Death of a Salesman Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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How is Willy the cause of Biff and Happy's lack of success as adults in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman?

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In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Willy is a great deal to blame for his sons' lack of success because of his unrealistic view of the world, and his propensity to live in a world of fantasy (seen in the theme, appearances vs. reality).

Willy Loman lives in the past, forever referring to his success in the business world. And while he may have had some success as a younger man, he lives a life surrounded by the ghost of his brother Ben—a great success in his words:

Why boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out...And by God I was rich.

(We have no way of knowing if this is true. We know Ben is dead, but not under what circumstances, or if he was actually wealthy.)

Willy always defends his actions, makes promises of impossible future successes and laments a life of missed opportunities. He fails to give his sons the example of a strong father. He sometimes makes excuses for the boys, or—as with Biff—finds fault for a lack of success.

(The entire section contains 650 words.)

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