‘Death Of A Salesman’ is mainly told from Willy Loman, who’s the main protagonist’s perspective. Loman is a classic example of an anti-hero. Willy does not have courage on a grand scale; he is a small man but has heroic qualities about him – such as being courageous and ambitious. The play ‘Death Of A Salesman’ itself, is fairly ambitious because in its simplistic form it is a play about an everyday event – a man with a job but the play as a whole is about finding who you are and to question your place in the world. Although, ‘Death Of A Salesman’ is a domestic tragedy; it has elements of an epic tragedy.
With the stage direction: ‘At the peak of his fury’ showing how passionate Biff is getting, another reading could be that Biff is angry that he has wasted so many years of his life trying to find who he is and he has now realised that none of that mattered, because he is no different to everyone else, Biff says: “Pop, I’m nothing! I’m nothing, Pop. Can’t you understand that?” On the surface, this outburst from Biff seems extremely negative; he seems to be depressed and feeling sorry for himself, this is emphasised by the repetition of the world ‘nothing.’ However, this is ironic because actually what Biff is saying is very positive and good news for the rest of the Loman family; because they will be confident knowing Biff will not follow in Willy Loman’s footsteps and end up killing himself. Biff has had a moment of realisation – that he is not a big businessman, and does not belong in the capitalist system, that he is just the same as anyone else. Biff having a moment of recognition breaks the conventions of a tragedy, as it is usually the tragic hero, who in this play is Willy Loman, who has a moment of recognition. This is further reiterated earlier on when Biff says “Pop! I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you!” This suggests that Biff recognizes again that he is ordinary and that he is finally free of expectations, but Biff’s freedom is only gained at the expense of his dad’s life.
Willy never understands why Biff has no sense of direction and does not feel that he does not know who he is. “Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost.” This represents one of the main themes of the play – living of the American Dream. ‘Death Of A Salesman’ is set in a time when, in America especially, prosperity, affluence and success were held highly focal, after the many years of the worldwide economic depression of the thirties, which started after the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and hit America exceedingly hard. For a salesman; there are only dreams and hope are for that of future sales.
However, Biff symbolizes that you can be happy and content without living the American Dream. “I realized hat a ridiculous lie my whole life has been.” This is Biff realising that Willy’s dreams and illusions for his success are just that – illusions, this is one of the main themes in ‘Death Of A Salesman’ – delusion, and Biff has finally seen it how it is. Biff’s sense of hope is extended further when he says, in the requiem; “I know who I am, kid.” This is like another epiphany for Biff; in a play about finding yourself and your way in life and your identity, at the end he has finally found who he is. Biff emerges from this play at the end, as the character with the most hopeful future.
However, after his realisation, the hope that Biff will change his ways and not get caught up in the capitalist system is then taken away when Happy says, in the requiem, “I’m gonna show you that Willy Loman did not die in vain... He fought it out here, and this is where I’ll win it for him” Although Happy appears full of confidence and enthusiasm, it looks like nothing has been learnt from the death of Willy Loman, and that if Happy does want to follow in his footsteps it can only end disastrously, like it did for his father. So ironically, if Happy is to go on and take the same...
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