The Importance of Biff?s Role in ?Death of a Salesman?
The play ?Death of a Salesman?, by Arthur Miller, follows the life of Willy Loman, a self-deluded salesman who lives in utter denial, always seeking the ?American Dream,? and constantly falling grossly short of his mark. The member?s of his immediate family, Linda, his wife, and his two sons, Biff and Happy, support his role. Of these supportive figures, Biff?s character holds the most importance, as Biff lies at the center of Willy?s internal conflicts and dreams , and Biff is the only one in the play who seems to achieve any growth. Biff?s role is essential to the play because he generates the focus of Willy?s conflict for the larger part, his own conflict is strongly attributed to Willy, and finally, he is the only character who manages growth or a sense of closure in the play.
Willy is forever plagued by the fact that Biff has not ?gone anywhere in life.? Biff, who is already in his thirties, is still drifting from place to place, job to job, most recently work as a farmhand. Biff is a source of endless frustration for Willy, who always dreams of Biff being incredibly successful in the business world. When Willy has memories of Biff as a boy, he is completely obsessed with whether or not Biff is well-liked; however, he is completely oblivious to things like Biff?s having stolen a football from school, and the fact that Biff is failing his math class. ?Be liked and you will never want,? says Willy(1363). The amount of aggravation generated by Biff?s lack of motivation and desire to be ?successful? makes Biff?s role extremely important
The play also spends quite a bit of time focusing on Biff?s own conflict, which is basically his father. In his youth, he shared his father?s great aspirations for himself. He was captain of the football team, and had plans for college and then a career in business afterwards. Biff was absolutely obsessed with pleasing his father, who was flawless in his eyes. All of this changed, however, when Biff found his father in a Boston hotel room with another woman. After that, Biff ?laid down and died like a hammer hit him ?(1392). Biff had never dreamed for himself, being concerned only with fulfilling his father?s wishes. When Biff realized that Willy was not the great man that he thought he was, his dreams became nothing to him, as had his father. And so, Biff became a drifter, living only on a day to day basis.
Lastly, Biff is the only character who achieves any real growth in the play. Throughout the play Linda has remained static, always steadfastly supporting Willy, and believing he is incapable of flaw. At Willy?s funeral, Happy says, ?I?m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It?s the only dream you can have-to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I?m gonna win it for him?(1415). His father died deluding himself, and apparently Happy is going to do the same. It is only Biff who realizes ?[Willy] had all the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong?The man never knew who he was?(1415). Biff has accepted the fact that he was not meant to be a salesman and must seek another path in life.
Having made these observations, it quickly becomes clear that Biff?s character is as vital to the play as is Willy?s. Without Biff there would be no play. Therefore, Biff?s role in ?Death of a Salesman? is important because he is the focus of Willy?s attention and distress, his own conflict is based on his father, and Biff actually grows at the end of the play, which is important to any story.