Do you believe Biff when he says, " I know who I am kid"? why or why not?Do you believe Biff when he says, " I know who I am kid"? why or why not?

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mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Biff's experiences certainly are not limited. He has plenty of evidence to convince him that his life has been less than a success, to say the least. My point is that Biff's view of himself as a person (not his experiences) is limited, limited as in being incomplete or skewed. All the while he was growing up--and after--his father pumped him up, told him how extraordinary he was, and blamed his failures and shortcomings on other people. Biff did have some real talent (gifted athlete, for one), but he was not the larger-than-life adolescent that his father told him he was. That view of him was skewed in its extremism.

Then at the time we meet him in the play, Biff has reviewed his failings and failures and come to the conclusion that he is worthless, that he's "a nothing." That view, also, is skewed in its total extremism. There is evidence in the play that Biff does have some worthwhile qualities. He's brave enough to look at the truth, he's strong enough to have endured terrible conflict throughout his life (Biff isn't the one who commits suicide), and he feels protective of his mother. And, Biff isn't a hater. He doesn't hate his father, while he was living or after he's dead. (Biff's life would have been easier if he had been able to emotionally erase Willy.)

These parts of Biff are in the play, but he doesn't see them in himself because he is still coming to grips with truths just realized about the dynamics of his family. Since the play ends, we'll never know if Biff ever comes to realize that he is not a complete zero.

 

mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Biff does know who he is, but in a limited way. By the end of the play, he recognizes his failures, his ordinariness, his lies, his thievery, his own corruption. He sums himself up: "I'm nothing!" He tells Willy, "I'm a dime a dozen . . . ." Biff judges himself very harshly, focusing on everything in his own character he has come to see and detest. It is, therefore, a limited view of himself, but perhaps it is Biff's first steps toward finding an authentic life for himself. Biff hasn't had enough time to know the rest of himself: Somewhere in his "nothing" character is someone with the strength to face the truth and make value judgments. Those qualities are not a dime a dozen.

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Biff does know who he is, but in a limited way. By the end of the play, he recognizes his failures, his ordinariness, his lies, his thievery, his own corruption. He sums himself up: "I'm nothing!" He tells Willy, "I'm a dime a dozen . . . ." Biff judges himself very harshly, focusing on everything in his own character he has come to see and detest. It is, therefore, a limited view of himself, but perhaps it is Biff's first steps toward finding an authentic life for himself. Biff hasn't had enough time to know the rest of himself: Somewhere in his "nothing" character is someone with the strength to face the truth and make value judgments. Those qualities are not a dime a dozen.

I wouldn't narrow it down to a "limited way" as his experience is fully realized in all the jobs he has. He finally knows who he is because he sees and knows of all the negativity emanating from the father. There is nothing else for him to know in the play. 

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

williamqblai,

In Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman," Biff and Happy are richly drawn characters; one realizes who he is and the other is lost, following in the footsteps of his father.

At the conclusion of the play, Happy is extremely angry at Biff because Biff said that Willy "didn't know who he was." It is at this very moment in the play that Biff realizes who he is; he has achieved a truth about himself--"I know who I am, kid"--he has the right to express the truth about Willy.

Happy, on the otherhand, is still like his father and will likely follow in Willy's footsteps. Happy can not admit that Willy's dreams were "all, all, wrong."

Biff has certainly won the right to say that and is believable when he says that.  Happy is still the one living in a dreamlike fantasy world who will never grow out of it.  That's what makes Happy sad, almost tragic-like, and Biff, heroic. Biff finally can admit to himself who he is and finally change for the better.

Biff and Happy are two wonderful, rich characters; Biff is the believable one.

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