Character of Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Biff is an emotional son of Willy and Linda to whom both the parents look for support and considerate thought. But he is as much a dreamer as his father. He shows bursts of temperamental moodiness in making quick changes in employment. His mind is filled by his father with the idea that handsome appearance guarantees a favorable attitude in the employment market. Biff does not do well in school, wherein the examination he fails in maths. He requests his father to meet the teacher to raise his marks so that he could get admission to a college. They go to Boston for the purpose, but in the hotel room, Biff catches his father with another woman. This proves to be the turning point in their relationship. It leaves Biff disillusioned and bitter about life. He decides not to go for the request for revision of marks. Biff’s bitterness leads him to some tussle in his job under Oliver. He leaves it. But much later promises to go back to him for starting a small business with him as he tells his father. Biff’s fantasies spin the beautiful vision of prosperous enterprises involving his brother and father. There is a peculiar heightened level of expectation of joy in the family as Biff goes to meet Oliver. The two brothers decide to throw a dinner to their father in an expensive restaurant. Curiously, this is the occasion when the shameful exposure of both the father and the son occurs. The audience is treated to the spectacle of a torrid affair of Willy with a woman whom Biff discovers naked in his father’s bed. At the same time, Happy brings three cheap girls to the table and both Biff and he go with them to make a memorable night of it. Linda, their mother, scolds Biff for the act of overlooking his father’s helpless condition, asking him to quit the house. Biff apologizes for it and emotionally breaks down. He appears to be a copy of his father in the way his mind wanders and creates a parallel world of illusions where he feels most protected as well as his love for nature. Along with Happy, he plans to raise a ranch for cattle in some remote place. It is this love of the greenery and vast empty places that creates in him a kind of wanderlust, spending most of his time working in the countryside and on the farms. In his relations with Willy also he displays a variable approach; once full of love and sympathy, the next moment quite angry, quarreling and almost coming to blows. A few times Linda has to intervene to pacify both, but she also knows that it is Biff whom she is going to depend upon for looking after her husband. Happy keeps himself away from the domestic problems, though he is deeply attached to his parents. Biff knows the reality, but the tattered dream is still his safe route to preserve his heart from totally disintegrating. “Pop! I’m a dime a citizen, and so are you !” he says with a clarity that only matches Willy’s realistic remarks about how Howard cannot treat him like dirt. Then Biff says, “We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house !” and then he turns to his father, “Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens ?” The trouble is that Biff himself has allowed his dreams to lead him into a blind-alley, a dead end and he knows it. This is something, we see Blanche du Bois doing in Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire. His fantasies and his delinquent tendencies have prevented his growth in Death of a Salesman. That is perhaps why Biff decides to stay with family and support his mother.