Death of a Salesman

by: Arthur Miller

Happy Loman

I gotta show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade. I want to walk into the store the way he walks in. Then I’ll go with you, Biff. We’ll be together yet, I swear. But take those two we had tonight. Now weren’t they gorgeous creatures?

Happy and Biff have been fantasizing about buying a ranch out West. Now, however, Happy explains to Biff why he wants to stay at his job. Happy’s ambitions echo those of his father—they both need to prove themselves to other people. But Happy is more shallow than Willy. Happy is after women and good times, not home and family, a perhaps twisted version of Willy’s American Dream.

[HAPPY:] Wait a minute! I got an idea. I got a feasible idea. Come here, Biff, let’s talk this over now, let’s talk some sense here. When I was down in Florida last time, I thought of a great idea to sell sporting goods. It just came back to me. You and, Biff—we have a line, the Loman Line. We train a couple of weeks, and put on a couple of exhibitions, see? WILLY: That’s an idea!

Happy describes to Biff a fantasy scenario about their future. Their parents, Willy and Linda, are also part of the conversation. Happy’s enthusiasm is intended to motivate Biff and cheer up Willy, and Happy’s false optimism is so convincing that Willy eagerly gets caught up in the hype. Like Willy, Happy deceives himself with his own wishful thinking.

You leave the house tomorrow and come back at night and say Oliver is thinking it over. And he thinks it over for a couple of weeks, and gradually it fades away and nobody’s the worse.

Biff’s job interview has gone nowhere, and Happy is advising Biff about the best way to break this bad news to their father. Happy, who has lived with Willy far longer than Biff has, knows how to predict and handle Willy’s reactions. Like Willy, Happy accepts lying as normal, even virtuous behavior, as long as it meets a need.

No, that’s not my father. He’s just a guy. Come on, we’ll catch Biff and, honey, we’re going to paint this town! Stanley, where’s the check? Hey, Stanley!

Happy is speaking to one of the girls he and Biff have picked up in the restaurant. Willy, still suffering from being fired, has collapsed in the restroom. Biff has already rushed out, unable even to look at his father. Now Happy walks away from the problem of Willy in favor of a good time. Happy’s denial of his father is an extreme act of betrayal, given biblical proportions by echoing Peter’s denial of Jesus.

Indignantly, but laughing: Like I’m not supposed to take bribes. Manufacturers offer me a hundred-dollar bill now and then to throw an order their way. You know how honest I am, but it’s like this girl, see. I hate myself for it. Because I don’t want the girl, and still I take it and—I love it!,

Happy and Biff Loman are in their old bedroom, sharing confidences as they did when they were boys. Happy is explaining that he is rather proud of his own selfishness. He lives for instant gratification, apparently oblivious to the consequences of his actions, which could actually end his career. Happy’s actions are a corruption of his father Willy’s values, but his self-aggrandizing outlook is a clear echo of them as well.