Willy Loman has the ups and downs of someone suffering from bipolar disorder: one minute he is happy and proud- the next he is angry and swearing at his sons. Their relationships are obviously not easy ones. Willy always has the deeper devotion, adoration, and near-hero worship for his son Biff; the boy, likewise, has a great love for his father. Each brags on the other incessantly, thereby ignoring the other son- Happy- who constantly tries to brag on himself in order to make up the lack of anyone to do it for him. This turns sour however, after Biff discovers the father he idolizes was not all he had thought him to be. Afterward, familial dynamics are never the same, as Willy continues to hope that Biff will succeed, ignorant- perhaps purposely so- that his son is failing out of spite, knowing that all his father’s hopes are resting on his shoulders. Willy’s relationships with his two sons are tentative at best, but Happy and Biff are partly to blame for this downhill spiral- as their relationship is just as complex.
In the play, “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman remembers scenes from years previous, particularly idyllic times when his two sons were still young and full of promise. Willy’s memories focus on Biff: Biff’s chances at success, Biff’s talents, Biff’s popularity. Happy is always in the background, talking to no one- hoping to be noticed. But he never is. Happy is always second to Biff, even when he had done something a parent could be proud of, like when he continually claims, “I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop?” (1222) Because Willy pays little to no attention to Happy, their relationship grows especially distant as time passes. Happy seemingly cares little for his father as an adult, as is obvious when he chooses the company of females over the soothing of his father’s soul. (1265) This strained dynamic may have hurt Willy to an extent, but Happy is in the background. It is Biff who matters most to Willy, and their relationship is particularly bizarre, and its damaged state is owed entirely to a transgression.
Biff is the apple of his father’s eye. Young, handsome, strong, intelligent, and full of ambition, Biff is going to take the world by storm, and Willy intends to living vicariously through him. This is not to be however. After Biff’s disastrous attempt to get his father to discuss grades with his math teacher, Biff gives up. Entirely. At one point, he wanted to work and to succeed in order to please his father, but after he discovers Willy cavorting with another woman, Biff does not want to give his father the satisfaction of a flourishing son. Suddenly, Willy is a liar in his eyes, and later in life, this causes Biff to have an almost violent relationship with him. (1268) What makes the strain worse is Willy’s guilt, because he knows whose fault the tension is, yet he cannot bring himself to admit it.
Willy goes in and out of daydreams, causing his children to treat him like a child, thus angering the...