Death of a Salesman Essay
Death of a Salesman
On close examination of the characters of Charley and Bernard, their significance and contributions to the play as a whole become evident. Each character influences and changes the play in a unique way highlighting certain factors about the play, that would otherwise go unnoticed. After establishing the family and their home life, Miller then introduces to us Bernard in act one page 24 “Bernard enters in knickers. He is younger than Biff, earnest and loyal, a worried boy”. Bernard is Charley’s son, an academic child who works hard at school and tries to influence biff into doing the same “Biff, where are you?
You’re supposed to study with me today” (pg25), ” you won’t graduate” (pg25). Willy’s immediate reaction is to mock Bernard showing that perhaps Willy doesn’t place much emphasis on the value of education “what’re you looking so anaemic about? ” (pg25), “don’t be a pest Bernard” (pg25). Instead of placing emphasis on education Willy places more emphasis on being well liked as he makes various references throughout the play “Bernard is not well liked, is he”(pg25), “that’s because he likes you” (pg23), “Charley is not-liked, he’s liked, but he’s not-well liked” (pg23).
It is also apparent that Bernard idolises Biff when they are both young, as on page 69 when Biff is preparing for his big game, Bernard repeatedly asks Biff if he can carry his equipment, illustrating that Bernard wants to be associated with Biff and his big game “Biff I’m carrying your helmet, ain’t I? ” (pg68), “oh Biff you promised me” (pg68). These are the only times we see Bernard as a youngster interacting with the Loman family.
However, this is not all we see of Bernard in the play, as on page 70 Miller reintroduces us to him while he is sat whistling in his father’s office “Bernard now mature sits whistling to himself. Pair of tennis rackets and an overnight bag are on the floor beside him. ” The fact that Miller reintroduces us to Bernard as he is whistling is quite significant as it contradicts what Happy says on page 47 “you don’t raise a guy to a responsible job who whistles”. This is clearly not true as Bernard is now successful and deems nothing wrong with whistling in the business world.
As well as introducing Bernard to us while whistling, Miller draws attention to the two tennis rackets Bernard has with him “a pair of tennis rackets and an overnight bag are on the floor beside him” (pg70) this is important as Bernard now carries his own sports equipment as opposed Biffs. On page 71 Willy is heard getting off the elevator and heading towards Charley’s office. Bernard and Willy’s new relationship is presented to us in a conversation in Charley’s office.
Bernard, now an accomplished lawyer is going to fight an important case in Washington, and is staying with friends who own their own tennis court “I’m going to Washington in a minute”, “I’m staying with a friend who has a court” (pg72). Willy falsely welcomes Bernard’s success and replies, ” His own tennis court, must be fine people, I bet” (pg72). Bernard feels uncomfortable in the presence of Willy’s admiration and so changes the subject “very nice, dad tells me Biffs in town” (pg72).
Willy realises Biff is not doing anything commendable and so again changes the subject “well he’s been doing very big things in the west”, “did I hear your wife had a boy” (pg72). It is through Millers portrayal of Bernard, in his speech, the way he conducts himself and his modesty that we see he resembles what Biff could have been. A success. This also shows Willy’s fathering skills to be erroneous as on page 25 in reference to Bernard; Willy says to his sons, “When he gets out into the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him.
” This is obviously incorrect as neither Biff or Happy are as successful as Bernard. Bernard’s father Charley has an altogether different role in the play. Charley is not introduced to us until page 32 “he is a large man slow of speech, laconic and immoveable”. From when we first meet Charley on page 32,we see little to no change in his attitudes, views or morals with any of the issues raised by Miller in the play. Charley is a very generous man who is proud of his son and what he has accomplished.
Charley is a friend to Willy and lends him money so that he can afford to support his family “how much do you need Willy”(pg76). Charley also tries to help Willy by offering him a job “I am offering you a job”(pg76), however Willy seems to be bitterly ungrateful as he says in response “I don’t want your god dam job”. This reply is in keeping with Charley and Willy’s complex relationship as there is other evidence to support the fact that their relationship is strange “Willy, I know you don’t like me, and nobody can say I’m in love with you”(pg77), however after this Willy says to Charley “you’re the only friend I got”.
As well as being a friend to Willy, Charley is also a father, and can therefore be used as a comparison to Willy’s fathering skills. On hearing of Bernard’s success on page 72, Willy then asks Charley “you never told him what to do, did you? “, “you never took any interest in him” (pg75). To which Charley replies “my salvation is that I never took any interest in anything”. This is the point where Willy’s failure and Charley’s success as a father becomes apparent. This is one of the reasons for Charley’s presence in the play.
However, the other reason for Charley’s presence in the play is far more controversial. It comes on page 76 where Charley agrees to pay Willy’s insurance for him “Here, pay your insurance”, Charley again shouts to Willy as he is leaving “and pay your insurance”, ” did you hear what I said”. It doesn’t become clear till the end of the play when Willly dies that Charley, paying off Willy’s insurance is indeed symbolic to his death and in fact the main contribution Charley gives Death of a salesman.