The relationship between father and sons in Death of a Salesman

How is the relationship between father and sons in Death of Salesman?



  Arthur Miller (1915-2005) shows the father-son relationship that causes the collapse of the family in the drama “Death of a Salesman”. Willy Loman is the father character and his sons are Biff and Happy. Their relationship is always changeable in the play.

The relationship between father and sons in Death of a Salesman.

Love and Hate

Biff and Happy are sons of Willy Loman. They loved their father when they were children. Biff was the favorite son of Willy Loman. However, the event which is chiefly responsible for the decline of the relationship is Willy’s illegal affair with a Boston lady. When Biff went to Boston to meet his father, he caught his father red-handed with that Boston lady. After discovering the illegal affair, Biff starts to hate his father that continues until his father’s death.

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Universal concern for the future

Willy Loman is a salesman of the Wagner Company. But he has failed to fulfill the American Dream. He wants that his sons will complete their American dream. Biff and Happy want to succeed by the business that is why they need much money for starting business. The name of the business is Sports’ goods. Biff and Happy go to collect money. At least, they cease to function. For the future security of his sons, Willy Loman takes the decision that he will commit suicide.

After his death, his family will get 20000 dollars from the insurance company. The suicidal decision of Willy Loman proves his concern for the future of his sons. Such anxiety is basically a universal trait of the fathers of this materialistic world.

“The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.”


One-sided love and sacrifice

In the drama, Willy Loman is the paradigm of one-sided love and sacrifice. Willy Loman is now an old man. For the fundamental demand of the family, he has to work. It is normal to get retirement for Willy at the age of 63 because he has two sons who have all grown up but they do not support his father. For this, without any pressure giving on his sons, Willy Loman has been serving the Wagner Company.
At this stage, he has no bounds of suffering because his fixed salary has been abrogated by his running boss Howard Wagner. Because of his poor performance, he now gets commission only on product selling. Though his younger son Happy has a good job, he is careless for his parents. Being exhausted from all sides, Willy decides to commit suicide for the betterment of his sons. How much perfect Miller is to show the responsibility of mature sons. It is the message for all human beings that if parents are not secured perfectly by their sons in old age, they will go astray taking decisions like suicide. The lamentation of a loveable wife has got expressed in the following manner:

“Forgive me, dear. I can’t cry. I don’t know it is, I can’t cry. I don’t understand it. Why did you ever do that?”

Imbalance Love

The relationship between Willy and Happy is not much better because of Willy’s excessive love for Biff. Happy has always taken second place in his father’s affections. Thus, Willy constantly influences a detrimental effect on Happy’s relationship with the whole family.

Absence of respect

Happy and Biff are the son of Willy Loman.  They do not respect their father. Biff would love his father much. He goes to Boston to meet his father. After reaching there, he discovers the illicit love affair of his father. Then, Biff thinks that his father has cheated with his mother. From that moment, Biff started to disrespect his father. For the imbalance of love, Happy doesn’t esteem his father.


By the end of the discussion, it can be asserted that a haphazard relationship between the father and the sons acutely exists in American society. This relationship morally teaches us to be honest and justice in our limitations and responsibilities.

Click here: for all notes of Death of a Salesman 

Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

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