Death Of Salesman And Family

In many literary works, family relationships are the key to the plot. Through a
familyís interaction with one another, the reader is able decipher the
conflicts of the story. Within a literary family, various characters play
different roles in each otherís lives. These are usually people that are
emotionally and physically connected in one way or another. They can be brother
and sister, mother and daughter, or in this case, father and son. In the Arthur

Millerís novel, Death of A Salesman, the interaction between Willy Loman and
his sons, Happy and Biff, allows Miller to comment on father-son relationships
and the conflicts that arise from them. During most father-son relationships,
there are certain times where the father wants to become more of a "player"
in his sonís life than his son believes is necessary. The reasons for this are
numerous and can be demonstrated in different ways. Miller is able to give an
example of this behavior through the actions of Willy Loman. When Biff comes
home to recollect himself, Willy perceives it as failure. Since Willy
desperately wants his oldest son, Biff, to succeed in every way possible, he
tries to take matters into his own hands. "Iíll get him a job selling. He
could be big in no time" (16). The reason that Biff came home is to find out
what he wants in life. Because Willy gets in the way, matters become more
complicated. Partly due to Willyís persistence in Biffís life, they have
conflicting ideas as to what the American dream is. Willy believes that working
on the road by selling is the greatest job a man could have (81). Biff, however,
feels the most inspiring job a man could have is working outdoors (22). When
their two dreams collide, it becomes frustrating to Willy because he believes
that his way is the right way. If a father becomes too involved in his sonís
life, Miller believes friction will be the resultant factor. As unfortunate as
it is, there are many instances where a father favors one son over another,
which leads to social conflicts within the less-favored son. In most cases it is
the oldest son that is being favored while the younger son is ignored. Usually
the father doesnít even realize what is happening. He simply gets too caught
up in the successes of his eldest son and he may even try to live out his life
through his sonís experiences. Because Willy has dreams of grandeur for Biff,

Miller subtly shows how Happy is overlooked. Throughout the novel, Willy makes
references to how wonderful Biff is. " . . .You got greatness in you, Biff..
. You got all kinds of greatness" (67). Happy, however, is barely talked to.

This kind of favoritism has a profound effect on a child. In order to be
acknowledged by his father, Happy believes that he must become Willyís version
of a success by acquiring wealth and being popular. He convinces himself that
this is the only way heíll ever be truly happy. In the end though, he realizes
that he is not happy. " . . . Itís what I always wanted. My own apartment, a
car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, Iím lonely" (23). Happy has
been living his entire life in a way that he believes will bring him attention
from his father, yet he becomes more miserable than if he had gone his own way.

When a father chooses to look favorably upon one son over another, disharmony
occurs in the father-son relationship as well as in the sonís life. Within a
father-son relationship, it is the responsibility of the father to provide sound
values and leadership for his sons. In almost every family, the sons will look
to their father as a role model and a hero. It is in the fatherís best
interest to use this opportunity to instill qualities that will allow his sons
to become responsible individuals. Miller uses the Loman family to show how a
father acts when he is more concerned with appearance than anything else. Willy
is obsessed with popularity. He believes that if a person is popular, he has
everything. Since Willy was never popular himself, he adores the fact that his
sons, and Biff in particular, are. In a sense, Willy idolizes his children more
than they idolize him. Because Willy sees that his boys have attained what he
deems as important, he forgets to teach them moral values. When Biff steals the
football from school, Willy rationalizes the theft, saying that it