Explore the ways in which Miller makes this a revealing moment in the play. During this scene (pages 68-69), Bernard and Jenny are alarmed by a strange noise, which is then revealed to be Willy, who has just come to see Howard after being fired. Bernard is asked to see Willy as his father is dealing with some important paper work. Initially Willy is surprised by Bernard’s success, but he asks Bernard of the secret to his and Biff’s success in life.
In order to understand how Miller makes the scene so revealing, I will be looking at the relationship between Willy and Bernard, Willy’s desperation, the staging of the scene, the language used by Willy and any other features. There is a very big contrast in the behaviours of Willy and Bernard. Bernard respects Willy, and even though he is a grown man refers to him as ‘Uncle Willy. ‘ Bernard also cared about the wellbeing and success of Biff, saying ‘how he loved him, ya’know’. Willy in contrast has always disregarded Bernard, saying that when Biff ‘goes out into the business world…
he is going to be five times ahead of him. ‘ However, when Willy [is surprised to see the rackets], this illustrates that he never thought that Bernard could become successful and play a middle class game such as tennis. He realises that what he once believed is wrong. It is moving that Bernard is now ahead of Willy in life and Willy swallows his pride to ask Bernard,’ What’s the secret? ‘ The contrast between Bernard and Willy is very revealing as Willy’s early conceptions are not proved and he resorts to question Bernard about how he made it.
Willy’s desperation becomes apparent in his lies. After he sees Bernard’s success, he is eager to how Bernard how successful Biff is. When Bernard enquires whether Biff is in town, instead of telling him the truth or that Biff is well, Willy begins lying to Bernard about Biff ‘working on a very big deal. ‘ Willy gushes on about ‘Bill Oliver,’ and how Bill Oliver ‘called him [Biff] from the West,’ and ‘wants Biff very badly. ‘ He wants to impress Bernard by showing that he was specially picked to work for a big business.
However in his predicament he begins to contradict himself, by asking Bernard,’ why didn’t he [Biff] ever catch on. ‘ In any form possible, he wants sympathy from Bernard, and when he doesn’t receive the jealousy he wanted from describing Biff’s new venture, he ends up asking Bernard for help. Willy’s desperation is revealing as it displays the lengths that he will go to in order to have people jealous of him and admire him and his sons. The staging is also of great importance. The appearance of Willy triggers a reaction from the characters.
Jenny is ‘distressed’ by his odd behaviour, and she is so anxious that she asks Bernard, a man to go check on what is happening. Bernard describes Willy’s talking as ‘that noise. ‘ Willy is obviously loud and his voice, not even presence alarms the people around him. The entrance of Willy is very revealing, as it shows what the characters think of him really when he is not around. To the audience, it reveals the way in which Willy is perceived and why his bosses may have fired him.
It also shows another way in which women are portrayed in the book as minor, but rather fragile characters. The language Willy uses is the most interesting, and the most varied throughout the scene. Irony is used in the beginning, when Willy asks Jenny whether she is ‘still honest’. It is slightly hypocritical that Willy has lied throughout the play, many times and still he asks people whether they are still telling the truth. The pace of the dialogue is very quick, when Willy is lying.
Willy is gushing with all these statements, so much that that he keeps tripping over his words and has to keep stopping himself. ‘Bill Oliver- very big sporting goods man- he wants Biff very badly. ‘ This illustrates the energy and fast pace that Willy’s talking at, as he is eager to impress Bernard. The repetition of the words ‘very’ occurs many times towards the end of the passage. Willy puts ‘very’ infront of the words ‘good’ and ‘badly’. He wants to emphasise the points he has just made to Bernard, but it is very simple and not very hyperbolic.
Willy’s repetitions highlights that he is trying to find words to impress Bernard, but he is not very convincing as he cannot emphasise the importance of Bill Oliver, so much so that he eventually gives up in trying to persuade Bernard. The repetition is revealing as it shows Willy’s state of mind, and the lengths he will go to just to disprove his earlier theories about Bernard not being successful. There are many other features of the story. Willy breaks down towards the end of the scene but the scene comes back to an abrupt climax at the end.
Willy is in insistent that Biff has trained himself, he repeats, ‘But he did, he did. ‘ It is like a toddler’s tantrum the way he uses little phrases often. At the end of the scene Willy says that the teacher who he describes as a ‘son-of-a-bitch’ ruined his life. He contradicts himself by saying that Biff ‘caught on’ and has succeeded and then a couple of lines later he is blaming the teacher for Biff’s downfall. In conclusion, I believe that the relationship between Willy and Bernard and possibly, Willy’s desperation make the scene so revealing.