Biff and Bernard are two contrasting characters in this play. As young boys, the differences between them are apparent. As grown men, the differences are subtle, but, Biff and Bernard are antithetical of one another.
Thats because he likes you. If somebody else took that ball thered be an uproar. (p. 30)
Willys response to Biff borrowing the football, gives Biff the idea that it is alright to steal as long as he is popular. In effect, Willy teaches his son that popularity and freedom to do what one wants go hand in hand. Bernard, however, is not as popular as Biff.
Hes liked, but hes not well liked. (p. 33)
Biff uses these words to refer to Bernard. The Lomans see Bernard as a pest, who will not amount to much because he is not well liked.
Much like his father, Biff tends to embellish the truth.
Well, I borrowed it from the locker room. (p. 29)
This is Biffs response to Willy concerning the new football. Biffs response shows his dishonest nature. One sees that Biffs dishonesty continues into his adulthood when he steals the fountain pen of bill Oliver. Bernard, on the other hand shows that he is an honest young boy. When Willy demands that Bernard give Biff the answers for the exam, Bernard replies:
I do, but I cant on a Regents! Thats a state exam! Theyre liable to arrest me. (p. 40)
Even though Bernard looks up to Biff, he does not want to resort to cheating to help Biff pass the exam.
Both Biff and Bernard have contrasting views of one another. One can see that Bernard idolizes Biff. Before Biffs big game in Ebbetts Field, Bernard asks if he can carry Biffs helmet. This shows that Bernard is willing to do anything for Biff even if it is a task as trivial as carrying Biffs helmet. Willy teaches Biff that is acceptable to use people if one is popular. Bernard is one of the many people that Biff manipulates.
Let him carry the shoulder guards. (p. 88)
Biff is speaking to Happy about allowing Bernard to carry some equipment. Biffs condescending attitude towards Bernard is demonstrated in this line. Biff believes the allowing Bernard to carry the shoulder guards is a great honour for Bernard.
Even in adulthood, Biff and Bernard remain foils of one another. Biff displays a lack of maturity as a grown man.
And dont say Gee. Gee is a boys word. A man walking in for fifteen thousand dollars does not say Gee! (p. 65)
Biffs use of the word Gee displays his lack of mature vocabulary, thus, in Willys eyes, Biff appears to be immature.
In Bernards speech to Willy about the turning point in Biffs life, one can see that Bernard maintains an air of maturity.
Because Id thought so well of Biff, even though hed always taken advantage of me. I loved him, Willy, yknow? (p. 94)
Even though he was manipulated by Biff, Bernard demonstrates maturity because he harbours no resentment towards Biff.
The older Biff shows impatience when waiting to meet with Bill Oliver.
Well, I waited six hours for him, see? All day. Kept sending my name in. Even tried to date his secretary so shed get me to him but no soap. (p. 104)
Biff obviously believed that he really was salesman for Oliver and that Oliver would meet with him right away. Impatience caused Biff to go to great lengths to fulfill his appointment with Oliver. Contrary to Biff, Bernard displays patience, particularly in his conversation with Willy. Although, Willys replies are voiced angrily, Bernard manages to remain patient with Willy by not letting Willys anger bother him.
In his glory days, Biff is considered popular, athletic and good with his hands. Bernard, however, is weak, anemic and not very popular. Willy teaches Biff a false sense of self importance and believes:
the man who makes an appearance, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. (p. 33)
Biff blames this false sense of self-importance for his unprosperous life.
And I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody! Thats whose fault is! (p. 131)
Bernard, in Willys opinion, is not going to reach the same level success as Biff.
Bernard can get the best marks in school, yunderstand, but when he gets out in the business world, yunderstand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. (p. 33)
To Willys surprise, Bernard grows up to be a successful lawyer arguing cases in front of the Supreme Court. One can see that the success experienced in the lives of both biff and Bernard are antithetical.
Throughout the play there are contrast between Biff and Bernard. At first one sees that Biff is popular and athletic and that Bernard is weak and unpopular. Later on one sees that Bernard grows up to be a great success and Biff grows up to be a disappointment. No matter how one perceives it, one can see that Biff is the antithesis of Bernard.