In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Biff Loman silently questions his ability to fulfill his father’s wishes. His father, Willie Loman, holds high expectations for Biff’s future and constantly brags to others about how successful Biff will be. Out of respect for his father, Biff conforms to the path that Willie has planned for him. In the beginning, Willie lives vicariously through his son, Biff, who has no choice but to conform in order to preserve father-son respect. However, when the mutual respect that his father holds so dear dissolves, Biff’s concealed questions expand their influence from his thoughts to his actions as Biff becomes his own man.
A salesperson’s career depends largely on the respect that others have for him. Without respect, Willie cannot sell himself to his family, friends, or clients. Willie understands this, and takes pride in the positive reputation he thinks he has with buyers across the country. In this way, Biff is a client of Willie’s, who purchases the wisdom that his father has to offer.
Unfortunately, for Willie, Biff is not entirely sure of the purchase he makes, evidenced by the dissatisfaction that Biff expresses with “what it takes to build a future” as a businessperson. When Biff converses with Happy about the career he wants, the reader discovers that Biff seeks a future that involves the great outdoors, not the confined existence of a businessperson. Instead of voicing his desires to his father, Biff keeps these thoughts to himself, and continues down the road that Willie wants him to follow. Upon flunking math, Willie is determined to attend summer school if it means pleasing his father with a college acceptance.
Though Willie refuses to accept it, his career is a failure. On one occasion, he drives over eight hours to a client...