merchandise manager? He’s a good friend of mine, and he just built a terrific estate on Long Island. And he lived there about two months and sold it, and now he’s building another one. He can’t enjoy it once it’s finished. And I know that’s just what I’d do. I don’t know what the hell I’m working’ for. Sometimes I sit in my apartment—all alone. And I think of the rent I’m paying. And it’s crazy. But then, it’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, plenty of women, and still, goddamnit, I’m lonely. (Act 1)
Happy shows us how even if the American dream is attainable and is achieved, it does not necessarily mean that you will be happy with it. Happy has money , a car, and women , yet he says he is still lonely. Happy wants something that is not materialistic, that money cannot buy. This is something many people fail to recognize even after all their hard work. They chase something they think they wanted rather than maybe find the simple things in life that make them truly happy.
Inevitably, out of human nature, most people want success.Most people want to have a job, a family, and a house. This is part of the American Dream. However, success is very competitive in a country like America, and a lot of people want more and more. Even if someone is successful, they often want to be more successful, and have more money for instance. It is no different than an ongoing cycle. However, this desire of success become unhealthy and detrimental when it evolves into greed. Willy was someone who believed in the American Dream and so he wanted to be successful , and since he wasn't, he wanted his sons to be successful. However, so many people get caught up in this idea of success , like Willy, that it eventually consumes their lives. They end up missing out on a lot of things in life and they ignore all the things that are more important than success. Many Americans let the notion of success and being more successful than the people in their lives become so important that they forget the true priorities life requires.
Character: Willy Loman
Charcater:Willy Loman (Christian Brumfield)
All throughout the Death of a Salesman we folllow the life of Willy Loman.Willy as an average man who lives in lower middel-class conditions with his wife and family. He has two sons, Biff and Happy, who he instills that the key to success in life is to be “well liked”. According to Willy, if you can become popular and get people to like you -your succesful.Willy wanted to give his family the best in life. He wanted his wife to have a refrigerator, a vacuum cleaner, and a car. Things that seem trivial but he could not afford living the life of a salesman. Although many people dream of a better life and work hard to achieve it Willy does no such thing. The problem is that Willy took on massive amounts of debt to buy these "things" that he thought would fill the void of happiness in his household. He feel so far into debt that Willy decided to kill himself so his family could have the insurance policy to pay for it all. As the play progresses, Willy begins to become a man obssesed with the past. He daydreams about a happier time when he had a loving family, succesful job, and a purposeful life. But Willy is the reason his family is so distraught. He begins to force distance between himself and his family by cheating on his wife- then being caught in the act.Although his son was hit the hardest seeing his father defile his marriage, Willy became even more depressed not shortly after. In the conclusion of the play Willy decides that the only thing left is to kill himself and he jumps into traffic.
Vocab pg 110-140
i. agonized- cha8racterized by, suffering, or expressing agony (112)
ii. slugger- one that strikes hard or with heavy blows (114)
iii. urgently-compelling or requiring immediate action or attention; imperative; pressing: an urgent matter (114)
iv. overstrung-.Too sensitive, nervous, or tense. (114)
v. self-centerdest- concerned solely or chiefly with one's own interests, welfare, etc.; engrossed in self; selfish; egotistical. (116)
vi. flunk- to fail or cause to fail to reach the required standard (117)
vii. clerk- A person who works in an office performing such tasks as keeping records (118)
viii. flick- A light quick blow, jerk, or touch:(121)
ix. implacably - Impossible to placate or appease: implacable foes; implacable suspicion (122)
x. pulsation- 1. The act of pulsating. 2. A single beat, throb, or vibration. (140)
Scene: Willy and "The Woman"
A major scene in the development of “Death of a Salesmen”, is when Biff catches Willy with the woman. Willy goes on a business trip and cheats on his wife. When he is caught by Biff, his son is infuriated. He is upset at his father for forsaken his mother and –though not explicit-giving up. Willy's mistress in Boston provides pleasure for Willy from his boring existence. She flatters him, consoling him with lines like "You're so sweet, and such a kidder." Willy who was always a man who loved his family had now lost it all and this key moment contributes to his suicide.
"Suddenly realizing he is alone [...] He makes a sudden movement of search"~Willy (135)
At this moment Willy comes to a realization. That he is alone and that his life has lost meaning. shortly after he commits suicide. Not a happy fairy tale ending, but real life. Throughout this play we do not follow the evolution of a plot but the devolution of a man's life. When Willy makes a sudden movement of search, he was searching for a sign. Something to tell him that life was worth living. That the whole he felt would heal and that it would get better. But he didn't receive that message so the book ends with Willy committing suicide
Suicide is a great social taboo, explored in this play. Often people avoid the topic of suicide since there are many grey areas and things not understood. When Willy decides to end his life he had many reasons why. He wanted to be able to provide for his family with life insurance. He was lonely and felt that by ending his life he could get rid of the emptiness. Yet what about the social ramifications that stories like this has on modern society. Many people struggle with the question of suicide concerning people like Willy and what happens after they die. Contrary to belief I do not think someone who takes their own lives should be punished- or their family. These people are denied things such as a tombstones on their graves or life insurance for their family. But a person who takes their own life is sick and should be treated as such. And in their remembrance should not be remembered as a statistic but a person who shared good memories with their families and friends.
Luis Y. Melendez
Character: Happy Loman
Happy Loman is the second son of William and Linda Loman, and the younger brother of Biff. At the time of the play, he is 32 years old. Happy is described as “tall," and "powerfully made." The book goes on to say "Sexuality is like a visible color on him, or a scent that many women have discovered . He, like his brother, is lost, but in a different way, for he has never allowed himself to turn his face toward defeat and is thus more confused and hard-skinned, although seemingly more content,” (19). Happy spends a majority of the play lying about himself and his successes in life. In reality, however, he’s completely lost in his own life. The irony being that in his quest for success and recognition, he never truly finds happiness, despite his namesake.
Happy is a very significant character in the text. He represents all of the negative qualities passed on by his father, Willy. He is a liar and a womanizer, and spends his entire life in another person's shadow. In terms of employment, he is the assistant to an assistant, basically a replaceable grunt. He is content to lie to others and himself rather than better himself in any way. This makes his character more stubborn than even his brother Biff, for Biff eventually accepts that he is a failure.
A strength of Happy's is that his ability for pacification. As soon as Willy begins to battle with Biff and make unfavorable statements, Happy steps in and makes everything peaceful. This also contributes to his womanizing attitude. Within minutes, Happy can convince a woman to stop whatever she’s doing and give him her undivided attention.
A weakness of Happy's is his inability to admit his faults, preferring to lie than admit failure. In his quest to impress his father, Happy constantly exaggerates and lies in order to gain approval. Happy even suggests that Biff lie to Willy as well, saying: “Say you got a lunch date with Oliver tomorrow.” Happy has convinced himself that he’s living the perfect life, despite most of it being false. Whether Happy is truly living in delusion or not remains unknown for most of the book, however, near the end, Happy states "We always told the truth," revealing to the reader that Happy has, in fact, never told the truth. He is a failure, doomed to live among his lies forever.
Throughout the play, the Lomans constantly deceive one another and themselves in order to make life more bearable for each other. Happy and Willy are the prime examples of this. Both men have lied for so long that they have truly begun to believe the falsities that escape their lips. They abandon their real lives into their fantasies and delusions and remain there. Willy believes that he has succeeded in life, Happy believes that he and his family have as well, Linda believes that the Lomans are on the verge of success, and the family's lives begin to spiral out of control as their imaginary truths begin to unravel into cold, hard facts.
Vocabulary (Pages 57-84)
Timberland (56) - land covered with forest suitable or managed for timber.
Proposition (57) - a suggested scheme or plan of action, especially in a business context.
Earnest (61) - resulting from or showing sincere and intense conviction.
Carte Blanche (62) - complete freedom to act as one wishes or thinks best.
Mystify (64) - utterly bewilder or perplex (someone).
Lavishly (65) - extravagantly: in a wasteful manner
Commission (70) - an amount of money, typically a set percentage of the value involved, paid to an agent in a commercial transaction.
Saccharine (75)- a sweet, sugary taste; sentimental
Resentful (80) - feeling or expressing bitterness or indignation at having been treated unfairly.
Valise (84)- hand carry, travel luggage small enough to fit clothing and minimal items inside.
"Why did I go? Why did I go! Look at you! Look at what’s become of you!"
-Biff (Act 2: Scene 9)
The real significance of this quote is Biff's final explanation for his actions. His father, Willy, has been pressing and asking himself as to why Biff has seemed to be resolved to failure, and Biff has finally snapped at his father, showing that all of his actions were in some futile attempt to receive his father's pride at last and prevent Willy from having a total breakdown. However, Biff fails, just as he did in high school, and Willy is left responsible for both.
Scene: The Death of the Salesman
WILLY: Imagine? When the mail comes he’ll be ahead of Bernard again! Did you see how he cried to me? Oh, if I could kiss him, Ben!
BEN: Time, William, time!
WILLY: Oh, Ben, I always knew one way or another we were gonna make it, Biff and I!
BEN (looking at his watch): The boat. We’ll be late.
This is the finale. The entire play has been one great crescendo, leading to the final peak of this moment. Willy's mental state has degraded to a point of total insanity. His touch with reality is gone, and he can no longer perceive things as anything other than what he wants them to be. Ben is now omnipresent, and he completely disregards Biff's pleas to him. Willy believes that Biff has finally resolved to become the great man Willy has always wanted him to be, and thinks to himself (and Ben) that he must do everything he can to help Biff on his way. With no job, Willy believes that the only possibility to give success to Biff is to commit suicide and let Biff collect his life insurance. The figment of Ben begins to encourage him, morbidly and cryptically to perform this act, and the main plot of the play concludes with a car crash and the titular Death of a Salesman.
Social Issue: Delusional Pride
The unfortunate part of a society that prides the individual is the inevitable attitude of misplaced pride that it creates in its inhabitants. Men believe themselves to be destined for greatness, and become disillusioned in their flights of fancy. They refuse to believe that they are ordinary, and see themselves as incapable of fault. This becomes increasingly obvious with the character of Willy, who never allows his ideals of personal greatness decay, despite his entire life contradicting these ideals. This inability to cope with the ordinary leads to Willy's disappointment in his sons, estranged family life, and eventual suicide; all of which are proof that one must take care not to become lost in their arrogance.
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