Importance of Bernard in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Importance of Bernard in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
All of the characters in the performance Death of a Salesman have special traits that are indicative of their personality and literary purpose in the piece. Each serves a particular purpose and symbolizes distinct goals, functions, or qualities. The author places every character in a specific location to contrast, or emphasize another character?s shortcomings, mistakes, or areas of strength. For this purpose, Bernard, a character in Death of a Salesman, is placed next to Biff, the protagonist?s son. Biff, is lost in a world created by his dazed father, who instills in him a set of false values, and eventually becomes a failure in his early age. In spite of the fact that Bernard admires Biff and believes he is able to help him prosper, Biff is unable to listen. Bernard also interacts with the protagonist himself, again showing the same traits that are indicative of his character. Bernard, who is a successful student and later a successful attorney, is opposite the characteristics Biff is taught makes a man great.
Our first example of Bernard?s character is his interaction with Biff is in Act I, when the reader infers Bernard is tutoring Biff: ?Biff, Listen Biff, I heard Mr.Birnbaum say that if you don?t start studyin? math he?s gonna flunk you and you won?t graduate. I heard him!" These initial statements, spoken by Bernard, are indicative to the reader of how helpful he tries to be to Biff. He is among the only characters with a sense of reality; the only character that tries to help Biff take concrete, analytical steps to helping him succeed. He understands the consequences of Biff?s actions, and tries to dissuade his directionless ambition towards a more solid goal. ?He?s gotta study Uncle Willy. He?s got regents next week.? ?Just because he printed University of Virginia on his sneakers doesn?t mean they?ve got to graduate him, Uncle Willy.? Once again, this illustrates Bernard is the one of the only characters in tune with reality. He cares for Biff and wants to see him graduate. This is why he is constantly pushing Biff to complete his work.

As Bernard matures, he continues his modest, responsible attitude towards life. The protagonist himself is confronted with Bernard?s character, and comes to terms with the sudden insight his son is no where near as well off as Bernard, even though they were initially given the same opportunities. Now, the reader infers Bernard is an attorney: ?Oh, just a case I?ve got there, [Washington] Willy.? When Bernard describes his Supreme Court case as ?just a case?, the reader sees how admirably modest he is. He has become a great man, as inferred from his lines, without being well liked or extremely handsome. He is a developed gentleman,which the protagonists admires, and confides in Bernard asking him where did his son miscarry. ?But sometimes, Willy, it?s better for a man just to walk away.? In this last line of advice, given by an adult Bernard to Willy, the protagonist, the reader sees his basic foundation of caring for another person is not destroyed: he still means for the best in what he does and says. He is concerned for the needs of both the protagonist and his son, and proves this by telling Willy to continue with his life and let his son find his own path.

In conclusion, the character traits of the players in Death of a Salesman are evident. It is also apparent that they are placed juxtapositionally with each other to highlight the other?s features. The characters? indicative qualities are what makes animates the plot, and makes for a vibrant literary piece.

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