What are some generational parallels in the Loman Family in Death of a Salesman?
Are there shared themes and values that are portrayed in the two generations of the Loman family that are evident in Salesman? What are these themes and values and how does Arthur Miller show them?
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Misunderstanding of the American Dream
Willy misunderstands how to achieve the American Dream. If people like him it will lead to success. He thinks even in death, his sons will see that he is known, popular, missed (Miller 1627). Both his children initially believe in this picturesque version of the dream. Biff always has friends around doing whatever he says; Happy meets lots of women. Biff, however, learns that he is “not a leader of men” and his father isn’t either (Miller 1630). And he calls Happy a “big blow” (Miller 1630) indicating that Happy is still delusional about success.
Willy cheats on his wife Linda. During his affair, he comments, “I’m so lonely” (Miller 1621). Happy is also lonely . This is why he continues to sleep around with his boss’ girlfriends. He sees women as something he can conquer since he is a failure otherwise. Biff is constantly moving around. Biff claims he doesn’t “know what [he’s] supposed to want” (Miller 1570). Happy agrees, so they are both in search of fulfillment without ever knowing what exactly makes them happy.
Willy, Biff, and Happy are liars. They pretend to be something they are not. They present themselves as successful, larger than life men. After all, successful business men at least look this way. At the climax of the play, Biff says, “We never told the truth” (Miller 1629). Biff is the only one who recognizes the inflated ego.
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