Parental Conflict in Death of a Salesman

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In the words of Mitch Albom, “Some parents smudge, others crack, and a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces beyond repair.” In Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, he examines the extent to which parents can create conflict in a child’s life. Willy’s affair, misguided upbringing of his children, and delusions create a strained relationship with Biff.

Willy’s outward indifference toward Biff’s discovery of his affair initiates Biff’s discontent with his father. When Biff is failing in school, the first person he relies on for help is his father. He has the utmost respect for Willy and thinks high enough of his power that he seeks him out on a business trip instead of just asking Linda or Charley for help. His attitude toward Willy quickly changes once he sees that he is with another woman. After Willy kicks her out of the room, he just replies, “Well, we better get going” (1617). He is so oblivious to Biff’s reaction that he does not even take the time to feel shameful for his actions. While his concern for Biff’s grades shows that Willy cares for him, it is contradictory of the actions he has just partaken in. By sleeping with the woman, he betrays not only Linda but also the rest of his family. In a twist of reality, he regains his focus on his family by making his priority handling Biff’s situation by immediately driving back home to ask Biff’s teacher for leniency. However, his detachment from the current situation is the breaking point for Biff as he “is horrified to see the face behind the mask that Willy wears” (Centola). All of his life, Biff looks up to Willy and does not notice a single flaw with his character. When he discovers his father’s true identity, his foundation of everything that is real in life disintegrates into a pile of meaninglessness. Finally confronting the situation at hand, Willy only responds that “she’s nothing to [him]” and that he is just “terribly lonely”(1618). Willy’s excuses are...
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