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In the discussion forum for this module, you were asked to analyze the dialogue taking place in the Requiem for Death of a Salesman, and you were asked to discuss specifically Biff’s statement about his father, Willie Loman, that Willie “had the wrong dreams” and/or “didn’t know who he was.”
As noted in the “Module Notes,” looking up the definition for “Requiem,” you find it typically is a musical service for the repose of the dead. And as discussed previously, a funeral service usually involves celebrating the life of the deceased. Now as we close our study on Miller’s Death of a Salesman, you are asked to examine why Arthur Miller would pay tribute to the death of Willy Loman (“ low man”).
As we have witnessed in the play, Willy’s character and that of his sons are deeply flawed; however, as we previously have discussed, most humans also are flawed in some way. As a matter of fact, in the previous module, you were asked to discuss how you might relate to some degree with Willy Loman or with one of the other characters in Miller’s play. Now that we have come to the end of the play, and to the end of this module and course, you are asked to take all that you have learned and apply it to a careful, thought-provoking examination of Willie Loman and/or his sons, applying character analysis to argue for a larger purpose or theme related to why the play still speaks to an audience, to you, across time.
As noted earlier in this module, in the final act of Death of a Salesman, while standing at the graveside of his father, Biff tells his brother, Happy, that Biff knows who he is. But does he? Does Happy? By claiming that, finally, Biff knows who he is, Biff sets himself apart from his dead father, Willy Loman, declaring that Willy “never knew who he was.”
Reflecting back on Willy’s actions and dialogue in the play, do you agree or disagree with Biff? Why? What two (2) quotes from Willy Loman’s dialogue in the previous two (2) acts supports your position?
How does Willy’s dilemma in the play relate to his sons?
How does Willy’s dilemma in the play, and Willy’s relationship with his sons, particularly with Biff, relate to a larger theme in the play?
What two (2) quotes from Biff or Happy illustrate a similarity or difference between father and son?
Why is the idea of self-knowledge so important to the play’s conclusion? How might the struggle of the play’s characters with self-knowledge relate to you, to an audience?