An example of Motif in Death of a Salesman
The Consequences of Biffs Theft
Death of a Salesman exhibits many motifs in its context. Arthur Miller’s uses of motifs were not only significant to the morals they introduced, but also played a key role in the shaping of the story. An example of one motif is Biffs recurrent theft that takes place throughout the play. In addition to theft as a motif, Arthur also exercises the difference between illusion and reality simultaneously. Due to the way Biff was raised by his father, differential between right and wrong was diluted by his father’s ideals. As a result, each time Biff decides to steal something, the consequences of his actions become apparent later on in the play.
An early presentation of this motif can be seen during Biffs teenage life, after he steals a football from school. Although his father is aware of this, he receives no punishment for his wrong-doing. Instead, he is encouraged through his father’s positive reinforcement, "Sure, he's gotta practice with a regulation ball, doesn't he? Coach'll probably congratulate you on your initiative!" (Death of a Salesman, page 19). During that scene, Biff is lead to believe that stealing is ok as long as he can get away with it. Although Biff is unaffected by his actions in this occasion, his perception of right and wrong is now biased through his father’s beliefs.
Biffs father Willy, believes that he must do everything in his power to achieve success, even if it resorts to stealing in the process. Unsurprisingly, Biff looks at Willy as a role model and in turn is directed to believe this as well. As a result, Biff follows in the steps of his father and faces the penalties. This can be seen exhibited when Willy is ordering Bernard to provide Biff the answers for the test. "Bernard: Where is he? If he doesn't study! Willy: You'll give him the answers!" (Death of a Salesman, page 27). During this scene Bernard explains the importance of Biffs study, but in...