In Death of a Salesman, how are Willy and Biff's explanations different for Biff's failure to succeed in the business world?

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Biff becomes disillusioned when he discovers Willy's infidelity. After the football season ends and Biff fails his math class, he goes to Willy for help and discovers his father with a strange woman. This is the end of Biff's idealism.

"His life ended after that Ebbets Field game. From the...

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Biff becomes disillusioned when he discovers Willy's infidelity. After the football season ends and Biff fails his math class, he goes to Willy for help and discovers his father with a strange woman. This is the end of Biff's idealism.

"His life ended after that Ebbets Field game. From the age of seventeen nothing good ever happened to him.”

This is one of his excuses early on for his failure. However, by the end of the play, Biff has come to see himself clearly, turning away from the fantasy that he is a man of great potential. His exaggerated view of himself, Biff realizes, was part of his failure as well. 

"We’ve been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk.”

Willy understands but denies Biff's initial excuse for failure, relating to Willy's infidelity in Boston. Willy also refuses to accept Biff's new view of himself, continuing to insist on the "dream" of Biff as a charming young man full of great potential. If this was once true, it is no longer so. This tenacious attachment to fantasy is one of Willy's most salient characteristics and one of his most thorough weaknesses.

Willy prefers to look at Biff's failure to pass his math class as the reason for his larger failures to find a foothold professionally.

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I would only add two things to the first post which covers it pretty well.  Willie has always needed Biff to succeed, particularly after the Boston incident, because Willie thinks that Biff is falling apart because of Willie's "affair."  He needs Biff to succeed in spit of what he has learned about his father, almost as an act of forgiveness.  Biff's learned that his Dad is human; this is a difficult thing for any son to learn about his father.  However Biff had failed because he believed the same dream that Willie believed ... that the cult of personality was what really counted in this world, not performance; that he would be passed in algebra rather than pass it himself.

I also don't know that Willie consciously decides that he can no longer live a life of illusion; I'm not sure that Willie ever achieved that level of self-awareness.  He had been thinking of/trying to kill himself over time because he was a failure, and he had learned the horrible lesson that a man IS a piece of fruit; that you can eat the fruit and throw away the peel.  Who knows if Willie was ever a good salesmen; the evidence seems to indicate that he was not.  And perhaps more important than work, he had failed his son because Biff was never the same after Boston. It's not far from realizing that you're a peel to a total sense of hopelessness.

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Willy does not understand why Biff has not tried to be "successful" and he is living in his own fantasy world, so Willy was not going to be capable of ever truly understanding why Biff was a "failure."  Biff, in my opinion, was never a success not because of the expectations that his father had for him, but because he simply didn't have it in him to be successful; unlike the last response, I do not believe Biff would ever succeed.  He was rather lazy, in my opinion, and never really tried to be successful or motivated.  Even though he realized the dream world Willy was living in, Biff never really tried to help his father.  He just let things be.  

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Willy thinks Biff fails so often simply to spite or anger Willy. However, Biff is much more realistic than his father and eventually rejects his father's life, which is based on illusion. Realizing that he cannot gloss over some mistakes of his past, Biff answers his father by saying, "I'm no good, can't you see what I am?" Unfortunately, all Willy can see is the old Biff, a high school football star, and not a young man desperately trying to sort out his life. In the end, Willy can no longer live a life based simply on illusion and kills himself. However, Biff's rejection of his father's philosophy suggests that Biff will probably become a productive citizen who can live in a realistic world.

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