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BEN: Principally diamond mines.
LINDA: Diamond mines!
BEN: Yes, my dear. But I‘ve only a few minutes—
WILLY: No! Boys! Boys! [Young Biff and Happy appear]: Listen to this. This is your Uncle Ben, a great man! Tell my boys, Ben!
BEN: Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into jungle and when I was twenty-one I walked out. [He laughs] and by God I was rich!
WILLY [To the boys]: You see what I been talking about? The greatest things can happen! (Act 1)
Willy clings to Ben's material success as tangible evidence of his family's worth. He longs to measure up to the financial success of his brother. In many ways, Ben's success fuels Willy's misguided notion that riches are just around the corner.
LINDA: His blue suit. He’s so handsome in that suit. He could be a—anything in that suit! (Act 2)
Linda's fixation on Biff's physical appearance as the source of his success denies the importance of other qualities and virtues. The play seems to suggest that, if Biff's parents had spent more time grooming his character, then he might actually have the respect and reputation needed to make it in the world.
BERNARD: If he doesn’t buckle down, he’ll flunk math! [He goes off].
LINDA: He’s right, Willy, you’ve gotta—
WILLY: [exploding at her]: There’s nothing the matter with him! You want him to be a worm like Bernard? He’s got spirit, personality… (Act 1)
Willy's emphasis on reputation blinds him to the reality of Biff's academic problems. By constantly making excuses for his favorite son, Willy inadvertently stands in the way of Biff's success. Biff's reputation will only take him so far if he can't even pass high school.