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Death of a Salesman

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Submitted By mfrank
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Mitch Frank
Death of a Salesman 1. Biff is in identity diffusion at the earliest point of his life, during the play. Biff has not yet experienced any identity crisis yet. To this point he has always been the popular jock who gets all of the girls. He has had everything handed to him on a silver platter, and has never had to work at anything besides football. Biff has not explored any alternatives to his identity because he hasn’t had to, who wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when they are his age? He has obviously not thought about occupational interests because he does not care about his grades in high school, which lead to getting into a good college, which leads to getting a good job. Right now Biff is only concerned about football and girls.

2. Biff’s identity as an adolescent was the typical jock, popular guy as explained in the earlier question. Biff very obviously went through identity diffusion as he was in his adolescence. Biff had dreams of potential scholarships to play football, which is what he was concerned about. He thought because of was good at football and having a good chance of getting a scholarship to good schools he thought that he would be given passing grades in high school. Biff failed math during the last semester of his senior year, thus resulting in not having enough credits to graduate. Then found that Willy had been unfaithful, which caused him to lose all faith in Willy. Biff then fell into identity foreclosure. Biff had committed to becoming a business man like Willy. Biff had to experience in anything else, because he had never had to work in his life, so he had a choice that was highly influenced from Willy. It did not take long for Biff to realize that this was not what he wanted to do so he moved out west to work with his hands. Biff then moved to identity moratorium, this is when he had an identity crisis. He knew he was not made for the business world and had to make a change. After seeing what Willy did and was apart of when on the road, Biff had a very strong dislike for the business world. Biff needed to experience different roles to really find out what he wanted to do.

3. I would most definitely say that Biff is in identity achieved status at the end of the play. Biff has explored many different roles throughout the fourteen years that the play fallows. He tried to be a businessman, didn’t like that after his father showed him a side of the life that he did not find amusing, he then moved out west to try and find something that would suit him. This is where he found that he wanted to work with his hands, outside where he can live freely. The moment where this became a reality to Biff is at the end of the play where he breaks down in Willy’s arms and tells him to let go of his dreams of Biff becoming a businessman. Biff finally knew what he wanted to do with his life and he needed his father to understand that. Willy was the one person that was holding Biff back from what he wanted to do, and Biff needed Willy to know what was going to finally happen and why.

4. Willy shows evidence of being in both generatively vs. stagnation and also integrity vs. despair. I would not say that Willy is actively involved in raising his children because he is gone a lot because of work, but he is very active in his children’s success. He wants his children to succeed and will do just about anything for them to have success. Willy does become so involved in Biff’s football career that he didn’t pay attention to his grades in high school. Willy would eventually ignore all warning signs that resulted in Biff failing out of high school and eventually becoming a failure up to this point. Willy also fell into the integrity vs. despair stage in his later life. Toward the end of the play and his life Willy had lost all of his integrity. Most of this was due to mental illness, but some also fell onto the shoulders of Willy himself when it came to his mistress, and his business ethics. Willy was so obsessed with the past that it literally drove him to his death. Willy couldn’t get over the mistakes that he made as a husband, father, and salesman. Willy was so bitter and jealous that he wouldn’t take a job from his friend, which he desperately needed. I believe the downward spiral started when Biff found out about Willy’s mistress, and Willy just could not recover from that dramatic event.

5. Willy does a terrible job at resolving these conflicts. First of all, Willy ignores the warning of Bernard when he tells Willy and Biff that Biff is going to fail math if he does not study. This mistake would eventually ruin Willy’s life, because if it wasn’t for Biff failing math he would have never went to Boston, and would never find Will’s mistress. When Biff found out that Willy was unfaithful, Willy handled it very poorly, first of all lying to Biff saying she was a buyer and her room was being painted, and then knowing that Biff knew what was going on he decided to say that he was lonely and he needed company which made things even worse. Toward the end when Willy’s friend offered him a job he trashed his office after he had just gotten fired, Willy needed to suck up his pride and accept the job that was offered to him. Willy had just lost all control of his life and handled it as poorly as possible.

6. Dialectical theory played an obvious role in the relationship conflicts of Willy and Biff. Willy and Biff were very close before Willy’s mistress was revealed. Biff thought he knew who Willy was and what he stood for, when he found out who the real Willy was; he didn’t know how to react. Everything that Biff saw that day was everything that he was against. The thought of Willy being with other women made Biff sick to his stomach and he didn’t know how to react other than pure hatred toward Willy. Willy was just plain mad that Biff caught him at his worst and now knows who he really is, and Biff was just plain mad that his father would do that to his mother. Each man realized that they were different and they viewed life in very different ways.

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