Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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In Death of a Salesman, how old are Biff and Happy during their conversation in the bedroom? Does it take place in the past or present?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In act one, Biff is thirty-four years old, and his younger brother, Happy, is thirty-two years old. Their conversation in the upstairs bedroom takes place in the present. While their father is in the kitchen discussing his dire work situation with his loyal wife, Linda, and contemplating their future endeavors, Biff and Happy listen from the upstairs bedroom. Both Biff and Happy are unsuccessful grown men who have not lived up to their father's expectations. Biff has recently returned home after losing another job and discusses his lack of success and unfulfilling life with Happy, who is depicted as a dishonest pleasure-seeker. Before falling back to sleep, Biff mentions that he will ask Bill Oliver for a business loan. The light then focuses on Willy, who begins to hallucinate and reminisce about Biff and Happy's childhood.

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The conversation between Biff and Happy that takes place in their bedroom is found in the beginning of the play. The time is the present. Willie has just returned home, tired and confused; Biff and Happy listen to their parents' conversation in the next room. Biff is 34 years old; Happy is 32. These facts are established directly and indirectly. Willie makes a reference to Biff's being 34; Miller's author notes say that Biff is two years older than his brother.