What assigned role does Biff play in the Loman family? What roles are played by Happy? Linda? Willy? Is Biff exaggerating when he claims, ” We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house” What does he mean? In every family unit or household there are roles that each members have to play. These are there so that each person knows what is expected of them and what to expect from other people. They can be basic roles such as the housework, for example one of a housewife’s roles would be to keep the house clean.
Or they can be less obvious, for example always being available to offer emotional support and being a friendly shoulder to cry on. These varied roles within a group of people can be recognised and discussed by the members, overt, or it can be that the members themselves don’t even realise they exist or that any of these roles are assigned to them within the family group, covert. The roles that each member plays can be dependant on several things, for instance age, experience, sex or even the job that they do. Over time these have changed. In past the roles were rigid and ascribed.
Women were expected to be housewives and mothers and men to be the breadwinners being able to support their family financially. Nowadays these set roles have become more blurred and conjugal roles in particular are often joint. However in the 1950’s we have to remember that the roles within the family were somewhat archaic and traditional compared to today’s society. Biff has several roles like all the members of the Loman family. As an elder brother to Happy he offers him advice and help. The two of them get on very well and have a good relationship. We see this at the start of Act I when the two boys are in their bedroom.
They talk candidly and with ease sharing a laugh and joke. They have grown up together and Biff has always supported his brother and helped him out, we learn this from when Biff set Happy up with a girl for his first time. He is a good brother to Happy. Biff’s other roles in the family are mostly all set by Willy his father. As the eldest son Willy has put enormous pressure on Biff to succeed in life and grow up to be a wealthy man with a good family of his own. Willy’s strong belief in the American Dream and that success in the business world is everything in life has meant that Biff has never really had a say in his future.
His role as Willy sees it is to fulfil his potential and make a success of his life. Something that Willy himself has never done and perhaps it is this failure and denial that leads him to designate Biff his major role in the family. When Biff fails to achieve this high level of success after being put up on a pedestal when young Willy finds it hard to take. This leads to him having flashbacks and whenever things get slightly uneasy he disappears into the past. However his memories of the past are not true to the actual events.
He uses his selective memory to give him this dream world of lies and fabrications to escape the harshness of reality and the truth. This is why Biff at the end of the play when he confronts Willy says, “We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house. ” To an extent he was correct so far that Willy never really faced up to the truth of his poor job and the fact that Biff was never the “Adonis” that he made him out to be. Willy himself has certain ideas as to what his roles should be within the family and brings up his children and treats Linda as he sees fit. This is not necessarily the best way for the people involved.
Willy has adopted the traditional role at the head of the 1950’s household as the male breadwinner. He believes it should be up to him to support his children and wife financially. He manages to bring up Biff and Happy with few financial problems however he is never comfortable and sums up the situation well in the first part of Act II, “Once in my life I would like to own something outright before its broken! I’m always in a race with the junkyard! “. As the play unfolds we find out that Willy’s financial situation has become worse and worse over the last few years.