Biff begins this scene with a pledge
to his mother that he will "apply himself" and make something of his life so that Willy can rest easy.
Willy enters, however, having overheard Biff saying that people laugh at him. The failing salesman
goes on the counteroffensive, telling Biff, "You never grew up." This is an ironic statement, since
Willy is often the one who lives in the past and idealizes his sons (Biff in particular) for their successes
in high school.
however, the tension is lifted when Happy comes up with the idea that he and Biff can go into business
together, selling sporting goods by playing sports themselves. Here, Happy connects Willy's devotion
to business success with Biff's love of the outdoors and physical activities. Willy immediately
loves the idea, and his fantasy world of illusions continues. Here, Willy's manic-depressive personality
comes especially to light. He can feel as though the world is falling in on him one moment, and
then be instantly transformed when he hears something that feeds his illusional belief in his boys'
and Happy say goodnight to Willy. As the three men speak about Biff's interview with Bill Oliver
(a businessman who can supposedly help their sporting goods business venture), Linda chimes in, only
to have Willy rudely tell her to shut up. This happens several times before Biff finally stands
up for his mother. Willy feels reproached by Biff when he defends her, and the good feelings of
the moment are spoiled. Linda shrugs it off, however, and soon Willy forgets that he's angry at
Biff. As Biff leaves, he tells his son, "You got all kinds of greatness.." Once again, Willy is
back to his world of illusion, where personality triumphs over substance. He advises Biff on how
to make a good impression, saying, "personality always wins the day." He tells Biff to demand fifteen
thousand dollars from Oliver, saying, "start big and you'll end big." Obviously this notion contradicts
the traditional business belief that one has to work his way up the corporate ladder. Willy seems
to think that a Loman can start at the top (despite his lack of success, which proves the contrary)-just
another example of Willy's inability to see reality.