Discuss Arthur Miller’s presentation of Biff in ‘Death of a Salesman’
Arthur Miller’s presentation of Biff in ‘Death of a Salesman’ is complicated. Within three days after Biff returned home, he is portrayed as a complex character that undergoes various inner conflicts and changes in personality. Firstly, Biff is presented as a lost soul throughout most parts of the play. Through Willy’s flashbacks, the audience finds out that Biff used to be a football star with scholarship prospects in high school. He has been under his father’s expectation of him, which is to be a successful businessman. However, at the age of thirty-four, the promising Biff has turned into a troubled soul. Biff is contradicted between his father’s dream and that humble desire of him. Biff does not want to pursue wealth and to achieve the American dream like Willy and all other Americans. In contrast, he has a simpler and more realistic dream, which is work on the farm and to be immersed in nature. Biff’s only desire is ‘to be outdoors, with [your] shirt off’. The word ‘desire’, not ‘want’ or ‘hope’, highlights his passion for nature and his dream of working as a farmhand. Biff dislikes devoting his whole life in ‘keeping stocks or making phone calls’. He perceives the business life in which all Americans long for is pointless. Nevertheless, Biff’s desperate attempt to ‘build a future’ contrasts his dream of being ‘outdoors’. This is apparent in the line ‘I’ve made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all I’ve done is to waste my life’. The repetition of ‘waste’ highlights Biff’s disdain to his own life as he sees what he has done throughout his years as rubbish. Even though Biff is happy with his job as a farm hand, he still feels guilty for not fulfilling his father’s dream. Despite his contentment when working on a farm, Biff thinks that what he really should do is to become rich instead of being a ‘one dollar an hour’ farmhand. Willy’s delusion...
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