Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act)
WILLY: Well, Bill Oliver—very big sporting-goods man—he wants Biff very badly. Called him in from the West, Long distance, carte blanche, special deliveries. Your friends have their own private tennis court?
BERNARD: You still with the old firm, Willy?
BERNARD: What is it Willy?
WILLY [small and alone]: What-what’s the secret?
BERNARD: What secret?
WILLY: How—how did you? Why didn’t he ever catch on?
BERNARD: I wouldn’t know that, Willy.
WILLY [confidentially, desperately]: You were his friend, his boyhood friend. There’s something I don’t understand about it. His life ended after that Ebbets Field game. From the age of seventeen nothing good ever happened to him. (Act 2)
To impress Bernard, Willy attempts to present Biff as a successful man. Bernard knows Willy and Biff too well, though. He doesn't really seem to buy any of Willy's deceptions.
HAPPY: No, it’s a little celebration. My brother is—I think he pulled off a big deal today. I think we’re going into business together.
STANLEY: Great! That’s the best for you. Because a family business, you know what I mean?—that’s the best. (Act 2)
Happy deceives himself into thinking that he and Biff already have a major success to celebrate. Much like his father, he chooses to exaggerate and bend the truth to try to impress people.
HAPPY: His name is Biff. You might’ve heard of him. Great football player.
GIRL: Really? What team?
HAPPY: Are you familiar with football?
GIRL: No. I’m afraid I’m not.
HAPPY: Biff is a quarterback with the New York Giants.
GIRL: Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? [She drinks]
HAPPY: Good health.
GIRL: I’m happy to meet you.
HAPPY: That’s my name. Hap. It’s really Harold, but at West Point they called me Happy.
GIRL [now really impressed]: Oh, I see. How do you do? (Act 2)
Happy shamelessly boosts his own self-esteem and deceives the girl the same way he deceives himself. In many ways, he really is a lot like his father. Could this be part of the reason Willy seems to gravitate more toward Biff than Happy? Is hanging around Happy too much like looking in a mirror?