In Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, the conflict between a father and son shapes the overall meaning of the work and explains all of the adverse events that occur throughout. The sources of Willy and Biff’s conflicts, which include Biff’s delusional perception of the world as a result of ideas planted in him by his father, Biff’s discovery of his father’s affair, and Biff’s lack of business success all accumulate and result in the ultimate rivalry between the father and son. Altogether, these contribute greatly to the formation of the concept that personal dreams and desire to achieve success can often negatively interfere with personal relationships, and causing people to loose sight of what is important in our lives, as Willy and Biff exemplify.
Throughout the play, there are flashbacks to Biff’s childhood as a successful athlete and motivated individual. Willy’s pride in his son’s accomplishments is apparent, as he constantly praises him saying, “Good work Biff!” (1561), yet Willy’s lack of acceptance of reality are as well. Frequently Bernard, a studious young boy, appears and reminds Willy of Biff’s unsatisfactory grades, yet Willy refuses to admit these downfalls and does not accept the reality of his son’s situation. Willy merely tells Bernard, “Don’t be a pest, Bernard! What an anemic!” (1560), and dismisses the negative statements made about Biff. Bernard constantly reappears almost as a symbol of Biff’s conscience, telling him to study or else he will not graduate. Willy does not help the situation and completely combats Bernard’s efforts by filling Biff’s head with lies and selling him on the idea of the American Dream as something that is easily achieved, by giving simple advice such as, “Be liked and you will never want” (1561). It is apparent that Willy weighs the importance of being well-liked and socially accepted more heavily than actual hard work and success, a negative reflection of his character. Willy preaches his philosophy that,...
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