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Why does Biff come home in Death of a Salesman?

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maggiem5 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 18, 2009 at 8:40 AM via web

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Why does Biff come home in Death of a Salesman?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 18, 2013 at 5:30 PM (Answer #2)

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Biff initially poses his return home as a choice to leave the ranch out west where he has not been "getting ahead", saying:

"I'm thirty-four years old, I oughta be makin' my future."

Biff tells Happy that he enjoys working outdoors and enjoys life on a ranch, but in the many jobs he has held since leaving home he has never become a man in his own view. He describes himself as being "like a boy" and feels that he needs to find a way to establish himself as an adult in the world.

As the play goes on and Biff's tendency to steal is revealed, the audience reasonably wonders if Biff has moved around from job to job so much because he has been fired and/or caught stealing.  

Biff, who steals things as an adult, blames his father for not giving him the proper guidance when he was caught stealing as a child.

Many of Biff's disappointments appear to be marked by theft, as is his failed visit to his former boss, Oliver, in the sporting goods store.


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elholzman | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 18, 2009 at 10:03 AM (Answer #1)

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Biff is still feeling lost and unsure of what he should do with himself and his life.  He has had many jobs over the past few years, and he tries to explain to his brother Happy about why he returns home.  Biff enjoys being out of doors, working on farms and ranches, but he still deep down doesn't feel like he is accomplishing anything.  In  ACT I Biff says, "And whenever spring comes to where I am, I suddenly get the feeling, my God, I'm not gettin' anywhere!"  Biff cannot trust in himself enough to make his own decisions concerning his career and feeling lost, he returns home, hoping that he will be able to find a purpose.  However, as Biff says regretfully, "And now, I get here, and I don't know what to do with myself."

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