In Death of a Salesman, a play written by Arthur Miller, Miller reflects the theme that everyman needs to be honest with him self and act in accordance with his nature by displaying success and failure in different lights. Miller embodies the theme through characters in the play by explaining how their success and failures in being true to themselves help shapes their fates. Strongest evidence of Miller’s theme is reflected in the characteristics of Biff Loman, Benard, and Willy Loman. Through out the play, these three characters never give way to other’s influence and what other’s view of being successful is.
Biff Loman, son of Willy Loman, is a man who begins the play blinded about the nature of him self. Taught to be well liked and stand out by his father, Biff’s whole life goal is to live up to Willy’s expectations and make Willy proud of him. After a visit to Boston to see his father, a trip to confess his failure in math soon turns into Biff’s self-realization about his true nature once catching Willy with a mistress. In a argument with Willy, Biff states, “And I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!
That’s whose fault it is (1855). ” Biff is confronting Willy about certain actions he has taken in his life after high school. Why he never graduated from high school, why he never became a successful businessman like Willy always wanted him to be, why he ran off out west and became a nobody in Willy’s mind. “I am not a leader of men, Willy, and neither are you. You were never anything but a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them! I’m one dollar and hour, Willy! I tried seven states and couldn’t raise it. A buck an hour!
Do you gather my meaning? I’m not bringing home any prizes any more, and you’re going to stop waiting for me to bring them home,” Biff states (1856). Here Biff is finally laying on Willy that he is not a businessman, a super star, or a leader. Biff is attempting to clarify to Willy that Biff knows what he really is, what he really likes, and why he did the things he did after high school. Willy could not force Biff to be something he is not, and after Biff caught Willy with the mistress, Biff never again confused about the true nature of him self.
Brought up on his father’s values, Biff never turns his back on his true self and still feels that out west is where his life should be. Benard, son of Charley, is the bookworm neighbor and childhood friend of Biff whose caring nature is shown through out the play. Never deviating from his helping sprit, Benard is always there to help out Biff and Willy whenever possible. In high school, Benard constantly reminds Biff that he needs to study with him so he doesn’t fail math and not graduate high school. “Biff, where are you? You’re supposed to study with me today.
He’s gotta study, Uncle Willy. He’s got Regents next week,” Benard states (1807). Here Benard is looking out for the well being of Biff. Even when everyone thinks he is being a nuisance, Benard still shows his helping hand and acting in accordance with his nature. Even as years past, Benard never loses track of what his nature is. All his studying and hard work lands him a high position as an attorney and he never let anyone’s criticisms stop him from being successful. Also, Willy comes to see Charley at his office with surprise to see Benard is there visiting his father.
Benard and Willy get into a serious conversation discussing what happened to Biff after high school. Here Benard tells Willy how much he loves Biff and cares for him even though he takes advantage of him. “Well, just that when he came back – I’ll never forget this, it always mystifies me. Because I’d thought so well of Biff, even though he’d always taken advantage of me. I loved him, Willy, y’know? And he came back after that month and took his sneakers- remember those sneakers with University of Virginia printed on them? He was so proud of those wore them every day.
And he took them down in the cellar, and burned them up in the furnace. We had a fistfight. It lasted at least half an hour. Just two of us punching each other down the cellar, and crying right thorough it. I’ve often thought of how strange it was that I knew he’d given up his life, what happened in Boston Willy,” Benard states (1837). Benard never stopped thinking about what happened to Biff all this time and was there that particular day he spoke of with Biff, crying, and being there when Biff really needed him. Benard is acting in accordance with his nature of caring and being true to him self, even under extenuating circumstances.
Willy Loman is a man whose strong beliefs never allow him to think otherwise and whose prideful nature dictates everything in his life. Never once does Willy feel what he teaches his boys are wrong and would do anything for his sons. Willy’s sons, Biff and Happy, are failures, but Willy doesn’t want to believe this. He wants his sons, especially Biff, to succeed where he has not. He believes his boys are great and cannot understand why they are not successful. Willy cannot see who he and his sons are. He believes that they are great men who have what it takes to be successful and beat the business world.
Unfortunately, he is mistaken. In reality, Willy and sons are not, and cannot, be successful. Also, Willy is also unable to see change. He is man lost in the modern era of technology. He says, “How can they whip cheese? (1806)” and is constantly “In a race with the junkyard (1831). ” Willy’s prideful nature never once let’s down, and he follows what he believes till the very end. In a conversation with Howard, Willy’s boss, Howard reveals to Willy that he is letting him go from the firm. Howard suggests to Willy that Willy should turn to his boys for support at his old age.
I can’t throw myself on my sons. I’m not a cripple,” Willy states (1832). Again, Willy can not allow his prideful nature fall and acts in accordance with his nature by suggesting to Howard that he continue to work at the firm, even in reality, he is no longer capable. Even after being fired by Howard and not having ajob anymore, he still is able to keep his pride. Every week he goes to Charley asking him to borrow some money, but Charley knows that Willy has no job and insist that he work for him, by offering him a job. Willy responds with, “I – I cant work for you that’s all don’t ask me why (1838).
Willy can give no reason of why he can work, but it is obvious here that his prideful nature can not allow him to throw himself at Charley for help, just as he was not able to tell Howard that he could not throw himself on his sons. This stubbornness behavior, although ilrash, was Willy’s way of acting in accordance with his nature. Biff Loman, Benard, and Willy Loman all share something unique. In Death of a Salesmen, the theme that every man needs to be honest with him self and act in accordance with his nature by displaying success and failure is implied strongly through those three characters through out the entire play.
Miller purposely embodied the characteristics in each of those men to show how a person beliefs or nature, can be the driving force and sometimes the reason for living in a persons life. Although, each of these men ended up with very different lives, Benard becoming extremely successful, Biff not as successful as his father hoped, but always true to what his true nature was, and Willy, giving his life up in the end to help his children, one thing is certain. No matter what anyone tried to tell these three men, or what ever obstacles they faced, they never once veered from the path that their true nature took them.