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What is the contrast between Willy and Biff?I am currently writing an essay. The main...

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sharp141 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 8, 2012 at 4:22 AM via web

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What is the contrast between Willy and Biff?

I am currently writing an essay. The main question is asking for contrast between two characters that help your understanding of one of them.

I have made a start comparing many characters with Biff but I have yet to do Willy, whom I had thought would have been most straight forward. However, I am yet to find any evidence of contrast that I could analyse further to make an argument for my essay.

Any help would do, thanks!

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:11 AM (Answer #1)

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Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman portrays a complex relationship between father and son.  And yes, you are right, there are many similarities between the two, and it is obvious that Biff is a product of his father's upbringing.  Like his father, Biff believed in the importance of image, the scanctity of sports, the power of a name. Yet, Biff differs from his father in that he is much more aware than Willy that Willy's dream is a sham.

Biff knows that he is a "dime a dozen," that he is a worthless drifter, who is not a success and will probably never be one.  In his last conversation with his father Biff tries to tell his father the truth about himself and about Willy.

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 an hour, Willy!

He tells his father that they are both losers, that they should admit that to themselves.

Willy, however, never admits this fact.  Even though he gets fired from his job, has barely eked out a living as a salesman, has been a poor example of a father figure and a philandering husband, he never admits that he is a failure.  He is still looking for that big opportunity in which he will strike it rich.  He also never admits that his son Biff is a failure.  He sees "greatness"  in his son, and even when Biff is trying to explain to him that he is just an ordinary man, Willy hears only that Biff loves him:

He cried! Cried to me. That boy--that boy is going to be magnificent!

This different level of awareness is what separates father and son. Because Biff can face the truth, he is a better man than his father.

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