In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, there are many characters that act in both the past and present through the musings of Willy Loman, one of the main characters in the play. Because of this, the audience gains different perspectives on every character. This also illustrates brilliantly how all the characters influence each other’s stories. One of such characters emerges in the part of Bernard. Though this is a notably minor role, Bernard has, or potentially has, an important influence on Willy’s son Biff. In fact, it is almost the same role Bernard’s father, Charley, has on Willy. A common role exists in the real world as well as in plays and movies. It is the part of the friend, almost unnoticeable, who devotes a portion of his life for the sake of the leading man.
Bernard’s appearances come solely from the materialized imaginings of Willy. As Bernard is merely a supporting character, the audience holds the opportunity to read into and between the known parts of his story. The first time he emerges, he is a teenager hanging out with Willy’s sons, Biff and Happy. Young Bernard is somewhat of a nerd. He studies hard and is quite smart, yet, according to Biff, he is “liked, but not well liked” (Miller). One can assume that Bernard is also not as well-known as Biff. Young Bernard is “Biff’s friend” and “Charley’s son”, but has not yet come to be his own person. Biff, the football star in high school, outshines his friend quite effortlessly. Nevertheless, he seems to be the only one gaining anything from the relationship.
In Willy’s present, the audience gains the understanding that Bernard has become a success as an adult, unlike Biff. Bernard is a university graduate, a lawyer, and is in the midst of preparing a case for the Supreme Court, while Biff is unfortunately stuck under his father’s unrealistic dreams. There are mentions suggesting that even if Bernard is not “well liked” he holds the respect of many people. These are just surface descriptions, however. How this particular character becomes relatable is through comparing his situation, decisions, and possible outlooks to those people find in reality.
Despite peculiar treatment from the Loman boys, Bernard is persistent in his...