Death of a Salesman Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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In Death of a Salesman, assess how Willy is the main character over Biff.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that one has to consider Willy to be the main character in the drama.  Certainly, Biff occupies a central role in the drama.  He experiences the same heartache and loss as his father.  Yet, he comes to an understanding about his father that is only evident after his father has died.  The reality is that the drama is about Willy. The thematic applications of the drama only happen because of Willy and his own condition.  It is Willy who is the central character because it is through him that Biff, and the audience, understands the shortcomings of living a life like the one that Willy has led.  It is one where there is emptiness and a sense of pain, a condition that Willy has to embody in order for the audience to understand both the protagonist's condition and their own.  Biff, like us, is impacted by Willy and his actions, but it is Willy's predicament upon which we place the greater amount of focus.  When Miller observes an audience literally weeping for their own condition that is being rendered on stage, it is because they identify with the sadness of Willy.  The "matrix" that governs him and renders him incapable of happiness is where their focus lies and through this, he becomes the center point of the drama.  It is here where I think that Willy would have to be considered the primary focus of the drama over Biff.

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