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Outside the Loman family, the characters of interest in the play are Charley, Charley's son (Bernard), and Willy's boss (Howard).
Of these characters, Charley has the most lines in the play and the largest role in the action of the play. Charley is Willy's neighbor and, to some extent, competitor, but he is also Willy's benefactor. Willy turns to Charley for money on a weekly basis, yet will not accept a job that Charley offers him. Willy also continues to criticize and deride Charley despite Charley's generosity and friendship.
This relationship offers some interesting material for an assessment of Willy's character.
Bernard offers a similar insight into Biff's character. It is Bernard who raises questions about why Biff fails to make up his math class. It is also Bernard who tries to influence Biff and keep his friend from stealing and heading down the wrong path.
At the start of the text Biff is a very confused man who does not know what he has done with his life; but towards the end of the text Miller shows Biff has developed at the climax by having the outburst with Willy, and realising who he is and what he wants.
Firstly, when we first meet Biff we see that he is a 34 years old man who is unsettled and is “still kind of up in the air” and does not know what he is supposed to want. He says, “I’m like a boy” which shows he has not achieved much with his life, he has had dreams but he has not pursued them. Biff shows the audience that all he “really desires is to be outdoors”, which is his dream, but this conflicts with his father’s and societies expectations. The word “desires” shows us that he wants it badly and this is all he wants to achieve out of life. Biff’s dream is quite a humble dream as in the 1940’s most people wanted the American Dream – wealth, to be well-liked, to have a family, to own property – which is incredibly materialistic, but because everyone in that time period wanted the American Dream it makes Biff feel bad and ashamed for wanting his dream because it is the complete opposite to what everyone else wants. Since Willy has made Biff believe that the American Dream is “the only dream you can have”, Biff has stopped trying to pursue his dream and has tried the American Dream but because this is not what truly desires he has not achieved anything and is stuck as being a “lazy bum”.
Secondly, Miller shows that Biff is starting to develop when he confronts Willy. From the start of the text we can see just how much of an influence on Biff Willy is. He told Biff what he should want and want to become even though it may not be what Biff “desires”. But as Biff is developing he sees that Willy “blew him so full of hot air” he could not see things for what they really were. He made him believe that he was something he was not, that he was special when in reality he was just like everyone else and “a dime a dozen”. When Biff goes to see Bill Oliver, he does not remember Biff which supports the fact that even though Willy had gotten Biff to believe that he was “a salesman for Bill Oliver” and that he was above everyone else, when in reality he is just an average person and just like everyone else.
Lastly, at the end of the text Miller shows that Biff has developed by showing that he knows what he wants to achieve with his life and who he is. We see that he does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps to pursue the American Dream as he has learnt from his father’s mistakes and wants to be his own person. Miller shows this as Biff says “I know who I am, kid” which allows us to see that from the start of the text he was someone who only knew who he was from what Willy had made him to believe he was, but towards the end of the text Biff realises who he is by realising that he does not want be like his father or follow in his footsteps. The stage direction [Hopeless glance at Happy] shows us that he knows Happy has not learnt from their father’s mistakes and hopeless dreams and will probably end up like Willy. This shows that Biff has no hope left for Happy as even though Happy knows what the outcome is for pursuing the American Dream and following in their father’s footsteps he is still willing to choose ignorance and follow Willy.
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