Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman Summary and Analysis of II.5

Act Two (Restaurant, Present Day):

At the restaurant, Stanley the waiter seats Happy. A lavishly dressed girl enters and sits at the next table, and Happy tells Stanley to bring her champagne. Biff enters as Happy flirts with the girl, who is named Miss Forsythe. Happy tells Miss Forsythe that Biff is a quarterback with the New York Giants. Happy asks the girl out, and asks her if she can find a friend for Biff. The girl exits, and Happy remarks that girls like that are why he can't get married.

Biff tells Happy that he did a terrible thing. Bill Oliver did not remember Biff, and walked away when Biff approached him. Biff stole his fountain pen, though. Biff insists that they tell their father tonight to prove that Biff is not lying about his failures just to spite Willy. Happy tells him to say that he has a lunch date with Oliver tomorrow and to prolong the charade, because Willy is never so happy as when he is looking forward to something. Willy arrives, and tells his sons that he was fired. Although Biff tries to lie to Willy about his meeting with Oliver, Biff and Willy fight when Willy thinks that Biff insulted Bill Oliver. Biff finally gives up, and tells Happy that he cannot talk to Willy. As Biff tries to explain, Willy imagines himself arguing with Young Biff and Young Bernard about Biff failing math, and imagines Bernard telling Linda that Biff went to Boston to see Willy. Biff continues to explain what happened while Willy imagines the woman in the hotel room. Miss Forsythe returns with another woman and Willy leaves. Biff and Happy argue over who should do something about their dad. Happy denies to the women that Willy is their father.


While Biff's failures and flaws have been a major preoccupation throughout the play, this segment demonstrates how detrimental Happy's character flaws can be. A compulsive womanizer, Happy tells blatant lies to the women that he meets, claiming that Biff is a professional athlete, then gets rid of his father in favor of seducing Miss Forsythe. In the final, most cruel move that Happy makes, he denies that Willy is his father, thus repudiating his father even more callously than Biff has done.

Biff, in contrast, merely continues his pattern of foolish mistakes in this segment. While Biff may have started to fail in order to spite his father, by this point his self-destructive behavior is ingrained. His plan to ask Bill Oliver for money was dubious at best, but Biff made it even more unlikely by pseudo-accidentally pocketing his fountain pen. In contrast to Happy, Biff does show some concern for his father's feelings; he worries that Willy will think that Biff intentionally botched the meeting with Bill Oliver.

The Loman sons' insistence on framing Biff's meeting with Bill Oliver in the best possible terms shows that their true interest in the sporting goods business is not for personal gain, but rather to please their father. Biff believes that he cannot tell Willy the truth about his meeting with Bill Oliver, because Willy will think that Biff purposely sabotaged the meeting as an affront to him. Biff's concern is primarily what his father thinks of him and what affect this will have on him; his failure during the meeting, with the exception of his embarrassment over taking the fountain pen, is barely a consideration unless it involves how his father will react to the event. Miller demonstrates that in spite of his weakness, Willy still dominates his sons, whose actions are based on how their father will react to them.

Willy's hallucination about Young Biff failing math and visiting him in Boston gives a greater indication of the reason why Biff garnered such animosity toward his father. Willy ties Biff's visit to Boston with his affair in the same city; the likely confrontation between Willy's life at home as a father and his life on the road as a salesman seems to provide the motivation for Biff's spiteful, self-destructive behavior.