Hope and Success of Willy Loman
In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, hope destroys Willy Loman. Willy wants his son, Biff, to succeed and the game at Ebbets Field represents the realization of all Willy’s lost hopes for Biff. The first scene that displays Willy’s hope is at the very beginning of act two. Willy becomes very defensive about Biff’s game when their neighbor, Charley, questions them. Biff also exhibits vicarious success for his father, saying, “I got it, Pop. And remember, pal, when I take off my helmet, that touchdown is for you” (88).
By saying, “that touchdown is for you”, Biff shows that he wants to score a touchdown for the reason of satisfying his dad’s hopes for his sons success rather than score the touchdown for him-self. Wily becomes angry with Charley when he asks about the “big day” and Willy’s wife, Linda, has to calm him down. Charley: You goin’ for a ride? I wanted to shoot some casino. Willy, furiously: Casino! Incredulously: Don’t you realize what today is? Linda: Oh, he knows, Willy. He’s just kidding you.
Willy: That’s nothing to kid about! 88) Charley was not trying to make Willy upset but does so by not knowing that it was one of Biff’s most important days. The special day that the characters are speaking of is Biff’s football game at Ebbets Field. To Willy, this day is important because all his hopes for Biff to be successful and well-liked come down to this game. Everyone will be watching him and he will be recognized which is exactly what Willy wants for his son. The reason Willy wants his son to be successful is because not only does every parent want that for their child but also because Willy was never necessarily “well-liked”.
Willy’s high hopes for Biff are shown when Willy says “This is the greatest day of his life. … They’ll be calling him another Red Grange. Twenty-five thousand a year” (89). “Red Grange” was a college and professional football player who helped make the NFL legitimate. By saying this, Willy means that one day Biff will be as successful and well known as “Red Grange. ” As the play continues, Willy realizes that Biff’s highest point of success in his life was at the Ebbets Field game. While having a conversation with Bernard, he comes to terms with Biff’s reality. “You were his friend, his boyhood friend.
There’s something I don’t understand about it. His life ended after that Ebbets field game. From the age of seventeen nothing good ever happened to him” (92). Willy shows that he stills has hope for his son but that the Ebbets field game was the pinnacle of that at the time. Again, all he wants is for Biff to be successful and does not want him to turn out unrecognized like he is. Willy does not understand how everything football related, which was the method to Biff’s success, just came to an end that day. Willy expresses his feelings to Bernard hoping he would have an answer.
He thought that since Biff and Bernard were friends, Bernard would have an answer as to why Biff is no longer succeeding and why his success has slowed down ever since the football game. The final component that shows Willy’s hopes is the most significant. This is in the final moments of Willy’s life and is still talking about Biff’s success. Willy states excitedly, “Imagine? When the mail comes he’ll be ahead of Bernard again! ” (135). Once again, Willy is showing a sign of hope for Biff because he knows that he will have more money than Bernard which means he is more successful.
His hopefulness is negative though because Willy is too worried about the competition between Biff and Bernard, that when his hopes of Biff being better than Bernard do not come true, he loses it. Seconds before Willy commits suicide, he speaks about the Ebbets field game once more, and it is ironic that he reads it as if he is reading a funeral poem. Willy says, “Now when you kick off, boy, I want a seventy-yard boot, and get right down the field under the ball, and when you hit, hit low and hit hard, because it’s important, boy. There’s all kinds of important people in the stands, and the first thing you know…” (135).
In this specific quote, there is major importance. First of all, Willy is talking to himself but he is acting like he is talking directly to Biff. Also, Willy acts like he is coaching Biff about football in the final moments of his life. The fact that Willy is coaching him at this moment is significant because he never lost hope for Biff until now. Willy has always wanted for his son to be successful and well liked. He knew this game was important to Biff’s future success when he says “There’s all kinds of important people in the tands…” and he tries to express this to Biff but Biff is not actually there.
Ultimately, the hope for Biff to play football and have a successful future and be well liked drives Willy to commit suicide because he now realizes that his hopes are not going to happen and he believes that his suicide will cause Biff to be more successful than his father was. Throughout the entire play, all Willy Loman wanted was for his son to succeed and be recognized. However, this leads Willy to commit suicide because he hopes it will cause Biff to strive to be more successful than his father ever was.