Saturday, August 6, 2011

death of a salesman

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The Loman’s Prototype of a Dysfunctional Family


Children learn from the environment adults create, whether children believe they are strong of weak, smart or stupid, largely depends on the signals they get from their parents. In the opening of Act I, a spectator can grasp that the relationship between Willy and Linda is bitter and ill tempered. As a result, their two sons Biff and Happy are mischievous. Because the Loman’s are a dysfunctional family, throughout the play they show bad behaviors.


Early in Act I when Linda asked what happened upon his return from the trip, Willy disrespected her by saying, “I said nothing happened. Didn’t you hear me?” (1878). Linda does show sympathy towards Willy, although, Willy is compassionless. The respect Willy gets from Linda is contemptible. However, Linda does not respect everyone equally. Because Biff and Happy are not a great concern as Willy, Linda treats the boys differently. “What is he doing out there? [To Linda]...Sh! [To Biff].” Furthermore, Happy and Biff also show ruthless behavior. The respect Biff and Happy have toward women is downright intolerable. “Remember that big Betsy something--what the hell was her name--over on Bushwick Avenue?” (188). At this moment Biff reminds Happy of his first sexual experience with a woman whom they virtually forgot. Happy’s main goals in life are to make money and sleep with many women. As a matter of fact, Happy obtained this attitude from Willy, who cheated on Linda.


In addition, the parents have no concern about Biff and Happy’s principles. Because Biff and Happy were not taught the lessons to be successful, they are back at home in their early thirties. “Funny, Biff, y’know? Us sleeping in here again? The old beds. All the talk that went across those two beds, huh? Our whole lives” (188). The fact that the boys are back at home informs the reader that both Biff and Happy turned out failures in life. Granted, Willy desired Biff to become a professional football player. However, Willy’s infidelity altered Biff’s life and his admiration towards him. Biff would have been a sensation if it had not been for Willy’s affair. Granted, Willy Loman has lived for his sons, yet the sons, in their different ways, reject him (Bloom 11).


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Happy, who never received the attention from his parents, turned out pitiless. He is self-centered, plus, he does not want to earn things in life. All I can do now is wait for the merchandise manager to die... (1884). If he wants to be the merchandise manager, he should be respectful and earn the position. This scene shows the cruel side of Happy. But then, its what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still goddammit, Im lonely (1884). Happy should settle down and get married to a women he could respect, instead of fooling around with whores.


Happy is presumably the most immature character in the play. Happy was acting like a little kid when Willy bought a punching bag for the boys. “I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop?” (1888). After playing with the punching bag for only a few minutes, he makes a ludicrous statement of losing weight. Because Willy does not care if Happy is losing weight he responds, “Jumping rope is good too” (1888), while he continues to speak with Biff. Since Happy was never the number one son, he was frequently disregarded. This was not good for the parents to do; therefore the Lomans turned out dysfunctional.


Biffs constant stealing makes him look foolish. This is just one of many mindless things that he does. I wonder if Oliver still thinks I stole that carton of basketballs (1886). Biff wants to go back to Bill Oliver to ask for some money in order to buy a beautiful ranch. One similarity the two brothers share is that they do not want to earn things. Another point when Biff steals when he said he borrowed a football. That so? And he gave you the ball, heh? [To Biff]...Well I borrowed it from the locker room [To Willy] (1888). Later in Act II, Biff inconsiderately stole a fountain pen, again from Bill Oliver. Similar to their names, Biff and Happy are immature and silly.


Moreover, Biff is incredibly insecure. Because Biff gets in trouble many times and hasn’t settled down, he has had to move from job to job. Hap, Ive had twenty or thirty different kinds of jobs since I left home before the war, and it always turns out the same (1884). Biff realizes that he is dysfunctional with his life when he visits his parents. And now, I get here, and I dont know what to do with myself. Ive always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all Ive done is to waste my life (1884). Since the Lomans do not bring out the truth, communication is one of the major problems that they have. “You know why I had no address for three months? I stole a suit in Kansas City and I was in jail” (14). Biff tells the truth to his family, when they believed that he had no address for three months. Instead of telling the truth from the beginning Biff creates bigger problems in the future.


The men in the play believe that physical strength is more important than scholar development. Happy states, “I can outbox, outrun, and outlift anybody in the store, and I have to take orders from those common, petty sons-of-bitches till I can’t stand it any more” (1885). Although he works at a respectable job, he does not have the best job position. The family supposes that appearance is more important in becoming successful that aptitude. “Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead” (180). On the contrary, Biff has a bad job, Willy makes a living out of Charley’s money, and Happy cannot wait until the merchandise manager dies in order to obtain a better position. Willy states, “That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises” (180). Even though the men are physically built, they are not building high grounds in the business world. Willy states that Biff and Happy will be “five times ahead of him [Bernard]” (181). While Biff and Happy are at home living with their parents, Bernard is going to Washington to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court.


Ever since the boy’s adolescent years, Willy has been setting wrong dysfunctional examples. All Willy cares is for Biff to have a good future, even if he has to cheat his way to the top. Bernard tells Biff, “...I heard Mr. Birnbaum say that if you don’t start studyin’ math he’s gonna flunk you, and you won’t graduate, I heard him!” (188). Willy tells Bernard, “You’ll give him the answers!” (18). When Biff was telling Willy to speak to Mr. Birnbaum to pass him in math, Biff saw another lady in Willy’s hotel room. Because of Willy’s infidelity, Biff gave up on Willy’s dream and lived a miserable life. Biff tells Willy, “You fake! You phony little fake!” (17). Granted, Biff does love Linda very much because he let his whole life go by when Willy cheated on her.


Continuing, most of the bad characteristics that Happy acquires are from Willy. Happy has obtained disrespect for women from Willy, which Willy believes is not important. Considering that Happy seduces many women, he has no respect for them because he cannot take them seriously. Even though Happy has had plenty women, he has not found a woman he could marry. Happy tells Biff, “But then, it’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I’m lonely” (1884). Moreover, Willy taught Happy that physical appearance is more influential than talent. After receiving a punching bag, Happy immediately says, “I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop?” Because of this bad example, Happy has turned out to be a failure. Willy is has all the wrong characteristics, but he “is a virtuous man; that is to say, he wins virtue, in a moment released from the boundaries of time and causality” (Bloom 6). Although, Willy Loman does not look at the positive side; he lacks


Willy gives the reader the impression that he does not care if the kids get in trouble or steal. When Charley tells Willy, “Listen, if they steal any more from the building the watchman’ll put the cops on them!” (18), Willy interrupts Linda when she was on the verge of telling Willy not to let Biff steal. Instead Willy states, “You shoulda seen the lumber they brought home last week. At least six-by-tens worth all kinds of money” (18). Because of this bad example that Biff picked up from Willy, he later pockets Oliver’s fountain pen. Stealing is a symbol of bad luck for Biff, plus, why his life is dysfunctional.


When a parent dies, part of the family breaks. Willy is wrong to commit suicide but did it for the integrity of his family, but more importantly, he leaves on a crabby note. The family knew for quite a time that Willy was trying to commit suicide, but they naively ignored talking to Willy. It was wrong for the family not to confront Willy. Is its because they had put up with Willy enough, and did not care for him? Linda knew that she would be the only one who will show concern when Willy would pass away because the kids would have left. Because the Loman’s were a family that made mistakes from the beginning, they did not care to fix them.


Given that Linda respects Willy consistently, she is unfair to Biff and Happy. Even when she is trying to help Willy, he is despicable to her. When Linda tells Willy, “Take an aspirin. Should I get you and aspirin? It’ll soothe you” (187), Willy ignores Linda and keeps talking about his driving experience. Willy acts like a child and should not receive the respect he is getting. Even though Linda is loyal to Willy, she is still a bad parent because she treats the kids unfairly.


Another characteristic that fits the Lomans as a dysfunctional family is their constant lying. At Frank’s Chop Hose, Happy flirts with a girl and lies to get her to like him. Happy tells Miss Forsythe, “Biff is quarterback with the New York Giants” (17). Happy is insulting himself when he praises Biff because he cannot find anything good to say about him. This puts Happy in jeopardy of getting Miss Forsyhte. The most ruthless event that happens in the play is when Happy denies that Willy is his father. Happy has just met two girls at Frank’s Chop House for Biff and himself. When Miss Forsyhte, one of the two girls, finds Willy’s temper unpleasing, Happy tells the girls, “No, that’s not my father. He’s just a guy” (14). This undeserving remark towards Willy shows how far Happy would go to get a girl.


Happy again shows his evil side when he abandons Willy at Frank’s Chop House. Willy had been anxious to have dinner with his sons, yet he does not even get the chance to talk with them peacefully. “Come on, we’ll catch Biff, and, honey, we’re going to paint this town! Stanley, where’s the check? Hey, Stanley!” (14). Willy had been heartbroken when he found out that his boys left with the “chippies,” and also when he tells Stanley, “But we were supposed to have dinner together” (17). This scene, where he left his father alone at the restaurant, was one of the major reasons why Willy committed suicide.


The play ends in a very sad note considering that the house had all been paid, but Willy did not have the chance to enjoy it. For thirty-five years he had been paying rent, and when it had all been paid no one was there. Everyone had something to do with Willy’s suicide death, but Willy was to blame the most because he could have controlled himself. Biff was also to blame because he unleashed his fathers dream. Happy showed no concern for Willy when he abandoned him at the restaurant. Linda was nice and quiet towards Willy, when she could of been more rigorous. Because every one of the characters showed bad traits, they are a dysfunctional family. At Willy’s funeral no one but the family and Charley showed up. No buyer or associates bothered to pay their respect for Willy because he had been unsuccessful all his life.





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