In Death of a Salesman, what was the last name of Bernard and Charley, neighbors to the Lomans?

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ladyvols1's profile pic

ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In the play "Death of A Salesman," Charlie is a neighbor and friend to Willy.  Benard is Charlie's son.  Their last names are never revealed.  Charlie is described as "a large man, slow of speech, laconic, immovable” – engages in teasing banter with Willy, who feels insulted when Charley good-heartedly offers Willy a job."  Charlie is called Uncle Charlie by Biff and Hap, however he is not related to the family, just a friend who helps the Lomans financially.

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rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Readers and viewers never learn the last name of Charley and his son Bernard, who are close neighbors to the Lomans. The fact that Miller does not give them a last name when he gives many other characters last names could suggest several different things. Perhaps one reason Miller does not provide a surname for them is that they are so familiar to the Lomans that they have always been on a first-name basis--they are almost like family. Bernard even calls Willy "Uncle Willy," although they are not actually related. 

Another meaning that could be conveyed by the lack of last name is the lack of respect that Willy and his boys show toward Charley and Bernard. Although Charley is a faithful friend and even helps support the Lomans financially, Willy is constantly arguing with Charley, saying unkind things to him, and spurning his offers of employment. Likewise, when the boys were younger, they considered Bernard a pesky little tag-along. Biff tells his dad that Bernard is liked, but not well-liked. Letting them go without a last name hints at this disdain that the Lomans feel toward Charley and Bernard. 

What name should Charley and Bernard have had? The play, through Biff's lines, makes it clear that Willy had the wrong goals in life--he misunderstood what success was. His role model--the eighty-four-year-old gentleman who died the death of a salesman--was named Dave Singleman. That last name suits Charley and Bernard well. Charley was single in his devotion to Willy--he never abandoned him, even though Willy's actions probably deserved it. Charley and Bernard succeed by their single-minded pursuit of their careers--they do not get distracted by shortcuts to success. Finally, Willy admits toward the end of the play that Charley is his only friend--the single man who cares about Willy. One could conclude that Charley and Bernard have earned the last name Singleman, but that Willy never recognizes that in time to give them the respect they deserve for their unwavering friendship.

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Charley is Willy's foil, his opposite number. Where Willy believes that good looks and charm are the keys to success, Charley prizes hard work and a good education. Willy fails; Charley succeeds. In a similar way, Bernard is the foil to both Happy and Biff. Bernard is teased by Biff and Willy for studying hard in school, but it is Bernard who graduates and goes on to great success as a lawyer, even so far as to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. He is the example of what could have been for the Loman boys, had they had a better role model.

Not giving Charley and Bernard last names is a deliberate choice by Miller. Their purpose in the play is to show the other road, the example of success that the Lomans lack, not to serve as full as complete characters in their own right.

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