what is the irony and significance of the quote "This is no time for false pride, Willy...You've got two great boys, haven't you?"

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In Act II of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman , we find Howard and Willy Loman discussing what Willy believes is a fair proposal to make his job stable.

It is quite a sad scene, because we can sense the carelessness that Howard, who is much younger than Willy, expresses when he basically explains Willy that it is impossible to assign him to another job. In fact, that Willy should just relax, retire, and allow his two boys to take care of him.

This idea would work if Biff and Happy, were not immature, spoiled, clueless, with no money, no motivations, nor plans for life. Biff and Happy-much like their father-only live from the fantasies in their heads.

However, Howard is not aware of this, nor is he aware of much of Willy's life, for that matter. He simply assumes that two grown men like Biff and Happy must certainly have taken care of their lives by now. This is when Willy lies to Howard and says that Biff and Happy are working on some big plans, and that he (Willy) just needs the money. To this, Howard replies:

This is no time for false pride, Willy...You've got two great boys, haven't you?

This is what makes the statement all the more ironic. No. Willy does not have "two great boys". He simply has two boys who have grown into men, and still behave like boys. Willy has failed greatly in the raising of his sons by trying to make them follow his own formula for life: A formula for failure.

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