Death of a Salesman Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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How are Biff and Happy's failures a result of their father's unrealistic expectations in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman?

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For years Willy Loman has acted out his fantasies of success through his two sons. He hasn't made much of a success of his life, so he's counting on Biff and Happy to restore the family name. Unfortunately, neither Biff nor Happy have been any more successful in life, mainly due to their father's unrealistic expectations.

Willy has always taught his boys that the key to success in life is to be a "well-liked man." In the case of Biff, this attitude led to his not putting in much effort at school. So long as he was destined to be a football star—a "well-liked man,"—it didn't much matter. Willy certainly never encouraged Biff to do well in school. But when Biff flunked math and so couldn't get a football scholarship at college, he had nothing to fall back on, and has been drifting aimlessly through life ever since.

As for Happy, he is most definitely a "well-liked man," but that's pretty much all he is. He's certainly no more successful than his old man; even less so, in fact. The...

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