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November 26, 2005

Death of a Salesman, Act II

Biff:...You gotta talk to him before they close the school. Because of he saw the kind of man you are, and you just talked to him in your way, I'm sure he'd come through for me...
The Woman laughs offstage. (118)
Biff: Don't touch me, you-liar! (121)

I'm so glad this whole flashback scene was put in because it clears a lot of things up. The reader can finally understand why Biff and Willy don't get along. Biff gave up everything he'd always wanted and everything his father wanted for him on this night. Biff had always admired his dad, but on this night, all that changed. He no longer looked up to him and no longer saw him as a great man who could do no wrong.

Up until this point in the play, I really felt bad for Willy more than for Biff. I felt that Biff was blaming his father for his situation in life and that it was unjustified. I thought he just hadn't made it in football and he hadn't worked hard enough in school to do anything else. I felt that this was all Biff's fault.

But, after seeing this scene and reflecting on Willy's attitude towards Biff's schoolwork (see my blog on Act I) I do think a part of it is Willy's fault. He certainly didn't encourage Biff to do well in school, he just wanted Biff to be well-liked and popular. He also wanted Biff to look up to him and think he was a better man than perhaps he really is. So, on this night when Biff found out that Willy was cheating on Linda, he no longer wants to do what his father expects of him. He loses his will to try to be great at anything. I think he feels that if someone like his father isn't really a great man, than no one really can be...including himself. That is why he becomes what he later proclaims to Willy "Pop, I'm nothing! I'm nothing, Pop." (133)

Posted by LorinSchumacher at November 26, 2005 9:05 PM



I am not sure whether or not he believes he can't be a great man - I just think his life is so heavily lived in the past that he can't make any progress to be anything other than this confined, football passing, women-chasing boy - rather than man.

What do you think?


Posted by: KatieAikins at December 3, 2005 3:35 PM

I think that he doesn't exactly lose his will to do something great. However, he doesn't show characteristics of perseverance. Yes, Biff can blame his life on his father. But, how is that going to solve anything for Biff. He took what his father did and turned it into something negative. Happy contradicts his brother when he says, "I'm not going to him die in vein." He is showing that even though his dad screwed up, Happy is going to learn from Willy's mistakes and become something great.

Posted by: Andy at December 6, 2005 10:30 AM

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