Father-son Relationships and Conflicts in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


Length: 1202 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

Father-son Relationships and Conflicts in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


In many literary works, family relationships are the key to the plot. Through a family’s interaction with one another, the reader is able decipher the conflicts of the story. Within a literary family, various characters play different roles in each other’s lives. These are usually people that are emotionally and physically connected in one way or another. They can be brother and sister, mother and daughter, or in this case, father and son. In the Arthur Miller’s novel, Death of A Salesman, the interaction between Willy Loman and his sons, Happy and Biff, allows Miller to comment on father-son relationships and the conflicts that arise from them.

 During most father-son relationships, there are certain times where the father wants to become more of a "player" in his son’s life than his son believes is necessary. The reasons for this are numerous and can be demonstrated in different ways. Miller is able to give an example of this behavior through the actions of Willy Loman. When Biff comes home to recollect himself, Willy perceives it as failure. Since Willy desperately wants his oldest son, Biff, to succeed in every way possible, he tries to take matters into his own hands. "I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time" (16). The reason that Biff came home is to find out what he wants in life. Because Willy gets in the way, matters become more complicated. Partly due to Willy’s persistence in Biff’s life, they have conflicting ideas as to what the American dream is. Willy believes that working on the road by selling is the greatest job a man could have (81). Biff, however, feels the most inspiring job a man could have is working outdoors (22).

When their two dreams collide, it becomes frustrating to Willy because he believes that his way is the right way. If a father becomes too involved in his son’s life, Miller believes friction will be the resultant factor. As unfortunate as it is, there are many instances where a father favors one son over another, which leads to social conflicts within the less-favored son. In most cases it is the oldest son that is being favored while the younger son is ignored. Usually the father doesn’t even realize what is happening. He simply gets too caught up in the successes of his eldest son and he may even try to live out his life through his son’s experiences.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Father-son Relationships and Conflicts in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Aug 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=6697>.
Title Length Color Rating  
Death of a Salesman: The Relationships Father and Son Essay - Willy Loman has the ups and downs of someone suffering from bipolar disorder: one minute he is happy and proud- the next he is angry and swearing at his sons. Their relationships are obviously not easy ones. Willy always has the deeper devotion, adoration, and near-hero worship for his son Biff; the boy, likewise, has a great love for his father. Each brags on the other incessantly, thereby ignoring the other son- Happy- who constantly tries to brag on himself in order to make up the lack of anyone to do it for him....   [tags: Arthur Miller, Willy Loman, relationship] 895 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Essay - ... Troy Maxson had the dream of becoming a professional baseball player but because of his race his dream was unable to be fulfilled. Troy makes references to baseball throughout the play, he says,"Death ain't nothing but a fastball on the outside corner." which shows he can’t let go of his resentment. His son Cory is now at the end of high school and wants to pursue his dream of playing football in college. However, Troy’s dominance over Cory leads to him interfering with Cory’s chances of pursuing football as a career....   [tags: story and character analysis] 805 words
(2.3 pages)
Research Papers [preview]
Essay about Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman - The objectives of this written task were to show how Willy’s family (Linda, Biff and Happy) viewed his death and his achievements. I also attempted to illustrate their individual relationships with Willy. I chose to use the format of a formal police report as it allows all three characters to express their views of Willy freely. Emotions were adjusted to the minimum since this is a police report, except for the case of Linda whom I consider would be too weak at that point to control herself. Their stories do not correspond exactly because some are trying to hide the facts....   [tags: Arthur Miller Death Salesman] 1198 words
(3.4 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Essay - Arthur Miller is the playwright behind Death of a Salesman. Arthur was born on the 17th of October 1915 into a wealthy New York City family. When the Great Depression hit, the family lost their money in the stock market and were forced to sell and move to Gravesend, Brooklyn. There, Arthur finished high school, working in odd jobs until he had enough to afford college at the University of Michigan. Arthur got his degree and moved back to New York City where he began his career as a playwright. ("Arthur.”) Arthur’s first Broadway play was a disaster and closed after four showing....   [tags: mary slaterry, marilyn monroe]
:: 3 Works Cited
874 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Essay - Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is about a traveling salesman named Willy Loman who has hit a rough patch in his life. Willy seems to have a normal family, with a wife and two boys. His sons, Happy and Biff, while different, represent Willy in many ways. Willy always strived to be successful and struggled for acceptance, which also represents his sons personalities and outlooks. As Pamela Loos says, “Willy Loman fails to understand himself and esteems a career path that goes against who he truly is,” this keeps him from ever being happy with himself....   [tags: willy loman, happiness, dreams]
:: 8 Works Cited
1166 words
(3.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay about Character Analysis in Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller - Perhaps it is due to the abandonment by his father that Willy Loman experienced at a very young age, or the subsequent abandonment, a few years later of his older brother Ben, that underlies the reason Willy so desperately seeks to be loved and accepted. He continually makes reference to being “well liked” as being of the utmost importance. Physical appearance, worldly admiration, and the opinion of others are more important to Willy than the relationship he has with his own family. These and several other references throughout “Death of a Salesman” portray the troubled relationship between Willy and his two sons, Biff and Happy....   [tags: Well Liked, Family Relationships] 793 words
(2.3 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Tragic Heroes in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House - Tragic Heroes in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House Dramatists such as Aristotle started to write a series of plays called tragedies. They were as follows: the play revolved around a great man such as a king or war hero, who possessed a tragic flaw. This flaw or discrepancy would eventually become his downfall. These types of plays are still written today, for example, Arthur Millers "Death of Salesman" and Henrik Ibsens "A Dolls House." "Death of Salesman" shows the downfall of the modern tragic hero, Willy Loman, a middle class working man....   [tags: Ibsen Miller Tragic Hero Essays Papers]
:: 2 Works Cited
1701 words
(4.9 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Arthur Miller's Death of a Saleman Essay - “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”(Tucker p.56) This quote by Winston Churchill relates to Biff, Willy’s oldest son, and how he gave up on life once he found out the truth and reality about his dad. Upon finding his father cheating on his mother, Biff decides not to take the summer school math class which would have allowed him to graduate high school and go to the University of Virginia. Biff was raised by his father to believe that success and wealth in life were two of the most important goals to achieve....   [tags: essays research papers] 820 words
(2.3 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Reality and Illusion in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Essay - Reality and Illusion in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman In Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, a major theme and source of conflict is the Loman family’s inability to distinguish between reality and illusion.  This is particularly evident in the father, Willy Loman.  Willy has created a fantasy world of himself and his family.  In this world, he and his sons are men of greatness that “have what it takes” to make it in the business environment.  In reality, none of them can achieve this greatness until they confront and deal with this illusion....   [tags: Death Salesman essays] 1076 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay about Understanding Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman - Understanding Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman In order to really understand Willy Loman, from Arthur Miller’s play Death Of A Salesman, the reader must analyze the way his character is developed.  Studying his thoughts, actions, how he relates to other characters and how other characters relate to him enables the reader to come to an understanding of the world in which Willy lives.             Although Willy sometimes has flashbacks, examining them, as well as his thoughts, helps the reader to understand and relate to him better.  Willy had very high, but unrealistic expectations for his boys, especially Biff; he thought that they would be guaranteed success.  This is i...   [tags: Death of a Salesman] 803 words
(2.3 pages)
Better Essays [preview]

Related Searches




Because Willy has dreams of grandeur for Biff, Miller subtly shows how Happy is overlooked.

Throughout the novel, Willy makes references to how wonderful Biff is. " . . .You got greatness in you, Biff. . . You got all kinds of greatness" (67). Happy, however, is barely talked to. This kind of favoritism has a profound effect on a child. In order to be acknowledged by his father, Happy believes that he must become Willy’s version of a success by acquiring wealth and being popular. He convinces himself that this is the only way he’ll ever be truly happy. In the end though, he realizes that he is not happy. " . . . It’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I’m lonely" (23). Happy has been living his entire life in a way that he believes will bring him attention from his father, yet he becomes more miserable than if he had gone his own way. When a father chooses to look favorably upon one son over another, disharmony occurs in the father-son relationship as well as in the son’s life. Within a father-son relationship, it is the responsibility of the father to provide sound values and leadership for his sons. In almost every family, the sons will look to their father as a role model and a hero. It is in the father’s best interest to use this opportunity to instill qualities that will allow his sons to become responsible individuals.

Miller uses the Loman family to show how a father acts when he is more concerned with appearance than anything else. Willy is obsessed with popularity. He believes that if a person is popular, he has everything. Since Willy was never popular himself, he adores the fact that his sons, and Biff in particular, are. In a sense, Willy idolizes his children more than they idolize him. Because Willy sees that his boys have attained what he deems as important, he forgets to teach them moral values. When Biff steals the football from school, Willy rationalizes the theft, saying that it is alright because he is popular (30). Willy also doesn’t take any stock in education. When Bernard chastises Biff for not studying, Willy tries to justify it by saying that a person doesn’t need intelligence in the real world if he has good looks. "Bernard can get the best marks in school, . . . but when he gets out into the business world . . . you are going to be five times ahead of him. . . . The man who makes an appearance in the business world . . . is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want" (33). Because Willy’s sole belief is that a person should be popular, his sons never learn any genuine values.

Miller attempts to show the conflicts that occur as a result of a father not teaching his sons any morals. Willy ingrains in Biff’s head that a person can do anything as long as they are popular. Because of this belief, Biff develops an addiction to stealing. The reason he lost his job with Oliver was because he stole basketballs from him. He has trouble all his life because he steals. "I stole myself out of every good job since high school" (131). It is this reason that has caused all his problems with Willy, and Willy is to blame because he never told him differently. Happy also has a sour relationship with Willy because of the lack of values he has. Willy always tells them that being popular is the best quality to have. Happy meets some women at the restaurant where he and Biff are supposed to meet Willy. When Willy starts to fall apart on them, Happy tries to ignore him so that he won’t look bad in front of the women. "No, that’s not my father. He’s just a guy" (115). Willy never instills family pride in them. It is this reason that a gap exists in their relationship with him. Arthur Miller’s ability to have characters interact with one another allows him to comment on father-son relationships and the conflicts involved.

 A father is the most important thing a boy can have in his life. They relate to one another on a level that cannot be achieved through a mother-son relationship. It is important to have communication in the relationship because talking brings the two closer. A father, though, needs to know when to play an active role in his son’s life, and when to be more of an observer. If he mixes the two up, serious repercussions may occur. A father can be the best thing in his son’s life, but he needs to care for the right.


Return to 123HelpMe.com