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Is Happy's public denial of his father at all justified after the way in which Willy...

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matania96 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 16, 2011 at 7:14 AM via web

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Is Happy's public denial of his father at all justified after the way in which Willy has treated his son throughout his life in Death of a Salesman?

Is Happy's public denial of his father at all justified after the way in which Willy has treated his son throughout his life in Death of a Salesman?

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:09 PM (Answer #2)

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I can see some justification for the resentment that Happy may be holding towards his father. He has always been second to Biff, and seems to have been forced into a lifestyle he detests and which makes him anything but happy-

HAPPY: ...I don't know what the hell I'm workin' for. Sometimes i sit in my apartment - all alone. And I think of the rent I'm paying. And it's crazy. But then, it's what I've always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I'm lonely.

He is very like his father in that he has lapses into the reality of life, as above, but then resolutely returns to the baseless optimism that he has inherited from his father. As he says at Willy's funeral -

HAPPY: ...I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It's the only dream you can have - to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I'm gonna win it for him.

However, despite Happy's resolution to 'win' for his father, I still see his abandonment of him in the restaurant as reprehensible. Happy knows that his father is mentally and emotionally unstable. When he becomes anxious and deluded in the restaurant, Happy is reminded by Biff of the seriousness of their father's condition-

BIFF: I sense it, you don't give a good goddam about him.[He takes the rolled-up hose from his pocket and puts it on the table in front of HAPPY.]

Yet he chooses to leave his distressed and broken father in the washroom and deny his existence-

HAPPY: No, that's not my father. He's just a guy.

I see no excuse for Happy's behaviour. An explanation could be that he is as confused about the boundaries between reality and fantasy as his father is. However, I still see his behaviour as the definition of a 'lo[w]man'.

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sanskritibookbound | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 19, 2011 at 12:26 AM (Answer #3)

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actually happy's public denial of is father is rather ironic since he follows on the footsteps of his fathers and makes the same mistake as him, as we see in the end of the play...

('all right, boy. i'm gonna show you and everbody else that willy loman did not die in vain. he had a good dream..... he fought it out here, and this is where i'm gonna win it for him')

besides its happy suggesting biff all the 'loman brothers' nonsense.... its happy who decides to go along with his fathers game of assumtions and make-believe..... biff is the one more practical..... happy is, in many ways, just like hiss father....

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sanskritibookbound | Student , Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 23, 2011 at 12:01 PM (Answer #4)

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i also would like to add that like we all know, happy is a ladies man. he didn't exactly deny willy as his father. its just that he seperated the two sheres of his life- his family and his games (the girls).....

                              and keeping in mind happy's character, we know that he would not have shunned the girl off to support willy..... considering the fact that willy wont let anyone help him.... he had MADE his son walk out on him.....

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 26, 2011 at 7:35 AM (Answer #5)

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I'm not sure if justified is the right word, but you did say "at all justified" to temper it. I can completely relate to Happy. He is angry and hurt. We also understand him, because most of us peobaby feel that his father was wrong.
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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 28, 2012 at 7:54 AM (Answer #6)

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As the overlooked son, born with less talent that his older brother, loved less than his older brother, and given very little encouragement or affection, it seems that Happy's attitude is understandable.

The things he asked for were small things, yet he wasn't given them. Mainly he seems to simply want to be acknowledged, and he makes a fool of himself attracting attention, telling obvious lies... The famous line, "attention must be paid!" becomes ironic in relation to Happy, as his name already suggests.

 

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