Essay, Research Paper: Death Of Salesman


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All of the characters in the performance “Death of a Salesman” have special
traits that are indicative of their personality and literary purpose in the
piece. Each serves a particular purpose and symbolizes distinct goals,
functions, or qualities. One by one, the author places every character in a
specific location to contrast, or emphasize another character’s shortcomings,
mistakes, or areas of strength. For example, an author might place the drama’s
antagonist in many scenes with the protagonist. This not only creates the plot,
but also makes the plot easier to understand. In the same way, Bernard, a
character in “Death of a Salesman”, is placed next to Biff, the
protagonist’s son. Biff, is lost in a world created by his dazed father, who
instills in him a set of false values, and eventually becomes a failure in his
early age. In spite of the fact that Bernard admires Biff and believes he is
able to help him prosper, Biff is unable to listen. Bernard also interacts with
the protagonist himself, again showing the same traits that are indicative of
his character. Bernard, who is a successful student and later a successful
attorney, is opposite the characteristics Biff is taught makes a man great. Our
first example of Bernard's character is his interaction with Biff is in Act I,
when the reader infers Bernard is tutoring Biff: “Biff, Listen 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!" These initial statements, spoken by
Bernard, are indicative to the reader of how helpful he tries to be to Biff. He
is among the only characters with a sense of reality; the only character that
tries to help Biff take concrete, analytical steps to helping him succeed. He
understands the consequences of Biff’s actions, and tries to dissuade his
directionless ambition towards a more solid goal. “He’s gotta study Uncle
Willy. He’s got regents next week.” “Just because he printed University of
Virginia on his sneakers doesn’t mean they’ve got to graduate him, Uncle
Willy.” Once again, this illustrates Bernard is the one of the only characters
in tune with reality. He cares for Biff and wants to see him graduate. This is
why he is constantly pushing Biff to complete his work. As Bernard matures, he
continues his modest, responsible attitude towards life. The protagonist himself
is confronted with Bernard’s character, and comes to terms with the sudden
insight his son is no where near as well off as Bernard, even though they were
initially given the same opportunities. Now, the reader infers Bernard is an
attorney: “Oh, just a case I've got there, [Washington] Willy.” When Bernard
describes his Supreme Court case as “just a case”, the reader sees how
admirably modest he is. He has become a great man, as inferred from his lines,
without being well liked or extremely handsome. He is a developed
gentleman,which the protagonists admires, and confides in Bernard asking him
where did his son miscarry. “But sometimes, Willy, it’s better for a man
just to walk away.” In this last line of advice, given by an adult Bernard to
Willy, the protagonist, the reader sees his basic foundation of caring for
another person is not destroyed: he still means for the best in what he does and
says. He is concerned for the needs of both the protagonist and his son, and
proves this by telling Willy to continue with his life and let his son find his
own path. In conclusion, the character traits of the players in “Death of a
Salesman are evident. It is also apparent that they are placed juxtapositionally
with each other to highlight the other’s features. The characters’
indicative qualities are what makes animates the plot, and makes for a vibrant
literary piece.
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