Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is about a traveling salesman named Willy Loman who has hit a rough patch in his life. Willy seems to have a normal family, with a wife and two boys. His sons, Happy and Biff, while different, represent Willy in many ways. Willy always strived to be successful and struggled for acceptance, which also represents his sons personalities and outlooks. As Pamela Loos says, “Willy Loman fails to understand himself and esteems a career path that goes against who he truly is,” this keeps him from ever being happy with himself. It is easy to see that these problems hurt his personal relationships with Biff and Happy, and they keep them from having a stable family. As the story unfolds, the flaws that each character possesses begin to all come back to Willy, and the way that he conducted his life.
Early on in the story, it is clear that the brothers are very different, but each of them shares something with Willy. Biff is the all-american boy, and seems to have everything going for him. He is well-liked, handsome, and has a full athletic scholarship waiting on him. He, in some ways, is what Willy never could be. , Willy always thought his inability to be successful was because he was not good looking or a likable person. He criticizes himself constantly for these things, and even calls himself “fat” and “very foolish to look at” (Miller 2123). Willy instilled these values into Biff, because he thought they would guarantee success. Never wanting to accept his failure and trying to not disappoint his family, “Willy fashions the ideological armor he uses to disguise and deny his true psychological state, and that of his family, in order to escape what such a self-awareness would force upon him.” (Tyson) . Biff, however, realizes that he has caused his own problems, and does not try to put them on other things. He always believed in the things his father told him, until he finally realized that Willy was a liar and cheater. After the encounter in the hotel, Biff throws away everything his father had hoped for him, not wanting to please him anymore. Willy put Biff above everything, and tried to make sure that he achieved everything that he himself could not.
Willy’s other son, Happy, can be seen as the opposite of Biff, and reflects Willy in some ways. Like Willy, Happy is always seeking attention from his father, and tries to bring up his accomplishments that he thinks will make Willy proud. Happy, much like his father and his brother Ben, is seen as the lesser of the two brothers, and is in a constant battle for approval and praise. Even with this, Happy thinks that he is a revered, and respected individual, when very few people really feel this way about him, because just like Willy, Happy could not “reconcile himself with society.” (Loos) Happy in this sense becomes Willy, because just like Willy he is seen as the second best, and never gets the attention and love that he desires.
The big question in this is if Willy’s...