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In Death of a Salesman, why do Biff and Happy leave Willy at the restaurant?

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hardeep1313 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2011 at 11:35 PM via web

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In Death of a Salesman, why do Biff and Happy leave Willy at the restaurant?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:06 AM (Answer #1)

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Act 2, scene 5 of the play Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, takes place in a restaurant where Biff, Happy, and Willy meet for dinner. The dinner was meant to be an all-male family meeting in which they would discuss Biff's success in his business endeavours with Oliver. Keep in mind that Willy still sees Biff as his great hope. However, Biff is slowly beginning to realize that his life has been a lie created by Willy and perpetuated by himself.

The realization comes when Biff's plans for business finally meet with reality: Oliver makes him realize that he is not his business partner, but just another worker in the company. This is the final step for him to realize his fake sense of self importance. As a result, Biff tells Happy:

I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been!

This incident alone already sets the mood for the rest of the night by foreshadowing that there will be more self-realizations about to occur. Indeed, they do occur. First, Happy tells a call girl in the restaurant a lie about Biff saying that he is a quarterback for the New York Giants. This lie is almost compulsive and typical of the Lomans because it is based on the idea that the Lomans still hold true that Biff is some sort of big shot footballer.

That sours Biff's night even more, because it leads him to realize that his entire life has been a lie, propelled primarily by his father and his own false believes. Now, here is Happy doing the same thing.

Moreover, when Willy appears in the restaurant, the lie is meant to be perpetuated when Happy tells Biff not to tell Willy about the fiasco with Oliver. Hence, now Biff is more sure of the type of lie his family lives in. Yet, Biff is not willing to take it anymore and decides to confront his father with the reality of the situation. Happy does not agree with what Biff is doing and insists on pretending that everything is OK.

Yet, when the scene comes to a blowout, Willy leaves the scene presumably to the bathroom and about to enter a flashback. Meanwhile, Biff and Happy argue, sending Biff off in anger and Happy following with the two escorts he met at the restaurant.

This being said the argument with Willy, Biff, and Happy at the restaurant is caused by Biff's decision to face the reality of his life and making his father realize his own reality as well. We see how neither Willy nor Happy are willing to see things for what they are. As a result, Willy takes off and is left alone when Biff leaves angrily and Happy follows.

This scene is the first attempt of any of the Lomans to accept that their lives have been a lie. It is hard to accept something of this nature, and the result is clear: Some rather run away from reality than confront it.

 

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