The Link between Sports and Success in Death of a Salesman and Fences
Sports have become one of the most dominant elements in society. Today sports are an integral part of lifestyle, entertainment and leisure. Sports have become an outlet for success and prestige. The recurring emphasis on sports appears in both Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and August Wilson’s Fences. While Death of a Salesman portrays sports as a means to popularity and subsequent success, Fences portrays sports negatively, discouraging sports, in spite of an unmistakable talent.
Miller’s Death of a Salesman is the tragic account of the demise of a meager salesman, Willy Loman. Willy is passively nearing the end of his career and life. His two sons, Biff and Happy show little remorse or pity for Willy, despite his obvious senility. When Biff borrows a football from his coach to practice passing, Willy encourages him: “Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative!” (Miller 30). Willy erroneously praises Biff, not realizing that such affirmation could deceive Biff. Later, as Biff awaits an appointment with a prominent businessman, he feels compelled to steal his fountain pen, “I don’t know, I just—wanted to take something”(Miller 104). Such incidents set a precedent for Biff, eventually leading to his lackluster professional status. Willy once again deludes Biff as he mistakenly deters him from his studies. When Bernard reminds Biff, that in order for Biff to graduate, he must study his math, Willy initially agrees and encourages Biff to study: “You better study with him, Biff. Go ahead now”(Miller 32). When Biff confidently shows Willy his sneakers, on which he printed “University of Virginia”, Willy concurs, “…with scholarships to three universities they’re gonna flunk him?”(Miller 33). Later, Willy and Biff proceed to laugh at Bernard because Willy deems athleticism and popularity to be more fundamental to success, than knowledge or intellect:
“Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re built like Adonises. Because the man who makes and appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want”.(Miller 33)
Willy and Biff take no heed of these valuable warnings from Bernard, and Biff eventually flunks math, squandering his prospect of playing college football. Although it appeared as if sports would guide Biff to success, his father neglected certain facets along the way, and his dreams for Biff never materialized.
In Wilson’s Fences, sports are depicted in a negative manner. The protagonist, Troy Maxson is a strong and stubborn black man attempting to recover from his deceitful past. After being detained for theft and homicide, Troy learned to play...