Betrayal in “Death of a Salesman”
Betrayal is breaking or violating trust within a relationship. Relationships are amongst individuals or organizations. In Fences, Troy has cheated on his wife. In Death of a Salesman, Willy makes multiple attempts at ending his life, later succeeding. Willy also has an affair while on sales trips. Biff fails to meet Willy’s expectations of making it in the business world. All of which are acts of betrayal. Death of a salesman and Fences share a common motif of betrayal.
Willy betrays everyone in his family. In Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, the salesman,Willy, comes home from almost getting into another car accident. Talking to her sons, Linda declares that “all these accidents in the last year— weren’t—weren’t—accidents.” (Miller 42) Linda discovered by accident, Willy’s attempts to inhale gas on a regular basis. Happy is enraged that Willy would try to leave his family, calling him a jerk. Willy commiting suicide would betray both Happy and Biff, but even more Linda. Linda would have to rely on Happy and Biff to make income. Both sons don’t want to work in sales, but instead do labor work making less money, where they can be happy. Linda “more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end.” (Miller 2) Linda loving Willy so much, Willy still has an affair with another woman. This woman feeds Willy’s ego by liking him, but later feels ashamed by his actions, seeing he gave the woman stockings but not much his own wife. Willy succeeds in ending his life, leaving Linda alone wondering “Why did you [end your life]? I search and search and I search, and I can’t understand it, Willy.” (Miller 112) Happy spends the rest of his life showing “[Biff] and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain,” continuing Willy’s work, trying to make it to the top. Happy is living his father’s dream instead of his own, wanting to be a farmer where there is open space and fresh air, where Happy and Biff can be happy. (Miller 111) Willy left his family without a father to Bill and Happy, a husband to Linda. Willy’s family being betrayed by Willy’s act of suicide, Willy and Linda also felt betrayed by Happy and Biff.
Linda felt Biff and Happy betrayed Willy by turning their backs on him. Talking about Willy, Linda tells Biff, “It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell you he’s put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him. [She is bent over the chair, weeping, her head in her hands]. Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands!” (Miller 43) Biff and Happy used to look up to Willy. Now that they are older they find the business world to be something they do not want to pursue. Biff, going from job to job, does not make stable income. Willy wants his son to find a study job in the business world. Biff, not wanting to, argues with Willy. Linda feels Biff’s unwillingness to find a steady job, is what causes Willy most stress. Death of a Salesman showed the motif of betrayal shared with Fences.
In Fences, Troy betrays everyone. Troy betrayed his own son. Cory, wanting to play football, is being recruited. Troy assumes Cory cannot pursue football in the future because he is a people of color. Not wanting Cory to play Troy “done went up to the school and told Coach Zellman [Cory] can’t play football no more.” (Wilson 79) Cory felt betrayed troy would go behind his back to try and force football out of Cory’s life. Troy also betrays his wife, Rose. Like Willy, Troy has an affair. Troy, after being married over eighteen years, is “gonna be somebody’s daddy” by another woman. (Wilson 90) Rose feels betrayed after have been married for so long, not expecting Troy to cheat on her now. Rose feels she “done tried to be everything a wife should be,” however she was still betrayed by Troy’s actions. (Wilson 92) Death of a salesman showed betrayal, cheating, high expectations, death. Fences showed betrayal, going behind Cory’s back as well as cheating on his wife of eighteen years. Fences and Death of a Salesman both share the common motif of betray.