In life, we go through life changing events. Some of these events can change relationships between a parent and their child for better, sometimes even worse. In the play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller portrays the possessiveness of the everyday struggles we face as humans through the eyes of Willy Loman and how these struggles can change a father-son relationship. Willy, a businessman, husband and father of Biff and Happy, goes through mental and emotional struggles throughout the novel. Mr.Loman sacrifice much of his own life, in hope that his son, Biff becomes a successful person. Although it is well manifested that Willy and his son, Biff, have without a doubt, an unbreakable bond and Biff is on the road to success, a tragic change of events occurs which causes the relationship to slowly disperse. These events allow Miller to comment upon what he believes can ruin a parent-child relationship.
The first cause that Miller suggests that ruin a parent-child relationship is pressuring a child to be something they don’t want to be. In the novel, Willy desires for his son, Biff, to become a successful rich business man and he expected Biff to become successful because of how popular he was in high school, especially with girls. Biff tells his father, “you always wanted me to be a big shit business man and I’m through with it”. Biff always dreamed of being outdoors and not in a “dirty stinking city”, being outdoors will give him the freedom to take off his shirt, swim and whistle as much as he wants when he wants.
Throughout the novel, Biff demonstrates his hate towards the business world and the philosophy of a “dog-eat-dog” world by saying things like “screw the business world”, “I hate having to get in front of the next fella”, and stating that being a businessman is a “measly manner of living”. It’s very clear that was this affected the relationship between Biff and Willy. After the events occurred, Willy would refuse to have a real conversation about business with Biff, the two eventually came to conclusion that they couldn’t live together. Linda took notice and told both “there’s no use, you two will never get along”. Biff rudely let’s his father know that he doesn’t want any part of his dream by saying “ take this phony dream and burn it with someone else”.
The second factor Miller presents which has a negative effect on parent-child relationships is infidelity, or better known as cheating. Willy’s act of infidelity caused his father and son relationship with Biff to completely collapse. Biff lost much respect for his father, he made it very clear that he wanted no part of his “phony lies” which caused Biff to not talk to his father or when he did, it was in a negative way. What Biff didn’t understand was that his father was feeling very lonely which led to depression and the act of infidelity was the only way Willy could get his mind off of things.
Prior to Willy’s act of infidelity, the relationship between the two was like no other. Willy would always boast about Biff on how much of a wonder football player and how he will be extremely successful in life, Willy even told “Ben’s” watch for Biff to earn a couple more bucks. To add-on, Biff loved to hear about his father’s business trips, would dedicate his touchdowns to his father, steal to make his father happy and most importantly Biff trusted Willy very much. The tragic scene in which Willy was caught in the act of infidelity occurred when Biff expected to attend the University of Virginia before he found out that he had flunked math and decided to go talk to his father about it in Boston.
He’d gone to discuss summer school and having Mr. Loman talk to his math teacher when he discovered a woman, not Linda, in his father’s hotel bathroom in the stockings his father got for his mother. Biff immediately loses his interest in his education and gets furious as Willy tries to persuade Biff into thinking that the woman in his room is nothing to him. This incident caused Biff’s character to change, ruin the relationship with his father and added a negative vibe when Biff and Mr.Loman were near each other. When Willy tried telling Biff that he’ll talk to his math teacher to give him a passing grade, Biff says “Birnbaum wouldn’t listen to a guy like you” indirectly pointing at Willy’s flaws.
Subsequent to the incident, Biff leaves his family for 15 years, doesn’t attend to the University of Virginia and returns home as a chose to leave the ranch out west because he has not been “getting ahead”, later stating “ I’m thirty-four years old, I oughta be making my future”. Further evidence that the relationship Biff and his father had been ruined by his father’s betrayal to his wife, is Linda telling Biff “ Dad always gets nervous when he thinks of you coming home”. Despite the beautiful father-son relationship Willy and Biff once had, it all came crashing down the night Biff went to see his dad in Boston and ever since, Willy strongly believed that Biff fail in life just for spite.
Miller’s third argument in which he believes causes parent-child problems is when parents argue in front of their children which causes them to choose sides. When Happy brings up the idea of creating a sporting goods company, Willy calls it a “million dollar idea”. This idea caused the family to be excited and as for Linda, she kept adding little statements every five seconds which frustrated Willy and he finally explodes and tells Linda to “Stop interrupting !”and “would you let me talk !” followed by Biff telling Willy not to talk to Linda like that and Biff violently grabbing Willy by the wrist. Mr.Loman stays quiet with a face of disgust for a couple of seconds then asks Biff if he’s “taking over”. Willy then quietly walks away and heads up stairs. Briefly after, Linda begins to tell Biff that Willy is very hurt and how Biff should give his father much more respect because he’s a great man. Following the incident, Biff makes it very clear to his mother that he can’t stand being in the presence of his father.
The penultimate factor Miller believes that causes parent-child problems is giving your child not bad, but horrible advice. When Biff was in high school, his father filled him up with hot air. Willy would tell Biff he will automatically be successful because of his good looks and popularity. Although both good looks and popularity can give you a good boost in becoming successful, education is the real key to success. Education is the one thing Willy told his son that isn’t important in becoming successful. This later came back to bite Willy, had he not told Biff that education wasn’t important in being successful, Biff would’ve never failed his exam and would’ve never been caught cheating on Linda in Boston.
Mr.Loman also told both of his boys that stealing ,a felony crime, is okay to do. When Biff stole a football, his father seemed very happy for what he had done. In a scene after, Willy tells his boys to steal from the construction site to impress Ben, the boys end up getting chase by authority. After these events occurred, Biff realizes that his father set him up for failure. As previously mentioned, Willy blew Biff with “hot air” which caused Biff not to stand taking orders from anyone. Biff believes that he “stole himself out of every job he had” because him and his father never “spoke the truth”
The last factor Miller believes causes parent-child problems is favoring one child over another. Throughout the play, it is obvious that Biff is favored by his parents. Happy seems to be considered chopped liver, by his parents as he desperately tries seeking attention from his parents. One act of Happy desperately seeking attention from his parents is when the focus is on Biff’s football game, he says “I’m losing weight” and no one pay attention to his statement so he repeats himself and is told to “go to bed”.
Another event that occurred was when Happy bursted out “ I’m getting married” and his parents didn’t seem to care at all. Another crucial event was when Happy brought up he business idea, he got zero credit for the idea and Biff was treated like a genius by his parents even though Biff didn’t bring up the idea, Happy did. Following these events, when the two boys go to dinner with Willy, a change of events happen and when Happy is at the point of leaving the joint they were at, the girls they had met asked Happy if Willy is his father and he denies it.
To conclude, a father is by far the most important person a boy needs in his life. A father and son can relate to each other on an unimaginable level, a relationship like this cannot he reached between a mother and son, as they are very divergent from each other. The biggest key to success in any relationship is communication, which Willy and Biff lacked due tragic events. Although Willy had a great amount of love towards Biff, he was confused whether he should play an active role in his son’s life or let him figure things out on his own. Unfortunately, he did both and Biff pays the price of Willy’s actions. In order for a father to make the best man possible out of his son, must know what are the key factors in which he can make successful man.