In his stage play “Death of a Salesman”, Arthur Miller introduces us to the family of Willy Loman. There is greater influence of the parents to the children as is portrayed in the play. Willy Loman’s laxity has weighed heavily on the conduct of his sons, Happy and Biff. The main theme in the play is sustained in the play with the sons of Willy attaining their personality from their father.
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We learn that one’s upbringing shapes their behavior, whereas one’s surrounding shapes their character. This is quite evident in the case of a parent child interaction as portrayed in the play.
Since most of the time the child will look up to their parents, their ethical and moral values will be acquired from their parents. The impact of parent’s ethical degradation, on their children in is shown clearly in the play “Death of Salesman” by Arthur Miller.
Willy Loman set a very low morality standard for his sons by his actions and therefore he was not a good role model to them. For instance, the theft committed by Biff was never considered as such by his father; on the contrary, the latter actually encouraged his son’s actions.
It could be argued that the father was acting in good faith; on a second thought, though, it becomes clear that his motivation was not to save his children from an obviously harsh penalty for a theft, but pure desire to encourage his children’s worst qualities, such as lying in order to get the appreciation of the authority – a coach, in the given case.
On another occasion, lumber was stolen from a construction site by Biff and his brother Happy. In place of rebuke, they received appreciation from their father for the wrong they did. He was proud of the large amount of lumber they stole.
By praising them, Willy blurred his sons’ vision of stealing as immoral and ethically wrong. Past studies show that what children see as warranted actions from authoritative people, primarily, parents, will later on be considered as generally acceptable by such kids as they grow up. In the case of Biff and Happy, much hope was lost due to their father’s irresponsibility and lack of will.
Apart from dishonesty as the means to get promoted in the eyes of the leader by resorting to theft and lies, Willy also approved of deceit in family relationships, which has affected the boys on a much deeper level, leaving them not only financially irresponsible, but also socially isolated.
There is no need to stress the significance of family support and the significance of trustworthy relationships with relatives; being deprived of the given elements, one is most likely to lead an unhappy life, with no one to care for and no supporting spouse to be by one’s side.
By showing his children that one can legitimately cheat on his/her spouse, Willy destroyed his children’s chance to ever become family men and have supportive spouses. Granted that at some point in their lives, Biff and Happy will forget about this example set by their father, the pattern of family relationships will be imprinted in their mind, which will inevitably lead to them repeating this pattern over and over.
The given event was not the only time when Willy mistreated his wife. For instance, Willy was married to Linda but went ahead to have another woman. He had an affair with another woman because he was not satisfied with his marriage. His poor treatment of his wife misled his sons to see it as acceptable to be dishonest. The children, in turn, viewed women as inferior objects of use.
As a result, Willy’s sons underestimated women in general. To Biff and Happy, they never knew the moral law of treating others as one would want to be treated. This was a major failure on Willy’s part for not shaping his sons on even the most fundamental principles of moral values. In the end, it all turned against him when his sons started treating him the same way he treated other people. He had no one to blame but himself.
In conclusion, the play “Death of a Salesman” points out the flaws often left unattended by parents in having a tangible influence on their children. The complacency in instilling discipline to their children has resulted in moral and ethical decay. Arthur Miller points out the need to inculcate proper moral and ethical standards in children during their upbringing. Doing so will help guard them from committing crimes.
The play also provides an important lesson on the responsibility of the parent to be strict with their children, so that as their children grow, they could be able to differentiate between moral and immoral. It is also clear that the action of the parents with will always serve as a reference point for their children once the latter step into adulthood and start building their own behavioral patterns.
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Parents are undoubtedly the ultimate role models to their children; therefore, parents should strive to maintain high standards in whatever they do to create an example for their children to follow.
In the case of Willy, if he had been stern with his children and quick to rebuke them when they steal or do any other thing that was wrong, his sons would have grown to be law-abiding members of the society; it is unlikely that children will grow to be ethical if their parent is unethical.