A writer uses different characters to evolve a story and convey his idea through their personality. Without characters and their development, the story cannot progress. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman has characters that have become icons of themes and ideas they represent. Some of the major characters of Death of a Salesman have been analyzed below.
Characters in Death of a Salesman
Willy Loman is a major character and the protagonist of the play, Death of a Salesman. He is the husband of Linda, father of Happy and Biff and brother of Ben. He works as a traveling salesman in the region of New England. A lively old man, Willy Loman is full of aspirations to excel in his career. In fact, he is chasing his American dream of having wealth and freedom to enjoy it with his family. He wants his family to live in luxury but his hard work does not pay off, and his sons do not become serious in adopting a good career or succeeding in life. He, therefore, daydreams. However, the tragic fact is that his children never understood him despite his wife’s efforts to make Happy and Biff realize their father’s situation. Finally, seeing failures in his life, he commits suicide.
Son of Willy and Linda, Biff is a failure in his career. Despite being a star athlete during his school years and winning a scholarship, he could not graduate from the college. After finding his father flirting with a woman of Boston, he becomes disillusioned and leaves studies. Willy wishes him to become a businessman, but he wavers in his resolve to become a business tycoon and flees to the west to work on ranches. He tries to win some success to show the evidence to his father. In the end, he admits to his father that he wants to be a normal young man and lead a simple life.
Linda is a faithful wife of Willy Loman, a failed salesman and is a realist. She also supports her husband’s dreams of success and prosperity in the future and stands by her husband until the end. She rebukes Biff for not working to support his father. She is also very loving to Willy despite his demeaning behavior toward her. She is also very understanding in that she realizes that Willy’s hallucinations are symbols of his declining psychological state of mind. She immediately senses that he is going to commit suicide and asks Biff to help his father. Overall, she has resigned to her fate despite her efforts to make her sons emotionally support Willy. That is why she tells her son, Biff, that if he does not have any feeling for his father, then she does not have any feelings for him.
Happy or Hap is the youngest of the two sons of the Loman family. He is working as an assistant manager in a store. Most of these activities besides jobs include finding girls and running after them. Although he has a good career, his father does not think it is right. The major drawback of his character is that he has no self-control, for he is a confirmed womanizer despite his claims that “I don’t want the girl” and admits that he cannot avoid it. His presentation of the bouquet to his mother shows that he loves his mother and becomes upset after his father dies.
Charley is Willy’s neighbor and father of Bernard. Both father and son are very successful in earning money. Willy often visits Charley to borrow money for his bills. Although Willy terms his children very successful, he is jealous of the financial success of Charley and his son. Charley seems quite satisfied with his life and son.
The son of Charley, the neighbor of Willy Loman, Bernard is a serious young man with the bright prospectus. He is not only hardworking but also very intelligent. However, somehow Willy does not see his bright future due to Bernard’s non-gregarious personality unlike his own sons, Hap and Biffy. However, his preparation for a case to argue in the Supreme Court belies this belief of Willy. In a way, Willy is jealous of his father and Bernard.
Elder brother of Willy, Ben left his brother several years back when he was quite young. He left to find his father but went to Africa and returned with gold mines in his coffer. He has returned as a wealthy man. Although he had died weeks before the incident staged in the play, he becomes a model for Willy to pursue. He often dreams about Ben having an umbrella and a valise in his hands. Willy hopes to follow his brother but gets frustrated over his failure.
A young man of thirty-six years, Howard Wagner is an epitome of the capitalistic owner who stays cold despite his employees going to dogs. His father has been Willy’s boss, and after his death, he has become his boss. When young Wagner sees Willy losing his mind, he sacks him. He displays his prowess of technology by playing with wire recorder when Willy meets him.
The Anonymous Woman
This anonymous character has an affair with Willy Loman that Biff finds. She lives in Boston and works in a company as an assistant. She says that Willy has promised her but does not disclose that. Biff becomes frustrated after finding clues to this affair of his father.
She is an attractive young lady and one of the young women who meet Happy. She appears in the play at the restaurant and flirts with him. It is likely that the girls were prostitutes looking for money.