Father and Child Relationships in Death of a Salesman and A View from the Bridge
In literature as in life, we go through events which are the effects of the relationships between parent and child. In both plays Death of a Salesman and A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller depicts the possessiveness of human nature through the eyes of Willy Loman and Eddie Carbone. Willy and his son Biff exhibit an undoubtable strain in their relationship. Willy gives all his dreams to Biff in hope that he will carry on or create success for himself. Eddie wants the best for his niece, Catherine, but is unaware of his over protectiveness which in actuality is an element much more repelling. The relationships between father and child characters place tension upon everyone and ultimately is a factor in the protagonists common tragedy.
In Death of a Salesman, although Biff and Happy are both sons of Willy Loman, there is a strong emphasis on Biff only. Willy places all his hopes on Biff and even overestimates him. "Because you got greatness in you, Biff, remember that. You got all kinds of greatness...like a young god. Hercules...God Almighty, he'll be great yet. A star like that, magnificent, can never really fade away!"(Miller, DOS 68) Willy views Biff as a mirror image of himself when he was young, successful and "well-liked." He wants Biff to be what he was and what he never became. Willy has overwhelming pride in Biff and expectations that cannot be fulfilled. These feelings exhibited by Willy is purely due to human nature. It is the desire of
all father to have a son who emulates their successful aspects and to carry these traits into the preceding generations. However, Biff knows that he is someone different and does not wish to follow his father's false dreams.
Another factor of tension in the relationship between Willy and Biff is based on guilt. According to Bruno Leone, "Biff and Willy's relationship is bedeviled by guilt. Willy feels responsible for Biff's failure. But Biff equally feels guilty because he recognizes a responsibility which he cannot fulfill, the responsibility to redeem Willy's life."(126) After Biff saw Willy with the woman in the Boston Hotel, Biff never forgave him. Willy felt that it was because of his affair with the woman that ruined Biff's chance at a university. Willy's guilt causes him to feel more responsible for Biff. Because of his guilt, he wants to make sure that Biff is successful and receives a rewarding career. Therefore, Willy, put blame on himself when Biff could not succeed or reach his own expectations.
Biff was always aware of his own potential and what career he would succeed at. He was aware that he could never fulfill his father's hopes. "I say I know who I am!...I'm a dime a dozen...I'm not bringing home any prizes any more, and you're going to stop waiting for me to bring them home!"(Miller, DOS 132) Biff feels some guilt...