In act 2 of Death of a Salesman, in the restaurant, how does Happy reflect Willy's values?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Happy shows himself to be quite like Willy in his interaction with Stanley the waiter and the glamorous customer Miss Forsythe in the restaurant. Like Willy, he tries to impress people by talking up his own and his family's achievements - in fact he resorts to downright lying. He pretends...

Check Out
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Happy shows himself to be quite like Willy in his interaction with Stanley the waiter and the glamorous customer Miss Forsythe in the restaurant. Like Willy, he tries to impress people by talking up his own and his family's achievements - in fact he resorts to downright lying. He pretends to be selling champagne, falsely claims to have attended West Point, and also embellishes his brother Biff's career, making him out to be a 'big cattle man' whereas we have learnt that Biff has only done casual work on farms and made hardly any money. Happy also pretends to Miss Forsythe that Biff is a major football player. 

Like Willy, Happy believes in keeping up appearances, relying on a show of friendliness and charm to win over other people and to make them believe he is a huge success, whereas he is really struggling to make his way in the world. Biff eventually rebels against Willy's influence and discards the pretence, but Happy persists in Willy's way of thinking. He states grandly at Willy's funeral that he will take up his father's dream:

It's the only dream you can have  - to be number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I'm gonna win it for him. (Requiem) 

To the end, then, Happy remains deluded as his father was, entertaining vain hopes of wealth, popularity and success, of being 'number-one man'. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Happy Loman is the overshadowed son of Willy Loman. He has lived his entire life under the shadow of his brother Biff who is older, who was successful as a high school football player, and whom Willy vicariously sees as a reflection of his own ego.

Yet, Happy has not been able to make a mark in Willy's life. For this reason, he resorts to making up stories that would please Willy to hear. Happy also likes to ease his mother's afflictions and downplays the tensions of the family. That is his basic role. As a result, it is also Happy who comes up with the idea of inviting Willy to celebrate the so-called business meeting between Biff and Bill Oliver in Act II, Scene 7. In this scene, Happy displays all the evidence the audience needs to conclude that it is Happy, and not Biff, who is the most like Willy Loman.

The first thing that we see is Happy's haughty and semi narcissistic behavior. He sits at the bar charming his way around the room and telling fake stories of his successful career, his many travels, and of his talent to attract women. As he does this, he charms Letta, a woman whom he does not know,  with champagne and flirts with her tremendously. He then calls Biff over and lies even more about Biff's own talents and successes.

This indicates that, like Willy, Happy gives value to superficial things, such as job success, as if they were the most important things in life. Happy's insistence in making himself appear someone that he is not is another deceitful tendency that he inherited form Willy Loman; it is as if, both, Willy and Happy simply cannot go through life being true to themselves and proud of who they really are.

Another demonstration of Willy and Happy's shared system of values, is that none of the men feel any shame in lying to a person's face, per se. Lying is a natural habit to Willy and Happy, and a demonstration of their lack of morals.

Their shallowness extends to their treatment of women, whom they see as objects made to feed their ego, only to deject the later with no remorse. Willy Loman, throughout his lifetime, was particularly needy of the approval of women, even though he was already a married man.

Hence, Miller adds the characters of Letta and Miss Forsythe to prove that very point. The moment Letta enters the play, Happy completely changes his game plan, from caring brother and son, to selfish womanizer. He completely forgets the original purpose of the meeting and, instead, drags Biff out to go out with the girls, leaving Will behind. Like his father, Happy could care less about family time if there is a chance to do something that would make him feel better about himself.

Conclusively, shallowness, selfishness, lies, and lust are the main values that Happy and Willy share in just about every single aspect of their lives.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Willy has a secret that he seems to have kept from himself for a very long time. Or at least it's a secret that he hasn't taken out and looked at very often in the years since he kicked Biff out of the house. Willy was having an affair with a woman up in Boston, and Biff discovered it when he went to the hotel to get his father to help him with his math teacher who had flunked him. This discovery was a singular turning point in the relationship between Willy and Biff and a major turning point in Biff's life as well.

The two women Happy arranges for in Frank's Chop House that last night of Willy's life are a foreshadowing and a deadly trigger for Willy's memory of that night long ago (but oh, so present) in Boston.

And what values of Willy's does Happy exhibit in the restaurant? Happy, like Willy, is a salesman, and he snows the first woman into believing that he sells Champagne and that his brother Biff is a big football star. He's con man, a joker, and a womanizer just like his old man. Nothing serious, I suppose, but more than serious enough for that particular evening.

And don't forget, Biff runs out of the restaurant, and Happy, along with the two women, follows him, leaving Willy, with his past and his regrets, alone on the bathroom floor. Happy, who Willy always favored less than Biff, pays his father back with his own thoughtless disregard.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on