coveted “good life” will follow. So goes the narrative of the American Dream, once thought to be a
universal truth. However, that dream is dead, and, if Arthur Miller is to be believed in the Death of a
Salesman, it has been for the better part of a century. The only character to show any semblance of
recognizing this new truth, then, is Biff Loman. While his family remains stagnant, Biff’s experiences
shape a man of much simpler aspirations than his father, a dreamer as frail of mind as he is strong of
body. His surroundings in an ever encroaching city foster a sense of hopelessness, and a false safety
in the traditional American Dream. Midway through his life, Biff’s trust and happiness are broken in
Boston. Only when Willy is removed from his life does Biff remove himself from his surroundings.
From an early age, Biff’s experiences and personality are shaped by the environment he was
raised in. Raised in the earlier half of the twentieth century, now-dated notions of masculinity permeate
his childhood. Men were to be big and strong, the breadwinners, who ran the city ragged in pursuit
of fortune. This is best exemplified by Willy’s fervent encouragement of Biff’s football, to the point
where his academic potential is squandered, even in light of a generous athletic scholarship offer from
UVA. Meanwhile, the sprawling city of New York encroaches upon the Loman home. Between the two,
Biff finds himself choking in the smog of a dreamscape, where none of the dreams are his own. He is
reduced to trusting those who have seemingly achieved their dreams. Like him, the audience, Miller
posits, has been raised to believe in a dream that is largely dead, forced onto its track, believing it to be
the road to success.
However, in the middle of his thirty-some years, Biff’s personal development grinds to a sudden
halt. The confines of his home have made Biff resistant to change and childish. Negative experiences
with change further hinder Biff, eventually convincing him the only way through life is adherence to
the safe and familiar, such as the false safety of the Loman home. One such instance is Biff’s ill-fated
trip to Boston, where he encounters The Woman in his father’s hotel while seeking his help. Biff further
declines, pursuing a dream he does not truly want, in hopes of salvaging his relationship with his father.
The Biff the audience sees, broken and seemingly harmed each time he deviates from his father’s
dreams and wishes, is comparable to their society, which crushes them if they try to escape their
prescribed “dream”, and works them to death if they follow it.
The last stage of Biff’s growth takes place only within the last few moments of the play.