Is the primary theme of Death of Salesman the conflict between father and son and between first-born son and second born sons? Support your opinion.I know the main primary theme of the book is not...

Is the primary theme of Death of Salesman the conflict between father and son and between first-born son and second born sons? Support your opinion.

I know the main primary theme of the book is not about the conflict betwwen father and son and between first-born son and second born sons, but how can I prove it? How can I connect the real theme with the topic?

Expert Answers
sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is certainly support for the themes you mentioned.  The relationship between Willy and Biff is fraught with tension.  Father and sons often have different life views; Miller exemplifies this in the play.  Biff starts out life holding true to Willy's vision of the American Dream - he is a good-looking football star, and believes that this is enough.  However, when his respect for his father is shattered (because of Willy's affair), his respect for this dream is also shattered.  Then, after failing math, Biff loses focus.  He is no longer naive enough to believe his athletic ability and looks will bring him success in life, but he doesn't quite know how to succeed.  He stumbles and struggles, all the while disappointing Willy.  The two begin to resent each other.  Biff resents Willy for disillusioning him and placing undue pressure on him; Willy resents Biff for not living up to the legacy that Willy envisioned.  The root of this is Willy's adherence to the American Dream.

Historically, in America and throughout the world, first-born sons have received advantages not available to younger sons.  Miller shows how Willy schemes and plans for the success of Biff, while Happy is mostly ignored.  This creates tension between Biff and Happy, because Happy is always seeking for the attnetion and approval that Biff doesn't want to have.

 

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Death of a Salesman

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