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Explain why Willy expects Biff to amount to much more than he has and what...

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kevinyoukhana | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 28, 2007 at 2:53 AM via web

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Explain why Willy expects Biff to amount to much more than he has and what impact/effect does this have on Biff.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 28, 2007 at 3:11 AM (Answer #1)

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Willy is not only delusional about his own dreams and accomplishments but about those of his sons as well. Biff is the eldest son, and historically, fathers tended to place their greatest hopes and dreams in their first-born child. The fact that Biff was a high school football star only increased Willy's hopes and dreams for Biff. Feeling he was a failure, Willy wanted to live vicariously through Biff. As a result, Biff feels like a failure as well and blames his father for his perceived failures. Biff can never live up to what Willy wants for him, and it isn't until the end that Biff understands his father's failure to succeed and becomes grounded in the reality of what he himself is capable of.

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kevinyoukhana | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 28, 2007 at 3:34 AM (Answer #2)

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Thank you bmadnick.

Anyone have anything on how Willy's expectations has had an impact on Biff's life?

Thanks in Advance

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 12, 2014 at 7:18 AM (Answer #3)

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When a father reaches a certain age and begins to realize that he is not going to be a great success in life, it is natural for him to console himself with the fact that he has been successful biologically. He has produced one or more children. In Willy's case, he has produced two sons. But the father must ask himself if producing children is a sign of success unless those children are successful themselves. It is disheartening to Willy to see that Biff, the boy who seemed so promising, has not lived up to his promises or to Willy's expectations. Biff was a high-school athletic hero but apparently wasn't good enough to become a professional football or baseball player and had no other talents to exploit. He could have gone to college on an athletic scholarship, but he was a poor scholar in high school and would be worse in college. As he tells his father, he is only a one-dollar-an-hour man. Happy is good-hearted but not especially ambitious. Willy is frustrated because if either of his sons became a big success, it would vindicate his own existence. He does not want to admit that he is a complete failure. Competition is fierce in a capitalistic society. Only a few people can become successful. There must be losers as well as winners. The others are like Willy Loman. They just manage to survive and hope that nothing catastrophic happens. There is a great irony in Death of a Salesman in that Willy keeps telling his sons how to succeed when he is a failure himself. He doesn't know the secret of success, but it is very important to him that at least one of his sons should succeed. That would make Willy's life meaningful. He would have contributed to society. His sons may not even become biologically successful. Both are of an age when they should be married and producing children of their own. If Biff or Happy at least had a child or two, Willy could transfer his hopes to the grandchildren. 

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