The Interpretation of a Family-Man: Fences V. Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and August Wilson’s Fences follow a comparable storyline of two fathers struggling to keep their families together. Main characters, Troy Maxson and Willy Loman, have suffered with infidelity and failing father-son relationships while in pursuit of their possibly unrealistic dreams.
The focus on father-son relationships in Death of a Salesman and Fences is an apparent similarity throughout both plays. Troy and Willy have high expectations and dreams for their sons. However, these dreams for their sons are set by their own hopes and wishes instead of what is right for the individual sons. Willy Loman yearns for his son Biff to get a job and become a famous salesman, “Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff— he’s not lazy.
I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time” (Miller 52), yet never makes an apparent effort to further that dream. Troy Maxson on the other hand urges his son Cory to put working at the A&P first over his dream of playing college football. As a result of Troy feeling discouraged being a garbage man, he pushes his son Cory to do something greater with his life when he says “go on and learn how to put your hands to good use. Besides hauling people’s garbage”(Wilson 35).
Troy fears that his son, Cory, will lose the vision of how important a good work ethic is if he becomes too focused on football, and Troy being a former athlete instills fear that Cory will be taken advantage of, just like other minority athletes in that time. Willy’s outlook on Biff’s football position is that it should hold supremacy over his academic potential; this focus on sports and physical appearance inhibits Biff from growing up and having his own life, even as a thirty-two year old man.