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BARRON'S BOOK NOTES ARTHUR MILLER'S DEATH OF A SALESMAN ^^^^^^^^^^ARTHUR MILLER: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES Death

of a Salesman opened on February 10, 1949, to reviews that acclaimed it a major new play. Within months Arthur Miller became world renowned as his play re ceived the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, and the Ant oinette Perry ("Tony") Award, among others. When Arthur Miller became famous, hi s grade school and high school teachers were puzzled. They couldn't remember him . Checking their records they found that as a student he had been most outstandi ng for his failures. The issues with which Arthur Miller would later become preoccupied have clear be ginnings in his family background. The second of three children of a middle-clas s Jewish couple, he was born in 1915 in New York City. His Austrian father was a manufacturer of women's coats, and his mother, the daughter of a manufacturer, had been a teacher. Miller knew from childhood the precarious hopes and disappoi ntments of the business world, as well as its false dreams of extraordinary rich es. This is the theme of Death of a Salesman. It wasn't just his family background that influenced Miller. He grew up in the " roaring twenties," the decade we still think of as the giddiest in the history o f our country. The world of business was prospering as never before. It was an a ge of distorted values--the pleasure of the moment, material richness, making mo ney and showing it off. Miller's father hired more salesmen to sell his coats. Miller played football and baseball, swam, skated, and read adventure stories. " I passed through the public school system unscathed," he said later. While passi ng through, he failed many subjects, including algebra three times. You will rec ognize this athlete who doesn't apply himself in the character of Biff in Death of a Salesman. When Miller was thirteen his family reached a crisis. Miller's father fell on ha rd times and had to move the family from Manhattan out to a small frame house in Brooklyn similar to the one in Death of a Salesman. Miller's sister recalls tha t he became "very handy with tools. He built the back porch on our house, and so me of the roses he planted in the back yard are still blooming." Just as Arthur Miller loved working with his hands, Willy Loman loves to build things and tend a garden. On graduation from high school Miller knew that his parents could not afford to send him to college. He wanted to go to the University of Michigan, but his grad es were so poor that he could not qualify for admission. For a short while he wo rked for his father, but he couldn't stand the contemptuous way buyers treated h is father and the salesmen. Self-respect became an important issue for him, as y ou'll see when you read Death of a Salesman. He got himself a job in a Manhattan auto parts warehouse. Miller was determined to make something of himself, and t he fact that he achieved this goal gave him proof of any man's ability to perfec t himself. Meanwhile, he stumbled by chance on the Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov, wh ich he had picked up thinking it was a detective story. (If you want to know wha t turned Arthur Miller into a playwright, read Dostoevsky's "great book of wonde r" as he later called it. Have you ever been inspired by a book you read?) He re ad it on the long subway rides to work, and said later, "All at once [I] believe d I was born to be a writer." Miller saved nearly all of his fifteen-dollar-a-week salary, and after two and a

half years he had enough for a year of college. He wrote the president of the U niversity of Michigan an eloquent letter asking for one year to prove himself. H e promised that if he did not do well, he would leave the university after his f irst year. The university accepted him in journalism, and he left the warehouse where he had built up the great affection for his co-workers documented in his p lay A Memory of Two Mondays. In the warehouse he had found a little community of people who cared about each other, in contrast to his father's business world. Among the questions always hovering over all his plays, including Death of a Sal esman, are "Does anyone care?" and "How does a man make a home for himself in th e world?" At college Miller learned about a $500 award that was available for a play. He w rote one in six days, and won the prize. He felt he had begun what he had been b orn to do. At the University of Michigan he met many people who had strong polit ical beliefs, ideas about how the world should be run. Listening to the debates heightened his concern about morality. Having won several more awards before gra duating, Miller returned to New York in 1938 to write plays, but "in two months was on relief." Odd jobs kept him going while he began to write for radio. Many of these jobs we re manual labor, which gave him the background for his plays about working-class people. In time, Miller wrote regularly for the best drama programs on radio. In spite o f his impatience with radio's restrictions, he learned how to handle quick time shifts and how to blend reality and fantasy, a central strategy in Death of a Sa lesman. Miller's first Broadway play was a failure, and he told himself that if the next one didn't succeed he would go into another line of work. In 1947 All My Sons p ut him on the map. Like Death of a Salesman, it deals with families and moral is sues. While Death of a Salesman is about what society owes to individuals, All M y Sons is about what individuals owe to society. It ran all that season and won many awards. With the confidence of that success, Miller began Death of a Salesman, a more am bitious play. It immediately won extraordinary praise in this country, and also became one of the most frequently produced American plays abroad. A bestseller, unusual for a play, it has been read by millions of people who have never seen i t on a stage. Miller has been a public figure whose actions show what he stands for. During Jo seph McCarthy's "witch-hunt" he refused to reveal the names of those at a meetin g he had attended who might have been Communists. He was convicted of contempt o f Congress in 1956, but two years later the Supreme Court reversed the convictio n. He later actively campaigned for worldwide freedom of expression as an offici al of P.E.N., the international society of writers. In addition to Death of a Salesman, Miller's plays include The Crucible (1953), A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), A View from the Bridge (one act, 1955; full leng th, 1957), After the Fall (1964), Incident at Vichy (1965), The Price (1968), an d American Clock (1980). Several of Miller's plays have been adapted into movies. In 1960 he wrote his fi rst original screenplay, The Misfits, which starred his second wife, Marilyn Mon roe. Miller has also produced four books of reportage in collaboration with his third wife, the photographer Inge Morath: In Russia, In the Country, Chinese Enc ounters, and Salesman in Beijing. The popularity of Death of a Salesman is timeless. Audiences around the world ha

ve been drawn to it, moved by its story of a longing for fulfillment. A notable revival was staged on Broadway in New York City in 1984. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: THE PLOT Willy Loman, a traveling salesman, comes home in the middle of the night when he 's supposed to be on a business trip. He tells Linda, his wife, that he couldn't keep his mind on driving, and kept going off the road because he was daydreamin g. She urges him to ask his boss for a position with the company's headquarters in New York, so he won't have to travel anymore, and he agrees to see his boss t he next day. He goes to the kitchen for a snack, and becomes involved in a memor y of his son Biff. He has been talking to himself so loudly that he wakes Biff a nd his brother Happy, who are both there visiting, Biff from the West, and Happy from his own apartment in another part of town. The boys, now 32 and 34, talk o ver old times, worry about their father, and scheme about going into business to gether. In the scene from Willy's memory, Biff, Happy, and Linda all suddenly appear on stage as they were fifteen years earlier, when the boys were teenagers. Biff, th e favorite son, is the high school football captain. He is about to play an impo rtant game, and also about to flunk senior math, despite his friend Bernard's he lp studying. Bookish Bernard is not "well liked" by Biff's standards, and his fa ther Charley, a salesman with his own business, is not "well liked" by Willy's s tandards. Still, for all his attempts to be "impressive," Willy is not doing wel l as a salesman, he confesses to Linda. Willy's thoughts shift further back in t ime to show him dallying with another woman in a hotel room. Back in the present, Happy comes downstairs to calm his father, but is unsuccess ful. The neighbor, Charley, comes in with the same intent, but Willy gets insult ed when Charley offers him a job. Meanwhile, invisible to Charley, Willy's older brother Ben has arrived from the past. Willy is trying to have a conversation w ith two people at once, from different periods of his life, and ends up quarreli ng with Charley, who leaves. Now completely immersed in the past, Willy shows of f his teenaged boys to Ben, who invites him to move to Alaska. But Willy has con vinced himself he has possibilities at home. Returning to the present, Willy leaves the house to go for a walk. The family ga thers to discuss his troubled situation. Linda says he is trying to kill himself because after 36 years with the company they have now taken away his salary and he is back on commission like a beginner, and broke because he can't sell anyth ing. His pride is shattered and he's exhausted. Linda criticizes the boys for no t respecting their father. Willy comes into the room, and the sons try to cheer him with their plan to open a sporting goods business. Biff will go to Bill Oliv er, a former employer, and ask for $10,000 capital. Willy seems enthusiastic and gives advice about the interview. They all say goodnight with a feeling of hope fulness about the next day. Act II begins the next morning. At breakfast, behaving like his old self, Willy tells Linda he will go into the city and ask for a job in the home office. She r eminds him to get an advance because their last mortgage payment is due, and the n they will own their home. Willy has put a lot of reconstruction into it and is proud of his carpentry skills. Linda tells him that the boys want to treat him to dinner at a restaurant. At the office, Willy's young boss, Howard (son of Willy's former boss) is playin g a recording of his family on a new office machine. At last, when Willy can get a word in, he asks Howard for a New York position, but is refused even when he drops his request to forty dollars a week. Desperate, he raises his voice to How ard, who tells him to pull himself together and leaves the room. Shaken, Willy a

He is havin g a conversation with Ben about a business proposition: cashing in his insurance policy by crashing his car and killing himself. Willy is in the back yard planting seeds. That was the moment when Biff decided his father was a "phony little fake. the family goes off to watch Biff play his big football game. "He had the wrong dreams. Ben reappears from the past. "It's the only dream yo u can have--to come out number-one man. We're free and clear. Willy has somehow made his way to his neighbor Charle y's office. who. They talk about why Willy died. It is Linda." Charley replies. "We're free. but instead he went to Boston to see Willy. roars off in his car to make the final profit--selling his life --that he is convinced will get Biff on his feet financially. now a lawyer on hi s way to Washington to try a case.. despite Willy's and H appy's attempts to alter the story. After Ben leaves. distraught. Charley comes in and gives Willy money. when Biff and Happy finally get home. though he does finally break down and admit he's just been fired. Biff has stolen an expensive fountain pen from Oliver's office a nd run away. He again offers him a job but Willy re fuses. and he can't make of his life what Willy wants him to. In the Requiem." What happened in Boston? Bernard wants to k now. Biff had realized that for the la st fifteen years he and his father and brother have been kidding themselves abou t who they are. somehow cleansed and absolved by Biff's love. Now he is determined to tell Willy the truth." And Happy adds. I made the last payment on the house today. Charley's son Bernard is there. and you're going to stop waiting for me to bring them home!" and breaks down in tears. Back in the present again. Bernard answers that Biff could have gone to summer school to ma ke up the math course. who persuades him to turn it down. Willy goes into the washro om. Biff shouts. where he has been coming every week for a loan so he can pretend to Linda he's making some money. Linda brushes aside t heir feeble excuses about deserting their father and tells them to get out of th e house and not come back. telli ng him to put away false pride and turn to his sons for support. And there'll be nobody home. "A salesman [has] got to d ream." Linda has the last word: "I can't under stand it. Astonished. Willy slips into the past. and then when Oliver looked at him blankly. Why did you turn out so well and Biff so poor ly? Willy asks. Willy realizes that Biff loves him after all. The family and nei ghbors gather and get ready to go to the funeral. "I'm not bringing home any prizes any more." she sobs. Alone. making a final offer to Willy of managing timberlan d in Alaska. the family is at the cemetery. rushes from the restaurant followed by Happy with two girls he's picked up.." At the restaurant Happy has picked up a girl. It comes with the territory.. Howard takes the opportunity to fire Willy. because he "cri ed to me. and when he c ame back he had "given up his life. Biff arrives in a turmoil because Bill Oliver kept him waiting all day and never did recognize him. loyal to Willy's unrealistic dream of success in busin ess. Unable to cope with the past and the present at the same time. But Willy becomes defensive about it. During the wai t...ccidentally switches on the machine. he's g oing away. and Bernard leaves to catch his train . and the boys witness him trying to answer all the voices in his head.. Sensing bad news. Willy d reamily comments that after all the years it's ironic that "you end up worth mor e dead than alive. boy. B iff says. They argue." Everyone goes to bed except Willy. Biff comes outside to explain to Willy that since he can't seem to be around him without fighting. and Biff. with so unnerves him that he calls out to H oward to come and turn it off." Back in the present. Willy. Willy relives the scene in Boston fifteen years bef ore when Biff discovered him in his hotel room with a woman." .

" Miller writes. traveling (the only kind of selling he knows) will have to stop. Now Willy is recalling the most important events in his life--his life is passin g before his eyes--as he searches to understand what went wrong." What Willy wanted in life was to make a lot of money by being well liked. is interfering with the present. He forgot that he loved making things with his hands. He is full of imagination. his dreams must have seemed like all she ever wante d in life.. . he brings with him a discovered piece of information that throws new light on his troubled present. like a beginner. When she married Willy. Miller has call ed the play a "confession. but he knows he can't. "If I could make him re member enough he would kill himself. Willy idoli zes him. The older one. His past. he is a lovable character who gives an actor great scope. He's realizing that he's lived hi s whole life by the false standard that you can lie and cheat to make your fortu ne as long as you are "well liked." What does Willy have to remember? Why does Willy have to remember it now? Willy's name--Loman--is significant: it suggests "low man" on the totem pole.000 on his insurance policy. recurring to him in vivid scenes. patient w ife. disappears for months at a time between jobs in the West. Happy. Even then he may be un derstating her devotion to him. He'd rather die than work for a man he sees as inferio r. "A small man can be ju st as exhausted as a great man. Th e company Willy has worked for all his life has recently stopped his salary and is paying him only commissions on sales. He'd like to be able to count on his two sons. The m any contradictions in his character reveal a man who doesn't know himself at all . the younger son. But he wanted success so badly that he lost a realistic sense of h imself. We know from the title that he is going to die.this man is actually a very brave spirit who cannot settle for half but must pursue his dream of himself to the end. He is experiencing an emotional crisis. Biff. ". has a steady job but is taking bribes and wasting his money. even to the point of committing suicide in a scheme to m ake $20. Now he's having troubl e driving--he can't pay attention so the car keeps going off the road. For instance. and he ignored sta ndards of fair play. devoted." Willy tells Linda." We can find joy in what Willy manages to learn about himself--and in t he forgiveness and love he wins from his favorite son. and they can't afford to keep him on. we see that he went after what he wanted with energy a nd ingenuity. but for years whenever they have been together they quarrel. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: LINDA "You're my foundation and my support. Each time he returns fr om an episode in the past. They claim he's not ge tting the business. Linda says." Arthur Miller wrote. She is the model of a loving. As he relives past experiences.^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: WILLY Willy Loman is a traveling salesman in his sixties. but he's reduced to supporting her with handouts from a neighbor. Willy 's wife Linda is his mainstay. Willy's struggle was long and finally tragic.. Until the day he dies Willy never stops dreaming up ways to better his life. Willy is like a boy in his impulsive enthusiasm and sudden discouragement. he will borrow money from his neighbor Charley but refuses to ta ke a job working for him. Because of his eternal hopefulness and reso urcefulness. If he can 't drive.

Biff had idolized his father. as though he's wasting his life. what happened. attention must finally be paid to such a person. She has always supported Willy i n his illusions about himself--he had so convinced her of his possibilities at h ome that she talked him out of his one chance to go to Alaska with Ben. While he was growing up. the Biff we see in the past is Willy's romanticized version." That he doesn't make enough money to "get ahead" m akes him feel that he isn't fulfilling his father's expectations. but will not tolerate her sons crossing their father. thought Willy. loves and admires Biff and helps him with his studies. for we learn in the Requiem that she has made the final payment on their house and they're "free an d clear. A star athle te in high school. He feels " mixed up. though? When he talks about the farms where he's worked." but she feels he deserves at le ast the respect of his sons: "Attention. but she understands t he pain and fear behind his behavior. But during Biff's senior year of high school something happ ened between him and Willy that no one else knows anything about. Biff's success w ould mean that Willy had raised him right. Of course." Probably Linda speaks the playwright's attitude toward Willy more tha n any other character in the play. He has been fo rced to move from job to job because he steals. "she more than loves him. she blisteringly attack s both of them: "There's no stranger you'd do that to!" Linda knows her beloved Willy is a "little man. Willy's guilt turns her int o an even sweeter and more noble woman. But at home he fights with his father. that Hap would literally jump up and down tryin g to get attention. the neighbor's unathletic son. Miller tel ls us." Linda has made a child of her husband." We also see that it is Linda who has kept a clear picture of their finances. and forgives him those moments. eager to do whatever littl e job he'll give them. All Biff's friends fawn over him. After the boys abandon their father in a restaurant for dates with women they've picked up. Biff's return upsets Willy. . She does the best she can with their mea ger income to pay their endless bills. She must manage well. Willy favored Biff so clearly over his younger brother. a shining example of a "good woman. She mana ges to be cheerful most of the time. When W illy boasts of big sales. uncertain. The two of the m have not admitted. even to each other. Biff would conquer the world.Those dreams have turned into a lifetime of frustrations. from the Dakotas to Texas. Bernard. Now he has come home to try to f igure out how to get into something permanent--a job or a marriage. and Willy had thought Bif f could do no wrong. She senses that Willy is in trouble. Disappointed and worri ed. and brings back the first experience from the past. Linda as she was in the past is the way Willy chooses to remember her (as is the case with all the characters when he recalls them)." confused. he speaks with such enthusiasm and eloquence that hi s brother calls him a "poet. But Biff is not a success. and to protect him she is terrifyingly t ough on the two grown-up boys. Is he wasting his life. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: BIFF Biff is 34 and has just come home again from farm work in the West. she gently questions until she learns the truth--never rebuking him for exaggeration (lying). always indulgent and affectionate with hi m. Happy. but it has affected thei r relationship ever since. but stil l we may begin to see how his problems developed. she admires him. She is a good and understanding mother. Willy sometimes treats Linda cruelly or insensitively." A man with as fragile a sense of self-worth as Willy cannot tolerate his wife's disagreeing with him. so Lind a has long practiced ignoring her own opinions.

he encourages Biff to steal from a nearby construction site. I want ed to tell you." What becomes of Biff aft er his father's death is an intriguing question. Happy is an attracti ve and powerful man. He says to Willy. so gorgeous. like his father. "Go to sleep. This balances th e futility of Willy's life. "You blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody. Biff so believes in hi s father that when he fails a math exam. desperate for attention. He doesn't punish Biff f or "borrowing" a football from school.Willy believes--and makes Biff believe--that anyone so confident. But he never wil l. but he doesn't want to start at the bottom. "All. a ca r. He wants to meet a woman of substance like his mother. s o natural a leader has the right to make his own rules. but he'll do it on his own term s. especially women engaged to executives above him in the corporate structure. but neither of his parents take s him seriously." Biff is the mentor of the same false ideals that are killing his father. He takes bribes from salesmen who want to do business with the company he works for. He seduces wome n in whom he has no real interest. "I'm like a b oy." Hap's name suggests happy-go-lucky. He takes a long and clear -eyed look at himself--and at his father. he gives up on himself and on his father. In the present Hap has found a similar line. "I'm gonna get married. Like hi s grandfather and father before him. He refuses to gro w up and accept responsibilities. he lets Biff drive without a license. Biff says Willy had the wrong dreams. At 34. Mom. has refused to see what he has actually done with his lif e. the social life of a popular single man. From that new and painful truth." he throws in at inappropriate times. Biff is good with his hands and has an appe aling personality. all wrong. H e's learned how to say what people want to hear." On the face of it. he's certain Willy can talk to the teac her. In the scenes from the past we see Happy doing everything within his power to ge t his father to notice him. and his own expensive apartment. "Keep up the good work. It's almost as though he's asking Willy whether he sees him at all. " Biff. He keeps up a vigorous routine of exercises. and goes to Boston to find him. Linda says. and his refrain as a boy is to ask his father whether he's noticed that he's losing wei ght. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: HAPPY Happy is 32. Inste ad of a buyer. When Biff discovers something about his fat her that shocks him. two years younger than Biff. He is a man without scruples and has no real desire to develop a life with va . He insists on telling his father what he sees: that he has never been what his father thinks he is. the grown-up Happy appears to have achieved the things Willy wanted for his boys--a steady job." He is lonely and longs for the chance to prove himself. But on this return to his parents' home a crucial difference between Biff and Willy develops." and Willy offers. he is an "assistant to the assistant" buyer. Biff is aware of his own unhappiness. He has become his own man. The playwright comments that sexuality lingers on him like "a scent that many women have discovered. Like his brother. However. Biff is able to understand Willy and to forgive him and to give h im the love that has long been stilled between them. Happy turns out to be a sham. dear. He confesses to his brother that he has "an over developed sense of competition. The hope we are given at th e end of the play is that Biff is capable of accepting himself. H e seems to have inherited his mother's good nature and acceptance of the way thi ngs are. Biff says to his brother.

Hap abandons his father in the moments Willy is most distraught. urging Willy all through the years to "grow up." ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: BERNARD Bernard comes into the play in an episode Willy is imagining. we note the qualities that will permi t Bernard to build a career. Charley twice tells him that he could use him in his fi rm." He is stern about Willy's low standards of fair play. although Willy assures him he's keeping strict accoun ts. Charley whose aims are not different from Willy Loman's. he is several times mockingly called "an anemic" by Willy and his boys.. To make money is as natural for him as carpentry is for Willy. ". and he has never given him advice. He had a g ood dream. Unconcerned about appearances. stops to say with real feeling. As much as he admires . Charley doesn't care about sports in the least. however. Charley is successful in business. He is generous enough to send his father to Florida for a vacation. but he isn't interested in spending time with him. Charle y first appears in pajamas and robe. spending little time outdoors. "No. Making clear that his play is not an attack on business in general.lues. in the present. however. Morgan? Was he impressive? In a Turkish bath he'd look like a butc her. He's just a guy. He has no ability with tools. Even in the first-act caricature. you're the only friend I got. However. Later." Charley is a realist. and says to Willy: "Why must everybody like you? Wh o liked J. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: CHARLEY Charley is a large. but that doesn't keep him from caring about Willy and seeing his good qualities. which are different from his. But with his pockets on he was very well liked. saying to the g irls he's picked up. Charley isn't obsessed about the business world. P. But over his father's grave he exclaims. Both Ber nard's behavior and the Lomans' making fun of him provide much of the humor in t he first act. when he comes over in the middle of the nig ht to see why Willy's home. Willy wonders how such a pathetic excuse fo r a kid could become the self-possessed lawyer of the present. In the final hours when he is reviewing his life. that ecstasy of spirit which Willy chases to the end.. telling Willy that "to put up a ceiling is a mystery to me .. The great difference between them is that Char ley is not a fanatic. Despite Willy's rejection of his offers. and as he leaves Charley's office. He admires the ceiling. looking ridiculous in knickers his wife bought for him. He works hard at his studies." Charley stands in contradiction to everything Willy believes in." Willy recalls Charley in t he past. By the end of the play it is clear that he is callous toward both his parents. It's the only dream you can have--to come out number-one man. he has learned how to live without that frenzy. and impatient with his childlike dreams. Equally. He is not conce rned about being well liked. Charley knows he'll never see again. Charley is not threatened by Willy's abilities. His relationship with his son Bernard has been casual. Charley is prospering well enough that he can regular ly lend Willy money which. unimpressive man about Willy's age." Happy seems fated to be another Willy. He is Willy's neighbor a nd the father of Biffs schoolmate Bernard. A bookworm. Miller write s that "the most decent man in Death of a Salesman is." It's no wonder Happy rejects his father after his father's lifetime rejection of him.Willy Loman did not die in vain. "Charley. that's not my father. Willy recognizes what Char ley has meant to him.. He knows that Willy doesn't much like or respect him. and Willy exaggera tes what the young Bernard was like.

From the moment we see Ben he turns out to be a highly idealized figure. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: UNCLE BEN Ben. she is obviously spending the night with Willy. Willy views Ben as a guide--an older brother's role--who appears to him every time Willy is most d esperate. always taking up the newest fad. so instead of Alaska. and tries to help him with his scho olwork. William. Howard diverts the conversation with talk about his family. but his responsibility is to running a profitable company. in the second act. [W]hen I was seventeen I walked into the jungle. He hasn't forgotten how promising Biff was. He is fearless and ruthless an d enjoys his success enormously. I discov ered after a few days that I was heading due south. She works at one of t he companies to which Willy sells. as Ben does. is completely an imagined fig ure in the play. but Willy for a lon g time has not been pulling his weight. And by God I was rich.Biff. He has an air of always thinking about secret and important things. Willy says about him. when Biff discover s them. he can't go along with his friend's stealing and cheating. the realization of the wildest dreams a man mi ght have. For Willy. She is embarrassed and h umiliated. In the first act Willy is trying to persuade her to stay overnight." So Ben personifies ideal success. constantly chuckling over it. and in the transitory nature of her relationship with Willy she feels like a "football. whom he scarcely knew. she prizes highly the silk stockings Willy gives her. single woman who likes Willy because he makes her laugh. and keeps a friendly relationship with his father in which both are self-suffi cient. Howard is not an insensitive man... Ben tells about how he left to find their father in Alaska when Willy was t hree or four. Ben is a "man who had all the luck. W e learn that he is a devoted father and that he is fascinated by gadgets. and allow him to beat the world that beat him. . Willy's older brother. He tries to tell Willy that he would help Biff b y leaving him alone. has a wife and two sons . and when I w as twenty-one I walked out. "I had a very faulty view of geography." as she tells Biff in leaving. so we know when Ben walks into the scene with Charley that he is an apparition Willy has summoned in his anguished search to understand his life. and we feel that he s till honestly wishes Biff well. I ende d up in Africa. for Wil ly's memory turns him into a god. "There was the only man I ever met who knew the answers." Even his mistakes become profita ble. Willy tells Charley that he recently learned that Ben has died.. just as Willy is whe n he's on the road and their affair is casual. We feel that he is somewhat sorry for Wi lly. She is a dignified. middle-aged. It's painful for her that she can not expect anything enduring from the relationship. Ben is the inspiration for the fierce daring Willy sees in committing suicide. It is ext remely difficult for Howard to face up to firing Willy. In the present Bernard has developed a promising career. Whenever Willy tries to bring up business. He fathered seven sons. She is lonely. and looking for some reward. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: HOWARD Howard Wagner is thirty-six and inherited the company from his father. though. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: THE WOMAN IN BOSTON The Woman in Boston exists only in the past." Ben is an imposing-looking man dressed in soph isticated clothes and projecting great authority. But he never t urns his back on Biff when they're students. However. In his quest to make some sense of his failed life. Ben encourages him toward this action that will put Willy in control of his life.

Biff's football game at Ebbets Field (a bas eball stadium where the Dodgers played." Its premiere was in 1949. Upstairs is the boys' old bedroom. the price of d inner in the restaurant ($1 for a specially prepared lobster)--all are details o f life in the United States shortly after World War II. who has to handle Willy's erratic behavior on his visits to borrow money from Charley. The stage directions say the play takes place "today. In some early cars the windshield could be opened on a nice day for a breezy drive. which seems as fragile as Willy's dreams. with two small beds. and three chairs represent the kitchen." While the emotions of the play will n ever be outdated. some productions of the play leave the time of the action unspecified . ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: STANLEY Stanley is the young waiter in the restaurant." Behind the roof the outlines of apartment buildings tower threateningly over the little house. and Stanley slips the bills back into Willy's coat pocket. However. . the authentic details on every page place it in 1949. and the stage directions say that "an air of the dream clings to the place.^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: MISS FORSYTHE AND LETTA Miss Forsythe and Letta are the women Happy picks up in the restaurant while he and Biff are waiting for Willy. Stanley is concerned about Willy and helps him to his feet. In front of the house is an empty area that "serves as the back yard as well as the locale of all Willy's imaginings and of his city scenes. In gratitude Willy tips him. The same areas used conventionally for scenes i n the present are also used for scenes in the past as free spaces where characte rs can step "through the walls. for example. In Willy and Linda's bedroom is a brass bedstead. Early in the sequence we see the joking attentiveness that is the way to better tips. it had been many years since cars had windshields that could be opened. In some commentaries these two characters are de scribed as prostitutes. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: SETTING When the lights come up. and for others the program reads "1949. After Happy and Biff have left their father in the washroom . A key detail that dates the play is the memory Willy describes of driving in his car with the front windshield open. long gone from Brooklyn). the first thing we see on stage is the suggestion of a small frame house. The front wall is open. a straight chair. and a silve r athletic trophy that symbolizes the peak achievement of Biff's life. a refrigerator." Only a few key objects tell us what each room i s. They're young women looking for a good time that evening in the same spirit Happy and Biff are." and this reflects the central them e of Willy's longing to fulfill himself in a world where making money is the onl y acceptable goal. She is relieved when Bernard takes responsi bility for Willy while Willy is waiting for Charley. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: JENNY Jenny is Charley's secretary. Nowadays." The set is designed to minimize the boun daries between past and present. Stanley has a comp assion worth noting. The bran d names of the household appliances. The stage directions ca ll the house "a dream rising out of reality. and so Willy is alarmed when he realizes he thought he was back in the era when he was a young salesman. At the time of the main action of the p lay. a table. but they're not.

all of whom have achieved the financial success he longs for. This disagreement between father and son provides the central dramatic te nsion of the play. IDENTITY "Who am I?" is a question we all ask. Willy. gets in the way of Willy's relationships. is content with modest wealth. Note that Willy forced this mold not only onto himself but also onto his sons. WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE AMERICAN DREAM? Historically the American dream meant a promise of freedom and opportunity for a ll." as his boss c alls it.. fantasizing and fooling himself into a false vision of his own popularity. has always felt insecure about how he should be co nducting his life. however. for years Willy has been lying to h imself and to others. EXAGGERATING. LYING. or "false pride. rather than sacrifice his freedom in the mad pursuit of money." We Americans seem to feel we deserve money and material things as our birthright . no other measure of success--the love of his family. Most of the time he covers up his feeling "kinda temporary" a bout himself with boasts of "hot air" (as Biff calls it). Advertising reinforces our desire for possessions. REVISING Because he doesn't want to face his failure. fro m Bernard. It's important to remember as you read the play that it's not a criticism of sal esmanship itself. a field to which he's temperamentally and intellectually well-suited. he might not have struggled all his life to fit into the wrong mold. often making us want things we either don't need or can't afford. He chooses to be poor.^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: THEMES 1. and to do the things he loves. as the instant business success of those who are ruthless or l ucky. Biff opposes his father's attitude. 4. his chosen career. The critic Harold Clurman wrote. 3. causing them the same confusi on over identity. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS . Today. Willy Loman is a perfect example of someone who feels betrayed because he can't achieve the financial goals society has conditioned him to strive for. All thes e characters have chosen their own ways of responding to the American Dream. achieving professional and financial success in law . but he doesn't have the talent or the temperament to be a salesman. 2. When he fails as a salesman. from Charley. if necessary. A new frontier lay open and anyone who worked hard could expect to have a ha ppy and prosperous life. If Will y could have accepted and made the most of his good qualities. The neighbor. and so on--can co mfort him. "Instead of the ideals of hard work and c ourage. we think of the American Dream in a les s idealistic way. This erroneous view of himself. Only when he's deeply in trouble does he ask advice--"what's the secret?"--from Ben. He believes that a person who fails in business has no right to live. his talent as a carpenter. we feel cheated somehow. a certain element of fraud--the accumulation of profit being an unquestioned end in itself. Charley.. His son Berna rd chooses a different path. whose father and older brother went away when he was very young. we have salesmanship. but of the pursuit of money as an end in itself. He worshi ps the goddess of success. Happy wants business success and follows in his father's unhappy footsteps to tr y to get it. Then when we don't have enough money to b uy everything we want.

It is human to fear this mortality and to wish that instead of vanishing anonymously we could leave a mo nument of our work and suffering. courage. ca refree existence. 2) the main character's discovery o r recognition of a truth about himself. Early in his career as a salesman Willy would drive through the beautiful countr yside with the front windshield of his car open. for his sons' disrespect and resentment. which he feels will earn the $20. his father's dreams and expectations. THE CITY Willy's father was a wanderer. to "give something" to Biff. At the same time Willy's financial demands closed in on him. revenge. power. from the empty and bitter reality of his life . Wil ly's older brother Ben was an adventurer who lived in Africa where he got rich o n diamond mines and invested in Alaskan timberland.All during the course of the play. and a musician. The title Death of a Salesman raises it even before the play begins. Willy's sons were strong and skilful athletes in high school. but at the last minu te knowing that his son loves him anyway. for physical skills. the expression of Willy's true nature is the flute. while others think the . 6. 3) poetic language. In spite of Willy's objection tha t "even your grandfather was better than a carpenter" (note the value judgment). Biff says that men like them shou ld be doing carpentry work out in the country. His life has been futile: he is old. Willy wants to make an impression. victory. NATURE VS. Arthur Miller wrote of the "need to leave a th umbprint" as being as strong a need as hunger or thirst." as the stage directions say. for a happy-go-lucky. including Willy himself. All of these people. a maker of flutes. Dramatic tragedy was invented and define d by the Greeks. MORTALITY VERSUS IMMORTALITY All creatures must die. and play with his sons. a pioneer. and. finally bein g able to make a profitable deal. 8. Aristotle said a play has to have four elements to qualify as a tragedy: 1) noble or impressive characters. A TRAGIC HERO Critics have hotly debated the questions of whether Willy is a tragic hero or wh ether Death of a Salesman is a tragedy. overpow ering him with the necessity for making money. Willy expects him to be great in business because he was great in sports. and 4) the ability t o arouse and then soothe the audience's pity and fear. poor. SUICIDE The question of why Willy commits suicide is of course central. most leave nothing behind them. have an affinity for the outdoors. Biff feels his father is "mocking" him. Willy sees his son's failure to amount to much as a deliberate act of "spite. here are some reason s to consider as you read: escape. to be remembered after his death. But soon the ci ty closed in on them. scorned by his peers and his sons. by redeeming his life insurance policy. in taking action when everything seems hopeless. tall apartment buildings blocking the light from reaching the garden. Believing that Biff has all the makings of a success. understanding. to lay down his life.000 of his insurance poli cy. He would come home to his garde n and the little house he was fixing up." In turn. 5. Some critics consider tha t Death of a Salesman is debatable on all four elements. Though you will form your o wn opinions of the forces that drove Willy to kill himself. g iving his son a fortune. and h is inability to do any of these haunts him. Biff is trying to come to terms with. and ult imately rid himself of. His final attempt to make a legacy for Biff is his suicide. that he went wrong. 7. "telling of grass and trees and the horizon.

Yet Biff is instinctive ly going right to the heart of his confusion. All of this is true of Willy. At moments the characters seem almost poetic in the intensity of their emotions. "Y ou can't eat the orange and throw the peel away--a man is not a piece of fruit!" In times of emotional intensity. so he makes his characters speak in a true-to-life style. Listen to Biff: "I'm mixed up very bad. It touches a universal nerve of realism and po ignancy. humor. when she is begging Biff on the phone to help his father." A few pages l ater when Willy is desperately demanding a New York job from Howard. she says. and pain of working-clas s people. Arthur Miller's skill in blending ordinary and poetic speech is one of the reaso ns this play is a modern classic. to people not sayin g what they mean. It recognizes that the wor ." In Act II. too. and casual. as when Charley. and De ath of a Salesman does this to the fullest measure. "A man is not a bird. too. "Be lov ing to him. A family that has never been very direct or honest." Though Willy did not have great intellectual po wers." The times when characters are most agitated are when they use metaphors. she says." This is matter-of-fact vocabulary. but he chooses to live in a certa in way that brings about his downfall. full of bad grammar. Because this family has always fooled itself with lies and exaggerations. Because he's only a little boat looking for a harbor. in Act I. Maybe I oughta get married. but also someone who has a tragic flaw or limitation that defines him as a character and makes the tragedy happen. and the things they don't s ay. slang. A play usually shows its characters at the peak of some change or crisis. For example. To Miller a person's backgrou nd matters. to come and go with the springtime. Ma ybe I oughta get stuck into something. or poet ic comparisons. he says. He has alternatives. readers must be alert to contradictions. seem significant. a metaphor is often the most graphic or vivid way to illustrate a point.) Though he is a common man--Low-man--Willy was later described by the author who created him as "a very brave spirit who cannot settle for half but must pursue h is dream of himself to the end. a great many people wrote to Miller that their own lives had be en revealed in the play. The difference between Willy and his salesman neighbor Charley is that Willy is intense and passionate and cares about his dream enough to sacrifice his life to it. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: POINT OF VIEW AND FORM Death of a Salesman is not a strictly realistic play. in trouble financially and emotionally. Arthur Miller argued that times have changed--we no longer live in an era dominated by kings and queens--and so maybe our definit ion of tragedy should change. and the things they say to each other are explo sive and full of meaning. "Nobody dast blame this man. Their language reflects all the directness. standing at Willy's grave. or vernacu lar. In the special circumstances of disaster they are moved to phrase their thought s more formally than they otherwise might. A tragic hero is someone with the dedication to die for a belief. says. is suddenly thro wn together after several years.play meets all these criteria. The pauses. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: LANGUAGE Miller has an infallible ear for natural dialogue. Indeed. (See the section of this guide on Influences for more on this subject. Miller claims he did have a self-awareness--otherwise he would not have ki lled himself when he realized his life was meaningless. when Linda is accusing Biff of shiftlessn ess. sloppy pronunciation.

As the y unfold in his mind. I suppose it just got burned in. which traced the lin eal development of a story through external details of environment. are viewing scenes from before the start of the st ory. For Willy a word or a thought in conversation brings back a related incident fro m the past in all its original intensity. It went further than realism or naturalism. impersonal." Death of a Salesman does have a shattering emotional impac t that corresponds to that of a Greek tragedy. they affect how he views events in the present. Expressionis m used symbols to evoke the unseen and the unconscious. his original title for the play was The Inside of His Head. s never left me. and so expressionist pla ys were "cool" in their approach: objective. In his daily life Willy has recently been moving uncontrollably from the present to the past and back again." While he claims he barely understood the comprehended the stories. He says that he was drawn to the Greeks "for cent form. and the structure of the play was determine d by what was needed to draw up his memories like a mass of tangled roots withou t end or beginning. we follow Willy from scene to scene as different times and places flow into each other. this one tries to capture both of these realities and present them with equal vividness on the stage. "I was convinced only that if I could make him re member enough he would kill himself. Expressionism sought to depict the inner life of characters. As we read the play we must keep in mind that all time is in the present. much to the distress of himself and his family. Greek tragedies nd impression on him. he recognized the classic construction. and. observations. Without mentioning his critics. He was striving for a believable and accurate pattern of thought and lan guage. We need to watch for clues that signal these trans itions. in fact. and associations that occur daily in our "subjective process of thought-connection. usually pointing out that Willy doesn't qualify as a tragic he ro." Miller wrote. the symmetry. the single story without subplots. the unity of ti me (Death of a Salesman takes place within the course of about twenty-four hours ) but they are of limited significance. not the characters. There are some other similarities --the inevitable movement toward death of the protagonist (or central character) with growing self-awareness.ld of dreams is as real as the waking world: one's imagination is as real as the actual events of one's life. as Miller wrote. Unlike most plays." Arthur Miller set out in Death of a Salesman to paint a true portrait of how one person thinks." ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: INFLUENCES When Arthur Miller began reading plays in college." as he later put it. . Compare the flashbacks in a movie. Miller replied with an essay titled "Tragedy and the Common Man. Miller wanted to show us the feelings. stylized. where only the audience. his repressed experiences surging back into memory. "the mere fact that a man forgets whe re he is does not mean that he has really moved. In the "Introduction to the C ollected Plays. Because the scenes from the past are actually recurring in Willy's mind as he co nducts his present life. with all its confusions and contradictions. More important for an understanding of the form of Death of a Salesman is a fami liarity with German expressionism. What makes this play different is that the journeys into the past are Willy 's clinical symptoms. The theatrical set remains the same because." made a profou their magnifi characters or "That form ha As soon as Death of a Salesman opened. Therefore. they are not strictly flashbacks--a term we have consis tently avoided in this guide. critics began writing about its relation to Greek tragedy. as these memories of Willy's crowd in.

of a long convention of realism. Its expressionistic ele ments were consciously used as such. so he had to turn back.Miller took the form and made it "warm" and humane. "In the greatest country in the world a young man with such--personal attractiveness. Father and son had had a fight when Willy asked Biff if he was making any money. H e is exhausted." The incidents from the past that Willy recalls in the present are an "expression . Willy recalls the time when there were elm trees and a garden in the back yard." This contradiction seems funny to us (the autho r intended it to get a laugh) but in addition we have learned in the first few l ines of the play that there is a conflict between Biff and Willy. but he betrays contradictory feelings a m oment later when he says. which at age 34 feels humiliating --for many years. Biff. Willy's was to be a high ly successful businessman. a traveling salesman. gets lost. we hear a flute. and h e tries to make him into something he's not. There's one t hing about Biff--he's not lazy. Linda urges him to ask for a spot in th e company's headquarters in New York. isn't it? "Biff is a lazy bum!" Willy complains." NOTE: Observe the surprising presence of a flute. telling of grass and trees and the horizon. NOTE: The tension between father and favorite son is evident: dollars and cents mean less to the son than to the father. an instrument often associate d with nature and the woods. the audience would not ever be aware--if I could help it--that they were witnessing the use of a techn ique which until then created only coldness. "small and fine. I believe. and that's not what he had expected from life. takes Biff's side. he has failed to rea ch his goal. Willy attempts to reassure her. This clash in values is classic. returned that morning from working on a farm in the West. sighing as he puts them down. He loves his son. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: ACT I Willy Loman. Not expecting him home. He later wrote that Death of a Salesman "desired the audience to forget it was in a theater even as it broke the bounds. Now he feels boxed in by new adjacent apartment houses. Their two grown sons are asleep in their old room upstairs. And such a hard worker. but as he enters the bedroom the flute f ades and he says." He had driven only a short distance on his way to New England when he began to daydream and had trouble keeping the car on the road. his wife Linda is worried and calls out to him. and a highly stylized sort of play. and also withi n Willy himself. Our witnessing thos e recollected episodes lets us experience Willy's process of thought. the peace maker. of what's going on inside Willy's mind. We have already seen that Willy is full of exhaustion and disap pointment. but since the approach to Willy Loman's cha racterization was consistently and rigorously subjective. As he appears. As a young person you have a dream of how your life will be when you grow up. But his time is now running out." or dramatization. He has been working a t seasonal farm jobs--this one for $28 a week. in this urban setting. Willy is still upset about the fight. saying he has to "find himself." "Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!" Willy explodes. the older one. Willy carries his sample cases into the kitchen. objectivity. though Linda. and he wants his son to fulfill his dreams. mumbling to himself. We'll see the growing signif icance of this instrument. He says he will. returns home unexpectedly to his little house in Brooklyn one night. An observer in the present would simply see Willy talking. and longs for space and . "I'm tired to the death.

Both are immediately worried." He fled the business world to the outdoor work he loved. Linda promises a drive in the country on Sunday with the windshield open. You would be nervous and embarrassed. and it's spring. "Why does Dad mock me all the time?" Happy points out that when Willy is mumbling to himself he usual ly seems to be talking to Biff.. Biff cares about saving his soul. Biff shifts some of the blame to Happy. but isn't it ironic that Willy likes Biff better? Still. nature also means a great deal to Willy. Willy has trained his sons well--in the end everything relates to business. He laughs. Nature symbolizes freedom for him. For six or seven years after high school he tried various jobs in business .. he has made little money at it. The time is gone when all his dreams were seeds waiting to flower. Happy is st aying over at home after taking Biff on a date. In the wide open spaces he felt free. NOTE: Willy seems to feel choked by urban life as it takes over the neighborhood . the competition. but Happ y. It becomes clear to us--and to Willy--that he is increasingly lost in the past. says Willy just doesn't pay attention. Happy about making money. . It must be terrib le for him not to be able to tell past from present. "Go West. And it's cool there now. their father would stop worrying. and asks. You know that. Happy: . (Reme mber. the having to "get ahead of the nex t fella. Shaken. And w henever spring comes to where I am. Biff: Maybe he's color-blind. but he hated the routine.. I suddenly get the feeling my God. But Bi ff is still mad about that quarrel this morning. like working with his hands or planting a garden. We'll see the image of trees again later .There's nothing more inspiring or--beautiful than the sight of a mare and a n ew colt. and the expression of his natural self and his longings. When she p rotests that he just said he was driving with it open. be cause lately they have been noticing Willy's strange behavior. Remember the sound of the flute was "telling of grass and trees" w hen it introduced Willy. Bristling at the suggestion that he is entirel y responsible. which doesn't fulfill the expectations he's inherited from his father.) Though Biff loved working outside. Willy goes down to the kitchen to get something to eat. Happy has been looking for the chance to talk to Biff about their father. Happy: Pop? Why he's got the finest eye for color in the business. Happy hints. NOTE: We all recognize the conflict between brothers who have grown up to be qui te different. Willy corrects her. He says. for example when Willy says in a crisis. who has driven with him. Even personal characteristics are valued in terms of their usefulness. he realizes that all day he has been imagining a car he had nearly twenty years before. I'm not g . boys!" W illy's life has gotten far away from the things that he is good at. too. Biff tries to find excuses for their father's bad driving. Happy is more like Willy. saying that the windshield doesn't open on the new car.. Upstairs Biff and Happy have been awakened by their parents' voices. Biff does admit that he himself is worried about his inability to settle down. see? Texas is cool now. Imagine how it wo uld feel to have your father start talking to himself.natural surroundings. the flute will return throughout the play at the times Willy comes closest to his true nature. "The woods are burning.He stops at a green light and then it turns red and he goes. Perhaps if Biff had a regular job. you ng man" was a very real call to him.

He is full of uncertainty. It's an appealing idea to escape to a dream world where the two of them could have fun just like the old days." With pride he boasts about the gorgeous girls he takes out. self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can ma ke the grade.. says Biff. But is it practical? It is Happy who suddenly asks. That's an easy accusation. Biff remembers. "I wonder if Oliver still thinks I . And now." NOTE: Notice how Happy uses the word "competition. Oli ver said. and what Biff is trying to escape from. We see that on the surface he looks ha ppy and successful. now he's a man. What does this say about him? Maybe he hasn't outgrown his adolescent preoccupation with athletic prowess. but confesses that he's lonely and stifled. When Happy can't achieve his goal of being a big shot at work. I get here." Here is a restatement of one of the themes of the play: the be trayal of ideals. People usually talk in short. "Maybe I just have an overdeveloped sense of competition or something. the a pple of his father's eye." But he is no longer a boy. "The only thing is--what can you make out there?" Who cares. NOTE: Look at the dialogue throughout the play.000 to get started out West. "It's what I always wanted. Biff asks if Happy is content in his job. Biff has an idea: "Why don't you come out West with me ?" They dream of buying a ranch. Tha t's when I come running home. but sometimes such behavior comes from a refusal to compromise one's ideals. Happy calls Biff a "poet" and an "idealist. Biff has an idea how he could get some money to buy a ranch. Our impression of Biff's relationship with Olive r changes within a few lines when Biff says. I oughta be makin' my future. resentment." N o. He has a car and his own apartment but he hates taking order s from "petty" people. and some times he wants to strip down in the middle of the store and start boxing with th e merchandise manager to show him his real merit. and I don't know what to do w ith myself. "I'm like a boy. Hearing this passionate outburst.ettin' anywhere! What the hell am I doing. ". and guilt over "wasting" his life. not care about the rest of the world. Like many incidents in this play. si mple sentences so that a long speech like this one is unusual. Hearing Hap's complaints. to take bribes to get business. He "ruins" them and then goes to their wedd ings." Together they could be h appy." Competition is what drives W illy onward. but with none of the confidence of an adult. Is his problem simply that he refuses to gr ow up? His parents accuse him of this. "If you ever need anything. Happy is caught in the system: "I gotta show s ome of those pompous. He's in good physical shape. but Biff doesn't want to become like his fathe r. and then to justify himsel f with phrases like. this first mention of Oliver gives a different version than later references. When he quit.everybody around me is so false that I'm constantly low ering my ideals." Happy says . twenty-ei ght dollars a week! I'm thirty-four years old. counters Biff. They feel the old bond of their chil dhood again. if you have peace of mind? Here is the essence of the difference between the brothers. including his boss. It tempts Happy to seduce w omen he doesn't want. playing around with horses.. The American dream is out of his reach so he himself resorts to cheating. but he really isn't. "us[ing] our muscles. In order to grow up you have to have a role model. NOTE: Biff's dilemma is interesting. come to me." Now he decides to ask Oliver to lend him $10. He co nfesses that his latest conquest is engaged to one of the executives in the stor e--a pattern he's been getting into. he feels cheated. He has lots of girlfriends but nob ody he cares about. In high school he h ad worked for a businessman named Bill Oliver. good at sports.

just old enough to drive.) At this point a remarkable thing happens on stage. he has a surprise for them. turning it into an outdoor area--the backyard. who is already upset. saying. Biff says to himself. Biff is polishing the car so carefully because he has a d ate. stage lights have gradua lly come up on Willy downstairs in the kitchen. Happ y pleads with him not to leave home again. and to have a heart-to-heart talk wit h their father. Special beds with trapdoors o r elevators were invented so that as soon as their conversation upstairs ended a nd the lights went down in their room." (Knowing what we know about Willy's unhappiness in his job in th e present. "That selfish. He probably did steal them. " NOTE: By the time the light has faded on their bedroom. so we assume he's about sixteen. The stage directions tell us that Happy is carrying a pail of water and Biff is wearing an athletic sweater and carrying a football. apparently fresh from waxing the car. Dad?" But Willy won't tell them u ntil they've finished the car. but gradually he begin s to look through the wall of the kitchen. A light effect suggesting sun shining through the leaves of overhanging trees fills the stage. and we can't understand how the trick was done. great care was taken t o make this transformation as magical as possible. in th e past. Biff. This leaf pattern always announces the scenes of Willy in the past at home. and in later ones. symbolizing the fading away of the present a nd Willy's troubles. Willy gives them the surpri se. The sound of t he flute reinforces the feeling of warmth and hopefulness associated with the pa st. At first we hear only one side of the conversation. but Biff can only express disgust that Willy would shout aloud h is memories with no regard for their mother. the audience. Biff and Happy's middle of the night chat is interrupted by Willy talking loudly in the kitchen. What self-respecting person would a llow himself to lose control like this? Biff doesn't realize that Willy is at hi s wits' end. The effect of this staging device is to make us realize how abrupt are the shifts in Willy's mind between the presen t and the past. Light and music are our key sign als for scenes changing. Offstage we hear Biff's voice: "Whatta ya got. In this instance the orange silhouettes of the apartmen t houses are fading above the roof. chamois cloth on the hubcaps. Willy says that as soon as the boys have finished walking the car. When the same actors walk into Willy's scene as teenagers. The appearance of Biff and Happy as they looked in the past give s these recalled scenes as much reality to us. the actors. appear from the side of the stage dressed as te enagers. stupid. gets angry. NOTE: In the original 1949 production. Willy is imagining his boys polishing the family car. we are taken completely by surprise. Biff and Happy. especially when they see that it has a famous pro's signat . We see Willy at first smiling at an empty kitchen chair. All the Lomans have a re markable ability to revise events in a light favorable to themselves. T he boys are ecstatic. His focus shifts to the area outside the house. Though Willy is eating a snack. his mind is far away. even to himself. as they have for Wi lly. this line has a ring of painful double meaning for us. who only mome nts before were in bed upstairs.. a punching bag he brought home with him on his return from a selling trip. could get offstage and change their costumes as Willy began talking. As he gets into bed. Hearing this. without being seen. but has always denied it." This is a revealing question. but to pay attention to schoolwork. "Never leave a job till you're finished-remember that. He is reliving a scene from the past in which Biff is waxing (" Simonizing") the car. He tells them to use newspaper on the windows.. We hear Willy ca utioning him not to waste his time on girls.stole that carton of basketballs.

"He's liked. Bernard!" says Willy. saying. "That so? And h e gave you the ball. He 's liked. Biff shows off his new football." This is a recurring idea. Bernard. and the results will determine who gets college scholarships. He say s he had coffee with the mayor of Providence and "sold a nice bill" in Waterbury . Happy. showing how he's training to get in shape. they know me up and do wn New England. "What an anemic!" All the Lomans are in the habit of making fun of Bernard." He promises to take them up there this summe r. boys. We see that his attitude toward the theft. the hig h school wouldn't dare flunk him. I'm going to break through for a touchdown. and ad ds to his boys. Biff is his favorite son who can do no wrong. always trying to get his share of attention. heh?" says Willy. Biff answers. Charley's son. Biff evades th e question by saying the coach told him to practice his passing. "U ncle" Charley--but bigger and better than his. like their neighbor. He brags that someday he'll have his own sales business. "I told you he wo uldn't like it!" But Willy defends him. says to Biff. He lies on his back now and pedals his feet in the air." and therefore successful because they can make people do anything for them. "Bernard is not well liked. comes on stage. a studious. "Because Charley is not liked.just for you . Sports and competition--that key word again--are central in this family. but because unlike Willy they know where their strengths lie. as "well lik ed. Wil ly tells him to return it. Their class will take the Regents exam next week. Ironically." Biff ignores Happy's protest that he's supposed to pass. Laughing with him. who is two years younger than Biff and anxious to please both him and their father. Bernard fights back with the information th at he overheard their math teacher threatening to flunk Biff.. scrawny boy. not only because they are smart. Taking Willy's hand he says.. is hopping around. he is the kid brother. that like his father he m akes up his own rules to suit his needs. But when we hear that. we must remember it. especially Biff. Charley. Willy insists on thinking of himself and his sons. not make points. we realize that Biff is planning to use the game to his own advantage. He lacks the flashines s. It is Willy's way of measuring success: "well liked" enough to make your for tune by it. ". "Don't be a pest. With a laugh of guilt mixed with pride. Willy angrily remi nds Bernard that with sports scholarships offered by three universities. whining that Bi ff is supposed to be studying with him today. Willy begins telling the boys stories of his selling trip to New England. Wh en Happy starts boxing with Bernard. doesn't he? Coach'll probably congratulate you on your initiative!" This is the kind of justification Willy is good at: twisting something bad into something good. jealous of the attention Biff is getting. ." We recognize that line from Willy's description of Bernard's father. Happy. we will soon see that studious Bernard and hard-working Charley are the ones who achieve real success in the end. The finest people. "He's gotta practice with a regu lation ball. though he says Biff was wrong to do it. He boasts about how popular he is: "They know me. the rugged physique. We learn that Biff has been made captain of the football team and that he'll be playing in a big game on Saturday. and the "gift for gab"--the qualities of ideal manliness according to Willy. is he?" Willy asks after he's g one. is a little bit indulgent and conspiratorial. but he's not well liked.ure on it. B iff confesses that he "borrowed" it from the locker room. When Willy asks where he got it. but he's not--well liked.

next week you'll do better. we know we are back in the present. You know." work s in one of the stores he visits. She excitedly takes a pencil and pap er from her apron pocket to figure his commission. It's clear they're having an affair. At that. The signals of music and lighting draw our attention away from Linda. if business don't pick up I don't know what I'm gonna do! Linda: Well. however. "proper looking. His wife Linda. His memories are cla moring in his brain. isn't as easily fooled. To all of them he yells "Shut up!" but they continue finding fau lt with Biff until Willy explodes. Through Linda's words we hear a woman laughing fro m the darkness at the side of the stage. Willy seems to wilt in defeat.It's so important to Willy to see himself as well liked that he fills his sons f ull of pictures--lies. not as he wishes to be. vacuum cleaner. Alone. Happy comes downstairs to try to calm Willy. and still talking about how handsome he is. loves him as he is. The bridge between the scenes is Willy's unfinished line. Stage lights c ome up in the kitchen. shouting that Biff has to study and he's d riving the car without a license. she greets Willy warmly and asks. "There's so much I wan t to make for-" The woman picks up the words and changes the meaning. and that he's too fat. I'll go to Hartford. and when th e boys go off to hang it up for her. She arrives onstage carrying a basket of washing. She tel ls him that to her he's the handsomest man in the world. he backs down and te lls her the true figure. I'll knock 'em dead next week. Linda is darning a pair of silk stockings. "Me? You d idn't make me. and so on. But today he nearly hit a child on the side o . Willy scornfully reminds him he makes $70 a week and wastes most of it on women. We are witnessing a private and painful moment. people don't seem to take to me. the trouble is. and how worried he is about not being able to make a living. The scene is about to change. She's never before heard him speak this way. Everything starts caving in on him. where are you? The woods are burning! I can't drive a car!" We see that this is the final disaster for Willy. we learn how contradictory Willy's thinking really i s: Willy: A hundred and twenty dollars! My God. She thank s him for the silk stockings he's given her. She is about his age. Willy. Willy: Oh. a crisis of self-doubt and selfrecognition. All th e warm light of the scenes from the past is gone. Linda chimes in that Biff shouldn't have taken the football and he's too rough with the girls. He promises to give his father enou gh money to retire. They calculate how much money they owe: monthly payment s on the refrigerator. "Where are you guys. that he talk s too much. "Did you sell anything?" Willy names a large figure. As Willy is saying how lonely he gets for her on the road. however. As a traveling salesman his li fe depends on being able to drive. When we notice the apartment b uildings towering over the house again. Linda. Whe n he has to face the bills. She promises to see him again next time he's in town because he's a kidder and makes her laugh. Willy tells her that people seem to laugh at him or not notice him. a nd Willy doesn't want her to leave. really--of his popularity. Bernard runs in. I'm very well liked in Hartford. he walks across the stage toward a woman who is just finishing getting dressed. In a frenzy of guilt about the other woman Willy angrily tells Linda to t hrow out the stockings. The other woman is laughing in the background. new roof. Linda. She's laughing as t hey kiss and say goodnight. "There's nothing the matter with him!" Linda leaves the kitchen almost in tears. Her laughter as she leaves blends with Linda's laugh ter. returning us to the scene of Linda and Willy's conversation. I picked you." They are in Willy's hotel room in Boston. washing machine.

"What're you talkin' about?" To cover up his own odd behavior and because he feels on th e defensive. with his brother Ben? Charley arrives from next door in his bathrobe. But I got a couple of fearless characters there. Now Ben is here for a few mi nutes before catching a train for Alaska. Sending Happy t o bed. Cha rley asks. sure of what he wants and how to get it. He refuses to admit defeat in front of Charley. He is a kind of puppet or ca rtoon of Willy's dreams. well liked. Willy accuses Charley of cheating in the card game. but Willy takes his presence as an insult. Willy relies on his imagined concept of Ben to encourage him when he feels insecure. friend! . Willy was only three when his brother left home to seek his fortune and ended up in Africa with inve stments in diamond mines. leaving Willy free to enter completely into the new scene wit h Ben. NOTE: All the hopes of a lifetime seem to Willy to be wrapped up in his successf ul brother. Charley: Willy. Ben has come to invite Willy to make a new start in Alaska. a wanderer whom Willy barely remembers. Willy speaks to Ben. and as usual Willy takes offense. Ben says. Charley finally asks several times In frustration. Young Linda has come in. "I got a good job. the jails are full of fearless characters. You'll never get out of the jungle that way. looking youthful and rather silly in a pair of knickers. boy. saying. and hearing the name. years ago. He has heard the noise and wonde rs what's the matter. wh om he views as a man with no personality. Having no one to advise him. and the teen-age boys. He warns that the watchman at the building will call the cops if the boys don't sto p stealing materials. and was so scared he had to turn back. "Never fight fair with a stranger. As they play. He hasn't seen Ben since.f the road. They exist in the imagined scenes only as Willy perceives them to be. Charley comes over. not a fully developed character in the play. Why hadn't he gone to Alaska.) Willy boasts that he's bringing up the boys to be "rugged." Ben invites Biff to box with him. It's not the first time he's offered Willy a job. (We see now why it is so appropri ate for the music that represents something pure in Willy to be flute music. fabulo usly rich. he casually mentions that he wants to take a trip and could use Will y's help in his business. He played the flute . The same i s true of Linda as a young woman and of the high school-aged boys. Willy justifies their thefts: Willy: I gave them hell. then trips him. if he can twist them around to suit his cause. with a laugh at Charley) And the stock exchange. "Did you call me Ben?" Willy makes the excuse that Charley reminds hi m of Ben. Ben is a stranger but Willy has made him into a hero. Stealing or lying seem to be acceptable in his code. We see Ben as he looks through Willy's eyes: worldly.) Eager to show Ben how handy his boys are." Willy lies. understand. he sends them running to the nearby constru ction site of an apartment building to steal some sand to make a new front step. all-aroun d. and sold the flutes he made from town to town. Charley slams t he door in a huff." (Is this an honorable motto? Do we agree with it? Willy seems to. Ben: (clapping Willy on the back. He see ms to resent Charley out of all proportion. They gather around Ben as he tel ls about his father. dapp er with an umbrella and suitcase. whom they learned had died recently. He was "a very great and a very wild-hearted man"--a true salesman. Suddenly a new character enters Willy's imagination: his older brother Ben. For a few minutes things get very mixed up as Willy tries to listen to both Ben in his mind and Charley in the ro om at the same time. Charley takes out a deck of cards and offers to play a game of casino.

Biff and Happy come downstairs. For the first time they all talk honestly about Willy. The next few minutes are a whirlwind. he stills feels "kind of temporary about myself. For five weeks now he has been on a straight commission. Charley is upset about sales in his business being so bad." she can that go on?" Linda asks. and Arthur Mi ller defended this idea in his essay "Tragedy and the Common Man. hurries in to fin d him. unable to cope with the sudden shift back to the present. leaving. he drives 700 miles each wa y and doesn't make a cent--so no wonder he talks to himself. you'll hear him. Mom. but now. Linda tries to soothe him. as sures him he's doing a first-rate job. like the company. like a beginn er. Bernard runs in saying the watchman's chas ing Biff. Willy is in a panic at the prospect of Ben leaving so soon. who often t reated her badly through the years. Pay respect to your father. Linda: Well. At 63 years old he has worked all his lif ends meet for children "he loved better than his life" who no longer a him. making money." Linda defends him. come around more often." How should h e bring up his boys. Happy starts to object. she says. and a terrible thing is happening to him. and in a tumble of words he confesses that although he has "a fine positi on here" (a lie). Biff: Why didn't you ever write me about this Mom? Linda: How would I write to you? For over three months you had no address. but he's shaken by the emotion of his memory. but Biff cuts him of f saying. perhaps because he can't open up to him. The sound of Willy offstage calling his name from deep in one of his memories in furiates Biff. in her nightgown and robe of the present. they have n o use for him. Linda explains that Willy is worse when Biff is around. "He's got no character." Previous defi . after 36 years with the company. "I was right! I was right! I was right!" he shouts until Linda. He borrows $50 a we ek from their neighbor Charley (now we understand why Willy resents Charley so m uch) and pretends to Linda that he earned the money. Willy hangs on every word as Ben. Linda cuts them short: "Are they an y worse than his sons?" She claims that the boys were glad to see their father w hen he was supporting them. or don't come home anymore. Happy: I never heard him so loud. "He's not the finest chara cter that ever lived. He tells his mother to stop making excuses for Willy. "How long e to make ppreciate man. and it's enough for Willy." What is the terrible thing that is happening to Willy? Is it just that he is los ing his bearings? Or is it that he is becoming so tormented by his confusions an d failures that he can no longer face his life? We learn from Linda that Willy has just lost his salary. So attention must be paid. Linda is upset by Ben's sudden visit.We can view Charley's and Ben's reactions as the two battling sides of Willy's c onscience. He's exhausted: "a small man can be just as exhausted as a great asserts. He shuf fles off in his bedroom slippers to take a walk. But he's a human being. he cries out. NOTE: This line is possibly one of the most important in the play. When Biff and Happy express indignation. She gently accuses Biff of not having "any feeling" for his fat her. His old contacts are dead or retired. The highest authority in Willy's world ha s spoken.

he sneers to Biff." . She's as committed to the fantasy o f success as he is. We must keep in mind something else: Linda. What more do you want? What Linda says next brings the boys to shocked attention. Linda urged Willy to think of his "good position" at home. But Willy's ego. Feeling guilty. which he hates. if need be. especially the people you work for. even though he fe els he's not cut out for it... Go to an y department store in Boston.. tha n it ever was. and you know why? Because we don't belong in this nuth ouse of a city! We should be mixing cement on some open plain. A witness had seen him deliberately drive off a small bridge. But Willy is a strong character. He will try once again to be what Willy wants him t o be. Scornfully Willy says. "Even your grandfather [the flute player] was better than a carpente r. or--or carpenters . The thought of flattering superiors is too much for Biff. NOTE: Why doesn't she confront her husband with the evidence? Doesn't she want t o save him from this terrible action? Of course she does. The boys now see him with new eyes. Just try to please people. And then Linda has found a rubber tube i n the basement and a new valve on the gas pipe--apparatus that would allow Willy to asphyxiate himself by breathing gas. from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world." Willy has overheard more than that. She has never understood why.the tragic feeling is evoked when we are in the presen ce of a character who is ready to lay down his life. but Biff will say darkly only. He exclaims. to secure one t hing--his sense of personal dignity. kings and queens are less relevant to us. advises his brother. knowing that he is consideri ng suicide. bounces back." Willy comes in. "They've laughed at Dad for years. But today.. They watch him nervously.nitions of tragic drama claimed that only heroes having "rank or nobility of cha racter" were worthy of having plays written about them.." Miller believes that all of us can identify with the struggles o f a modern character: ". hates to admit that Willy is not all he longs to be. "And who in the business world thinks I'm cr azy?" We hold our breath: how will Willy respond to this bold statement of his f ailure? No one in this family speaks honestly until he's absolutely forced to. "He's dying. He reminds his mother that Willy threw him out of th e house. a nd here is Willy stumbling onto Biff's true feelings. But every day she fears for his life. too. and perhaps stronger.. and give his father half his sa lary. "Because I know he's a fake and he doesn't like anybody around who knows!" Angrily Biff ad ds that he'll stay in this city. You never grew up. She has not had the nerve to confront W illy about these things. unlike in anc ient Greek or Shakespearean times. We'll see that at the moment when he might have gone to Alas ka with Ben. Mil ler claims that the "underlying fear of being displaced." Linda is holding nothing back now." S he has heard from the car insurance inspector that a series of "accidents" in th e last year were really Willy's attempts to kill himself. and that is what Willy can't face. She calls Happy "a philandering bum" and asks Biff "What happened to the love you had for him?" But now it's Biff's turn to l ay some cards on the table. Biff. "Call out the name Willy Loman and see what happens! Big shot!" Biff is teetering between fear of upsetting his father and anger at the "fake. the lie he unfailingly carries with him. and treat him with kid gloves. is as strong. Biff promises to make a new start in business. To discuss suicide with him would be to discuss failure. she feels it would be an insult to his pride.

to see his father. Linda wonders. They say an awkwa rd goodnight. It has become clear to him that he can't be around his father without fighting. We realize that Happy is using Biff's own tactics: a sales pitch for teaming up together. don't pick it up. He wants Oliver to set him up in a sporting goo ds business. Biff's at the boiling point. Pop. It works. Excitedly h e describes it: he and Biff will sell a line of sporting goods. As the boys start talking again about the Oliver scheme. Remember when fake? Biff is harboring some kind of secret about g his entire relationship with him. He tells his father he's leaving early tomo rrow. "He's g oing to see Bill Oliver." All of a sudden Biff is in an awkward position." Willy's true philosophy goes against even his own best advice. especially a parent. They will form two teams and have sports competitions to advertise the goods." Linda hurries out after Willy. Jesus. it's how you say it--because personality always wins the day. "Stop yelling at her!" Willy su ddenly goes quiet. abusing his mother. and try to do what would please his father? He decides on the second choice. And Willy is ecstatic. But Happy has another idea in mind. and leaves the room. They have office boys for t hat. Is this the same Wi lly Loman talking? He is really warming to the picture of the interview. Willy calls him. T hat wasn't what he meant about "leaving. so he'd better just go away forever. "Start off with a couple of your good stories to lighten things up. it's afterward. I'm going to sleep! Willy: Don't you curse in this house! Biff: Since when did you get so clean? NOTE: Biff is hinting at something. what has he got against you?" But he br . When at last he bursts out." As Biff leaves the room. Willy is recalling the great football game at Ebbets Fi eld when Biff in his gold uniform led his team to the city championship. He starts givin g Biff advice on how to make the best of the interview with Bill Oliver: dress c onservatively. instead it would re-create the old family closeness and utilize their athletic skills. talk as little as possible. It wouldn't be like business. whom he doesn't respect. To break up the impending fight. the Loman Line. Willy is not far wrong to say Biff is he told his mother Willy is a his father. As they are building this fantasy. he says. But each time she adds a word of en couragement. His father asks how much Oliver will give him. don't make jokes. who humbly takes it. Willy repeating his grandiose advice: "If anything falls off the d esk while you're talking to him. Biff is enthusiastic. Might this be the time. Begging him to say goodnight nicely to his father. but he says he hasn't even gone to see him yet. When you find a person whom you love.When Willy asks him why he's always insulting him. Finally Biff can't st and it anymore.." Should he say so? Or should he make a supreme effort after all.. saying "It takes so little to make him happy. they get excited and go up to Willy. looking beaten and guilty. A Hercu les. Willy: Ah. to ask something that has been on her min d since her talk with Biff? "Willy dear. and without consulting Biff he adds. you're counting your chickens again Biff: Oh. It's not what you s ay. Happy interrupts with another idea. and it is poisonin out something upsetting about hard to treat him the same way always insulting him. we can see Linda brightening with renewed hop e that maybe things will be right after all. Willy cruelly tells her to stop interrupting.

which is now glowing behind the kitchen with b lue light." She is not exaggerating. it was like the old days!" She reminds Biff to make an extra effort to be nice t o his father tonight. and both he and Linda feel exult ant. autos. raise vegetables and build guest houses for each of the boys to stay in when they visit with their families. the way most of us do when we use that phrase. "I'm so tired. Willy and Linda know that thi s month's mortgage payment will be the last. Linda is so sensitive to the importance of Biff's love and respect for Willy that she instinctively pu ts it in the strongest words she knows: "Biff. and that finally. he goes upstairs to his room." Do you think he knows what she is referring to? Or is he really too tired to focus? We see Biff go to the gas heater. (If only he could admit tha t building and gardening are what he's best at and should have been doing all hi s life. Biff has called to make sure Linda told Willy about their dinne r date. Wrapped up in the house are years of memories--Bif f was nine when they moved in--and hours of Willy's own labor remodeling and rep airing it. Willy. Don't talk any more. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: ACT II In the morning Biff and Happy are up and gone before Willy wakes. and somed ay move to the country. Willy is confident that he can convince his boss to keep him in the New York office. The third cause for excitement is that the boys have invited their father to din ner at a restaurant that evening. and the cycle starts again. and his rescue seems to have something to do with Biff. . he tells Linda eagerly. He takes the piece of rubber tubing Willy has hidden behind it. Be cause they are expensive. She can hardly wait to confide a discovery to him: the rubber hose is go ne from behind the water heater. it wears out. First. While he's at it. Willy hurries off to catch the subw ay into the city to see his boss. And no wonder every time he sees her doing it. Will y is seized with guilt over having had a mistress. With a look of horror on his face. whose t iny income is gobbled up each month by the family bills. I can feel it changing! Willy: Beyond a question. Willy: I will never get behind a wheel the rest of my life! Linda: It's changing.ushes her aside. He'll plant a garden. This is a torment to Willy. and darns her stockings. We are consumers of "essentials" like modern appliances. Second. "Because he's only a little boat looking for a harbor. He's slept wel l for the first time in months. even houses." Th e metaphor is appropriate: Willy has been exhausted and tossed about by troubles .) He's going to ask his boss for a New York job. you'll save his life. we pay for them in monthly installments that can stret ch out over years. Often by the time they are paid for they are so old they have to be replaced. He's in a hopeful mood brought on by the boys' p lan to start a business. Linda reminds h im. His positive attitude is catching. Of course when she learns Biff took it. Flattered. ask for an advance of $200 to cover recent bills. It is an important day for several reasons. t he house will belong to them. she's d isappointed. to whom he gave new silk stoc kings. but still she feels happy because Willy was "in such high spirits. The phone rings. Willy complains that just as he gets something like the refrigerator paid for. NOTE: Willy is caught in a trap we are all familiar with: built-in obsolescence. after 25 years. No wonder Linda is frug al.

see? But you can't be home at that hour. Willy. a m odel family. Finally Howard turns it off.. As the stage lights fade on Linda and come up on Howard. Howard asks "Don't you have a radio in the c ar?" Caught in his own lie. what I must b e missing on the radio!" Surprised. finally saying. his wife. Willy asks him point-blank if he thinks he can't do his job: Willy: Look.. Willy doesn't admit to Howard that he doesn't have a maid (and perhaps not even a radio). On it is a wire-recording machine. Willy's young boss. and now he is excitedly playing back the recording as Willy tries to get a word in. an early version of the tape recorder. So you tell the maid to turn the radio on when Jack Benny comes on." Willy is desperate and won't take no for an answer." which shows how little respect Howard has for the older man." There isn't a place for him in the New York store. but who ever thinks of t urning it on?" Suddenly Howard realizes that Willy is supposed to be in Boston. an invention that in 1949 is not yet widespread in offices. is it? Howard: No. Howard is looking for his lighter. Most of the comp any's business is sales to other stores by traveling salesmen. and "you're a roa d man. "But where am I going to put you. and that $150 is about the amount of his monthly bills he is strugglin g so hard to meet. "Speaking frankly and between the two o f us. Each time Willy tries to speak. This is Willy's big moment. and a $65-a-week salary. Willy fumbles. kid?" Notice that a man half his age is callin g Willy by the derogatory term. Howard: Sure. H oward Wagner. his young son and daughter. We are getting a picture of Howard as a successful man with plenty of money. yeah. and all my hobbies" in favor of having fun with this machine. we can s ee Willy trying to get Howard's attention. but it's a business. Willy drops his price to $50. Each time Howard tries to interrupt. "kid.A new scene is set on the other side of the stage as Linda hangs up the phone. comes out pushing a portable table. and my bandsaw. Willy reminds him. saying he' s going to throw out "my camera. it isn't a question of whether I can sell merchandise. listening to the machine. He's been wit h the firm since Howard's father was a young man and Howard himself was a newbor n baby. Howard is playing with his brand new recorder. When Howard maintains there's no opening for him here. they're only a hundred and a half. . and this automatically goes on with the radio. the kind u sed for typewriters. "I've come to the decision that I'd rather not travel any more. Howard says. Willy: I think I'll get one myself. Willy keeps on talking. You can't do without it. y'know--I'm just a little tired. and Willy hands it to him--just the kind of gesture he advised his son Biff to avoid during his in terview. Supposing you wanna hear Jack Benny. Because lots of time I'm on the road. Bravely he announces. kid. and I think to myself. and everybody's gotta pull his own weight. But he plays along with the lie: "I'm definitely going to get one. "Well. and the free time to tinker with one expensive gadget after another --you probably know people like that. Willy tries to be enthusiastic about the wire-recorder. He took it home the night before and recorded himself . Howa rd hushes him. who take up and drop each fad as it comes along. "What're you do ing here?" he asks." He asks Howard for a spot here in New York.

" But of course How ard has hit on one of the major characteristics of Willy's personality. Ask your sons to hel p you out. and offers Willy the . He tells of wanting to go to Alaska. There was respect. tells him to pull himself together. needs someone to manage it. The babble of the wire-recorder parallels t he babble in Willy's mind. You see what I mean? They don't know me any more. grasping Howard's arm. "That's just the thing. the same desk Howard' s father. Ben comes in and Willy relives a scene from the past. the thing that means m ost to him: the story of his life. it's all cut and dried. and leaves. and he uses his final ammunition. who starts to le ave." But they both know that will never happen and that Willy is bein g fired for good. Howard tells Willy to come back "when you feel better" and maybe they can "work something out. When he died--"the death of a salesman"--in the smoking car on the train to Bos ton--his funeral was attended by hundreds of his business associates. He leans on the desk. He calls out frantically to Howard. Wit h effort Howard keeps his temper. and his only ai m now is to maintain his dignity and get out of the room. Willy is getting angry. but now he picks up on Willy's last line about not being kno wn by the buyers anymore. but Willy i s not to be distracted from what he wants. and anyway he can't impose on them like a "cripple. he'll go to Boston. At this. His vo ice rising. when Ben was on his way back from Al aska." Let me go to Boston. But Howard has something to say: Howard: I don't want you to represent us. Willy's composure has cracked.What Howard is really saying is yes. he ac cidentally bumps into the wire-recorder. Willy again brings up Howard's father. His sons are busy on a "very big deal" says Willy. but still H oward says no. Stunned. who rushes back i n and unplugs the machine. he stops Howard: "I'm talking about your father! There were promises made across this desk! You mustn't tell me you've got people to see--I put thir ty-four years into this firm. To tell Willy not to have false pride is like telling him to stop breathing. saying he has to see some people. He feels defeated. and now I can't pay my insurance! You can' t eat the orange and throw the peel away--a man is not a piece of fruit!" Willy tries to tell him that in 1928 he averaged $170 a week. Willy: Howard." he starts. he concedes. and gratitude in it. but even the ment ion of this authority figure seems to have no effect on Howard." Restless and uninterested--or perhaps embarrassed--Howard has not looked at Will y during his story. Howard. Howard. used to occupy. you don't do a good job. but bein g inspired instead by an old and well-respected salesman called Dave Singleman. Willy. Willy has become panic-stricken as he sees his last chance slipping away. Willy rea lizes he's been yelling at his boss. He'll keep traveling. suggests Howard: "This is no time for false pride. Willy protests that he has to earn money. who could pick up the phone and do his business without stirring from his hotel. are you firing me? Howard: I think you need a good long rest. he begs. I've been meaning to tell you for a long time now. He has bought timberland. Willy. He lowers his bid to $40. A childish voice starts repeating the s tate capitals in alphabetical order. Willy wind s up his plea passionately with what amounts to his philosophy of life: "In thos e days there was personality in it. Today. As he speaks in his imagination to Frank. and comradeship. and there's no chance for br inging friendship to bear--or personality. Alone for a moment Willy stares exhausted into space. he presses his hands t o his eyes and says he needs a cup of coffee. Frank. Music is heard. but Howard doesn't believe him. ordering Willy to get hold of himself and then go home.

Pop. "I don't think that was funny. "It's who you know and the smile on your face" that get you places in life. Linda as her younger self comes in. Knowing ho w much the football game means to Willy. and unsettled Willy with talk of making a fortune in the wilderness. impress ing people with stories of a lot of money. who simply replies. who seems to succeed without doing any of the things Willy feels are important: sports." There is a strong b ond of closeness between them. " But Charley merely asks him when he's going to grow up. but before he can get up Willy comes in." Ben says only that he could get rich in Alaska. And remember. You can make your fortune from the contacts you develop. Jenny. Willy is bouncing back and forth between Ben's and Linda's reasoning. "I got it. trying to lur e them away from their Life here. He's "well liked. and that's one big difference between the two men. now a grown m an. asks Bernard to go out in the hall and quiet Willy down. shouting names at him. Now here he is back again. he tells Ben. Last t ime he praised the boys for fighting and stealing. Willy retorts. who is about to go and play his big footba ll game at Ebbets Field. Of course Charley doesn't fight. Charley saunters in. pal. according to Willy. Charley's secretary." and doing well enough to be happy rig ht here. They are both taking the competition of this day very seriously. and Biff replies. She has taken Willy's optimistic fantasies so to heart that she defends them against even him. Willy shows off Biff. he just walks away laughing. Charley. He can't see getting s o worked up about sports. For the rest of his life Willy will be tortured by the idea he was wrong not to go to Alaska. We now notice the two signals that the scene is changing : lights coming up on a different area of the stage. working with tools. Linda insists. She doesn't like Ben. Willy feels insecure enough about this philosophy to want a final encouragement from his older brother whom he probably will never see again. am I right?" he asks. runs in. Offstage Willy is still shouting as the lights come up on Bernard. He jokes coarsely with Jenny and is shocked to realize who the self-assured young man is. two sides of his own mind. a baseball game? Enraged by his jokes. Frank Wagner. has said he'll be a partner in the firm someday if he keeps up the good work. after the others have gon e. when I take off my helmet. that touchdown is for you. he teasingly asks him where he's going. "What are you building?. Wil ly is now so angry he's ready to fight--"Put up your hands!"--probably partly be cause he has always been jealous of Charley. Where is it?" Ben is leaving to board his ship back home to Africa. Willy hands out pennants and gives Biff a fatherly pep talk. Three universities want to give him scholarships.. Willy follows him. Happy has the honor of carrying Biff's helmet. He's sitting in his father's office as Willy's voice gets louder and nearer. right now.. Charley's boy. When he sees the Lomans he is relieved that the y haven't left for the game without him. This is the greatest day of his life. and music. and leaves. she thinks he's ignored them all these years only to appear suddenly and stir up trouble.job. Bernard. which will entitle b oth of them to accompany Biff into the locker room. Willy has been having a good year an d his boss. I'm building something here. and Bernard settles for carrying the shoulder pads. As they are all about to leave for Ebbets Field. In an effort to keep him a moment longer. What does Linda fear they will lose by going? She has swallowed Willy's golden l ie of the promise of success and happiness. . in this case ris ing to a "mocking frenzy" to indicate Willy's anger and disorientation. "I value your advice. "Ben.

" NOTE: Advice is something Willy gives freely to other people. that sometimes things don't work out and "it's better for a man just to walk away. Charley can't understand why Willy wil . Biff was all ready to enroll in summer school. Nearly breaking down with emotion. Biff had come back from Boston. Bernard does have one idea why Biff never made it. "And he didn't even mention it!" Willy muses. I ronically. urges Bernard to hurry for the train." This is one reason Willy does not respect Charley: he's not a passionate man with grand hopes and manly talents. Biff had come to Boston. He feels Bernard is blaming him. and he wonders if h e has brought his boys up right. even though it was Willy himself who brought it up. as W illy thought. Bernard c ontinues. We remember that Willy has said those same words to Ben: "I value your advice. NOTE: Charley's answer tells a lot about his character. but Willy has no respect for Charley's personality: a man who wears silly-looking knickers his wife bought h im. Wha t happened in Boston? Willy becomes defensive. tells him that Biff is "doing very big things in the West. now a young lawyer. "That's when it's tough. Contrast Charley. Biff never went anywhere. and further emphasize his own wrongheadedness. Willy wonders how Charley brought up Bernard to be so successful. after the Ebbets Field game. so desperate for advice a moment before." Willy can't. I value your advice. he lacked guidance as a young person. Ye s. "My salvation is that I never took any interest in anything. and who is content to run a small business. to cou nter Bernard's obvious success. has offered him a job. After Bernard has left. h e asks Bernard what the secret is that he learned and Biff so clearly missed. His life fell apa rt. He has been givi ng him $50 a week ever since Willy went on straight commission. do you want to talk candidly? Willy: I regard you as a very brilliant man. These achievements madden Willy. and. a distinguished son. It wasn't flunking math." says Bernard. Charley comes into the office. It's true that Charley is going to survive and Willy is not. In spite of his hearty talk. but also needs him self. the symbol of his bright future. two grandsons. he is not self-confident." but is in town now because Bill Oliver. Did Willy have a talk with him? Willy. Does Bernard know why? Bernard: Willy. and gives h im a bottle of bourbon as a going-away present. who never gives or asks for advice from anyone. But for once Willy Loman runs out of words. and has always felt "temporary" about hims elf." Now here he is asking advice from the once-scrawny kid Bernard. With difficulty Willy asks for $110 to pay his insurance. Bernard tells Will y not to worry. Willy is impressed. whom he scornful ly used to call "anemic. As he leaves. who doesn't care what he eats. Willy is astonished to find out from Charley that Bernard is going to argue a ca se in front of the Supreme Court. Af ter 17. is on his way to Washington to argue a case. now seems full of resentment. Charley lays $50 on the desk for Willy. had a fist fight with Bernard. without even " taking an interest" in him. He went up to New E ngland to find Willy and when he got back he was changed. He'll be staying with friends who have a tennis court. a sporting goods dealer.Bernard. So what? He obviously remembers something. Because his father left when Willy was a baby. Bernard. and bur ned up his University of Virginia sneakers. Charley has achieved everything Willy wants: financial independence.

Happy orders a special lobster dish made with champagne because the meal is a s pecial occasion to celebrate the business he and Biff plan to start with Bill Ol iver's money. But after she leaves the table Biff quickly tells his bro ther to cut out the nonsense and listen to what has happened to him. you're the only friend I got. So what? asks Charley. If the truth isn't pleasant. Morgan?" asks Charley. When Biff says he could never impress such a girl. NOTE: Like his father. Escaping from uncomfortable truths a nd putting on an impressive act are his specialties. Now. but Willy is immovable. Happy asks where his old confidence is . I sn't that a remarkable thing?" The lights black out. It makes Happy uncomfort able to see Biff depressed. varn ishes and paints it until it satisfies him. The new scene. "Why must everyone like you? Who liked J. though at the moment that's a lie." His parting words are a revelation that Willy is beginning to see some truth: "Charley. Willy has never wanted to believe this. Hap py can't resist practicing his art. Biff is in an emotional turmoil and is not in the mood to flirt with girls. his life insurance policy. Happy asks the girl to join them for the evening. Suddenly Happy notices an attractive woman (his slang for available women is "st rudel. o bserves that Willy's been jealous of him all along.l beg from him. just before the Ebbets Field game?--and Willy's literally mad enough to fig ht. Several times he's offered Willy a position--with no traveling--at $50 a week. Determined to shake Biff out of what seems to be his nervousness. and he confesses that he's been f ired--by the baby he named Howard in his father's arms. angry at his friend's stubbornness. He tells Stanley to watch while he gets her to go ou t with him. but Happy is too busy playing his game of conquest to answer. a nd well liked" that success would come naturally. That's the thing t hat makes Willy the angriest--remember Charley said the same thing 14 years earl ier. nobody's worth nothin' dead." . Happy. so to speak. He is flirting with her when Bif f comes in. and to find a friend. is the restaurant where the boys have a rranged to treat their father to dinner. He doesn't seem to hear Charley when he say s. But Willy insists h e has a job. introduced by loud music. a "gift of gab" inherited from his father. Happy idealizes the golden years of adolescence and promi se. like Willy." meaning a dessert). as we will see. you end up worth more dead than alive. P. Evidently a regular customer. "What kind of a job is a job without pay?" asks Charley. Willy muses that after all the traveling. Willy can't accept a job from him. They don't mean anything. Lights come up on Stanley. Charley isn't interested in fighting. when Biff seemed a hero with the world at his feet. Of course. Happy tells her that he went to West Point and Biff is a pro football star. Y ou can't sell sentimental connections. but won't accept a job from him. He w ants to know if their father has arrived yet. and Charley. After he hands him the extra money. Instead in a kind voice he asks his friend how much money he needs. "Willy. She goes to make a pho ne call to arrange it. "the appointments. a waiter who positions a table for Happy. Hap offers the girl to Biff as if he owns her. in the restaurant. This is enough to break Willy's proud reserve. the first to arrive. Notice the ease with which he spins lies to impress her. and the yea rs." He's referring to the only thing he has left. "It's been the strangest day I ever went through. The line he uses with her is that he's a champagne salesman and he'd like her to try his brand. Still. He has preferred to think that if he was "impressive. "When the hell are you going to grow up?" continues Charley.

he says..Biff had waited all day to see his former employer. trying to tilt the balance from negative to positive. Biff: Who was it. if he tells a lie.he gave me o ne look and--I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been!" Biff's re alization was that he and his family have chosen to believe that instead of a sh ipping clerk he was a salesman for Oliver. This is what Biff is now rejecting a s he tries to make a clean start on the basis of who he is instead of who Willy wants him to be.. No. Exagger ation or revision of past events is a habit with the Lomans. Biff has decided that he must tell his father tonight that he's not the hero Willy's always claimed he was. Listen for the key repetitions of "practically" and "almost. But Biff persists t hat as he waited for Oliver he realized some "facts" about his life. In return. here's a fact for the boys to digest: he has been fired. When his hopes involve his son's future. and ran e leven flights down to the street. NOTE: Even Biff himself was convinced of this revised version of events. Watch for th e dramatic tension of this scene in the restaurant. too. However . The y're both smiling--Willy encouragingly." Happy inter jects. sa ys Hap. and that Willy is worthless. and adm its to having had a few already. sending his name in with no success. Does Biff want to lay facts on the line? Okay. Willy: But you were practicallyNOTE: It's a habit in the Loman family to say "practically" this or "almost" tha t. they have high expectations of the futu re. "i t'll go on forever. Because they manage to see the past in such glorious terms. this puts unbearable pressure o n Biff. and. Pop. For years e very time he has come home he has felt Willy "mocked" him because he wasn't the prince he was supposed to be. I was a shipping clerk." Happy is quite right when he says. Unable to r efrain from blaming Willy. Biff: No. "Terrific." To spite someone is to treat him or her maliciously for no reason. Biff orders double Scotches all around." But when Biff begs his father to "hold on to the facts tonight. Biff reassuringly because he has bad new s. Willy calls this negative attitude "s pite. Biff sneered at Willy's efforts to pret end that everything is rosy and glamorous. Biff was full of anger and humiliation at everyone. "Dad is never so happy a s when he's looking forward to something!" NOTE: When Willy's looking forward to something he is counting on it happening h is way. Now what good news do they have that he can take home to Linda? . Biff knows perfectly well that Willy never forgets. How did it go with Oliver. you were." Willy interrupt s. Slowly Biff starts to tell about his experience. "I could've torn the walls down!" he says to Happy. Oliver. Is Bif f "spiting" Willy? Does Biff have a reason to have turned against his father? Ke ep these questions in mind in the next few scenes. as Biff's need for truth and Willy's need for fantasy collide. Naturally Biff by then was beside himself with frustration. Biff feels he's worthless. He wants to end the cycle of revisionism and exa ggeration that continually sets standards too high for him to meet. including himself. Now he's decided to tell this to Willy. Dad. but inst ead he went into the office and stole Oliver's expensive fountain pen. tell him something nice even if you have to make it up: string the story along and it will gradually fade away until Willy's forgotten about it. At five o'clock Oliver walked out of his office and went home: ". Mr. When Oliver left his office. Willy asks Biff. It's the way they've rewritten the past. Pop? Who ever said I was a salesman with Oliver? Willy: Well. Willy arrives at the restaurant.

Biff is ase the ties in tick to being railroaded into a version of his meeting with Oliver that will ple others. "Mat h. A hotel operator is paging him. He is right. Oliver liked the Florid a idea and wants to have lunch with me tomorrow. Yo ung Bernard is announcing that Biff flunked math.The boys are utterly shocked. The playwright's choice of two forms." Biff promises rashly. trying to hold Willy down as he rises in his seat. no! He can't go through with the lie. math. to Biff and Hap's confusion. They try to get more information. Biff wavers between sticking to it and backing down. and. "No. "I'm o ut!" NOTE: The stage directions say that he's "driving" his point. I know. math!" frightening the boys in the restaurant who do not see the people Willy's imagination has summoned. B iff tries to take hold of the situation by once and for all stating the truth. of the same verb emph asizes the direct effect of Willy's life and dreams on Biff. By this time Biff feels that his father is out of his mind and the only thing th at will calm him is a big lie about Oliver. drive someone into a corner. "You got it! You got it!" Startled by the instantaneous change and the new expectations this lie commits h im to. "I'll make good . Willy: Is that where you had the drinks? Biff: Yeah. drive a home run. Even the disrespect for him that has become habitu al lately has not prepared them for this complete shattering of their image of t heir father. Willy shouts frantically. etc. The voices grow more insistent in Willy's head. see?" He adds that he wouldn't be able to explain taking the pen. He returns to the present just as Biff finishes his story about stealing Oliver's pen. Willy: Very hard man to see. Happy: Oh. especially since he had been suspected while he worked for Oliver of taking a carton of basketballs. They are sho uting at each other. Willy is thrown back into dejectio n by Biff's backing down. or of insulting him. "I'm just telling yo u this so you'll know that I can still make an impression. But despite their attempts to alter his story. and hurls his worst insult at him: Willy: Don't you want to be anything? Biff: Pop." or pushed. which is ironic be cause "driving" a car is how he lives--and dies. but he silences them with. at a loss how to explain it to Willy's satisfact ion. Incidentally. drive someone crazy. B ut at this important moment Willy is far away. The effect is a mazing: Willy listens. no!" Willy keeps shouting. In a way the salvation of the family depends on Biff's possibili life. "I'm not in my room!" Willy shouts. into making up a story to satisfy Willy's terrible demand. And I'll make go od somewhere. how can I go back? . and then exults. Biff tells him just to "let me out of it" and leave him alone. Biff tells him. Pop. active and passive. The directions then say Biff is "driven. Spurred by his father's apparent agitation. as they do when he gets upset. he gave me a couple of--no. Biff is trying to s the facts. Willy accuses him of not having seen Oliver at all. Willy: Tell me what happened! Biff: (to Happy) I can't talk to him! Other voices start to crowd into Willy's head. consi der the other uses of the verb "to drive": drive a nail. but I can't go tomorrow. y'know. brightens. no. Willy missed the whole thi ng.

but be fore Willy can hustle Biff out of the room.help him. and Willy insisting he go back and meet Oliver for l unch the next day. It's a mistake." Happy. the offended woma n won't go until Willy gives her the stockings he promised her. He has come to Boston to ask his father to talk the m ath teacher into raising his grade from 61 to a passing 65 so he can graduate. Naturally Biff is horrified.. and Willy is about to sit down and drink with them all when the voice of The Woman pulls him back to the past." Someon e is knocking on the door of Willy and The Woman's room. her room is being painted--Biff realiz es that his father is having an affair. Father and son laugh at the joke." The scene from the past takes over. Though Willy ma kes excuses--there's a party in her room. The girls are confused. Sure. I can't bear to look at his face!" Totally undone. Willy tries to gloss over the crisis. Introductions are made. As the three of them rush out after Biff. Though he is trying to push her out the door in her underwear. He is remembering a time in his hotel room when he was lying in bed with The Woman in Boston and someone--Biff--was knocki ng on the door. B iff accuses his brother--rightly perhaps--of not giving a damn about their fathe r.. he pushes The Woman into the bathroom. doesn't Hap want to tell his father where he's going? In a final act of callousness. Biff tells the girls they've just seen a "fine troubled prince. that's not my father. Biff is terrib ly upset. ta ngible evidence that their father is thinking of killing himself.. alternately pleading and ordering Biff not to cry. cautioning her three times not to come out. who doesn't care about their father. The Woman joins the laughter and com es out of the bathroom in her slip. can help Willy: ". Biff is relieve d. Help me. insists Willy. Unable to cope with the realities of th e past and the present at the same time. arrives at their table with her friend Letta. He is deeply shocked. Biff has always been carried along on the crest of his fat . He has surely known all along that Willy exaggerates. The teacher won't listen to you. but he never suspected that his fabrications covered ignoble deeds like this one. one of the girls asks. Young Biff is at the door. accompanied by "raw.. Horrified at Happy's thoughtlessness. and reasons that only Happy. terrified. Biff pulls out of his pocket the rubber hose he has taken from the cellar. and I'm not going to coll ege. who senses how intimate a gift this is. B iff has confidence that his father's powers of persuasion can turn any disaster into success. Miss Forsythe. as he leaves the restaurant. I'll go home with you right now. help me. He tries to org anize the group for a night on the town. But fearing the worst. But all the boy's determination and trust are gone. This is the fina l outrage for Biff. is able to drop all his worries and focus on having a good time. the girl Happy has asked to arrange a date. Finally Biff uses the only words that Willy can understand: " I've got no appointment!" And Willy retreats to the only thing he's sure of: "Ar e you spiting me?" Willy is especially enraged by Biff because a parallel scene involving Biff is g oing on in his head at the same time. Biff claiming he went to see Oliver in the fi rst place because of Willy. Ha ppy says. Biff runs from the restaurant.The argument rages back and forth. and confesses that the math teacher hates him because he overheard Biff make fun of his lisp to entertain the class. He's just a gu y. someone has the wrong door. though. NOTE: More upsetting even than Biff's disappointment about his own plans is his disillusionment about his father's character. In the midst of Willy's emotional chaos. "No. but inte rested. Biff says. says Willy. sensuous music. Assuming a brisk man ner after the woman has gone. Willy escapes to the washroom.

Unfortunately. Suddenly he feels the need to buy some seeds and plant a garden . When sixteen-year-old Biff recovers from crying." But Linda isn't even looking at him. Willy explains that the woman means nothing to him. Wi lly hurries out. When Linda orders him to pick the flowers up off the floor--"I'm not your maid any more"--Happy refuses and goes u pstairs. shinin g in the dark. Willy. that there's no strang er they would desert in such a time of trouble. Calling him a liar. appears when Willy needs advice. It is. only anger and scorn are left f or his father. Willy is stern with Biff. He is now co mpletely transferring that dream onto his son. he goes outside to find his father. Willy can refute all but the last. lying blatantly that Willy "had a swell time with us." th at intangible. it might be called cowardly." Ben. This i s "guaranteed. fake." he persists. Thrifty people mended their stockings with special silk thread. but before he gets out of the house he has to talk to Wi lly. We hear the flute as the lights come up on the kitchen. he was just lone ly.her's fantasies. and phony. and that they are to get out and not come back. Biff might hate you and call you a damned fool. speaking for Willy's subconscious mind. Biff is the cente r of attention and Happy is on the periphery. too. but Biff's reply shows that he sees only Willy's betrayal: "You gave her Mam a's stockings!" NOTE: Stockings are a symbol in this play. As usual. They are discussing a business deal t hat will make $20. Stanley helps Willy to his feet and brushes him off. The boys have arrived ho me with roses to try to pacify the anger they know their mother will have for th em. and now as his image of Willy comes crashing down. who has knelt down to comfort Biff. Willy is planting seeds by flashlight and having a conversation with Ben who. The prospect of se tting Biff up financially has far more meaning to him than continuing to live a life that he now sees will never be what he dreamed of for himself. Happy simply denies all the accusations. She knocks the roses to the floor and tells them exactly what she thinks of them: that they don't care if their father lives or dies. gilt-edged. is left on his knees.000 appeals to Willy because it's the kind of deal he's always longed to swing. he leaves with his suitcase. uncertain arrangement he's been dependent on all his life." a concrete profit he can see "like a diamond. Against Linda's wishes. Willy's notion of killing hims elf to cash in on his life insurance policy: the final sale of his last resource . His weeping pierces Willy to the heart.000 for Biff. it's the very drea m Biff resents and rejects. It was Linda's mending her stocking that brought back the memory to Willy of the woman in the hotel. and that is wh ere we see him when the lights and music bring us back to the restaurant. He can't stand to see Linda mend ing stockings because it makes him feel guilty about his affair. explaining that Happy has already paid him. raises possible objections: the ins urance inspectors might not honor the policy. The idea of making $20. an . He slips the tip Willy has given him back into Willy's coat. It's not an "appointment. Stooping to pick up the flowers. his own life NOTE: Willy seems eager and optimistic about the proposition. of course. Biff admits everything: "Now you hit it on the nose! The scum of the earth. his image of himself is shattered. and you're looking at him!" He may have acted like a "louse. but Biff is inconsolable. as we know.

rather than Pop. "It's all settled now. of forgiveness for the past. Biff pulls away and goes upstair s. admit that he's not "a leader of men" and start over. Willy refuses to shake Biff's hand. he has come to gentle wonderment. "He cried! Cried to me. Pop. He is furious. Will y can hardly wait to rush out and do what he has to do. This will not make a hero of you. and for the family. Biff grabs his father as if to shake sen se into him. But Willy rejects it all with "You veng eful. and then prevents him from going by saying. He's astonished and moved to see Biff c linging to him and crying. he can't stand the idea of Biff hating him. spite. He himself had no address because he was in jail for steal ing: Biff: I stole myself out of every good job since high school! Willy: And whose fault is that? Biff: And I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody! That's whose fault it is! This is the moment of truth for Biff. when we always had someth ing good to look forward to? Biff intrudes on Willy's conversation and brings him back to the present. During this scene he has begun to call his father by his first name . Willy holds his face. as man to man. From raging anger to defensiveness. Willy. He's going to stop stealing. and we feel that at last it is the t ruth: "I'm not blaming it on you!" but Willy isn't listening. says. To Linda and Happy he says. Willy: May you rot in hell if you leave this house! Biff: Exactly what is it that you want from me? Willy is moved almost to poetry by the intensity of his emotion: "Spite. spiteful mut!" Seeing that all his words mean nothing. nothing seems to m ake him hear what Biff is saying. for Willy it means Biff loves me and the only thing I have left to give him is $20. Willy is ecstatic. evidence of Willy's intent ion to commit suicide. that's all.d because he's doing this for Biff. and finally just says it would b e best if he left no forwarding address. He wan ts to say goodbye and leave on good terms." the words have different meanings t o the two of them: for her it means Biff will leave and you won't fight anymore. warns Biff. How can we get back to the wonderful past. Full of the feeling of promise for the future. "Pop. Exhausted and empty. "Isn't that--isn't that r emarkable? Biff--he likes me!" He loves you. That boy--that boy is going to be mag nificent!" Has Willy learned anything from Biff? Has he listened to the truthful . is the word of your undoing!" Biff answers. dreaming his same old dream again.000. They argue again about Oliver. Going into the house. saying he'll leave in the morning. . urging him t o come to bed. Biff r ealizes he can't talk to his father rationally. Can't you under stand that? There's no spite in it any more. Now lets la y it on the line: "We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house!" Biff starts listing the big lies: Happy is not the assistant buyer but a lowly assist ant to the assistant. Willy's mood has changed completely. he always has. hurtful things Biff has been saying to them all? No. I'm just what I am. Linda and Hap assure him. So Biff does the thing everyone dreads most: h e is direct and confronts Willy with the rubber tube. he laments. "I'm through with it!" he says. I'm nothing! I'm nothing." He breaks into sobs. When Linda. Here he is.

We're free. As Ben drifts away.." she says. Charley.. When the insurance check comes "he'll be ahead of Bernard again!" The old competitive dri ve races in him... Willy is wrapped up in a moment fifteen years before when he was giving advice to Biff on how to win the football game. Willy ru shes offstage and we hear the car roaring off.. dear." NOTE: The family are also free. She has worked to keep the family afloat with what little money he brought home. He needed glamo r and success and to be thought of as impressive. Willy. Willy is now the one who needs advice. screaming music. respect. the only credo Willy has ever lived by.? Ben." Biff just shakes his head and says. Ben is on the scene again. Hap adds. . just when all their bills are paid. We're free and clear. We're free. Everyone in the play has a different verdict on Willy. "It's the only dream you can have--to come out number-on e man." NOTE: What did Willy need? He needed love. and I'm gonna beat this racket!. I made the last payment on the house today. but a personification of Willy's own feelings.?" Hearing Linda calling him. They are free to find out who they are." Is it? They all acknowledge "there's more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made. (She is thinking of the hundreds of people who report edly turned up for the funeral of Dave Singleman. As usual. and this is where I'm gonna win it for him. "Ben. finally. and triumph. saying he just wants to sit alone for a few minutes.. But Happy. This means Willy is frightened of what he h as to do. Sending Linda to bed. An d there'll be nobody home. and Linda lays down a bunch of flowers on a spot that is Willy's grave. She doesn't understand why Willy killed him self. Willy imagines what Biff will be like with a fortune of $20. " says Biff. "I'm staying right in this city. Linda stares at the grave. To the end she was in love with both sides of this paradoxical man: his dr eam and the suffering of his failures.000 behind him. He is not a remembered fi gure now. and finally they are paid up." rep lies Charley. boy. the light changes fr om night to day. Suddenly realizing h e's alone. no one pays any notice to him. "I can't u nderstand it. When Biff says "I know who I am" he means. the music becomes a funeral march. As they put on their coats. It comes with the territory.) She can't under stand why Willy died now. "No man only needs a littl e salary. is determined to see that his father didn't die in vain. hearing the high.. he ir to the same dreams as his father. beco ming one sad note as Linda." says Ben. "I know who I am." Linda is heartbroken and bewildered.. but Charley answers wisely. how do I.. on the edge of the shadows. Biff. ^^^^^^^^^^DEATH OF A SALESMAN: REQUIEM As dark falls in the cemetery. They come forward." "He never knew who he was. where do I. the music crashes and then dies. "A salesman is got to dream. "He only needed a little salary." claims Biff. Today.On his way upstairs Happy chimes in with his customary attention-getting line: h e's going to get married and be head of his department before the year is up. He fought it out here. of Willy's dreams. Willy's hero. I'm nobody but myse . "He had the wrong dreams. and Bernard slowly gather. How will this affect them now? His expectations are ingrained in their lives. but the reward is worth it. Happy. She is wondering why n obody came to the funeral. Though we don't hear the actual car crash. Willy. "The jungle is dark but full of diamonds.

Any hero whom we even begin to think of as tragic i s obsessed. I had another of th at kind of contact. outward appearance of lo ve." a nd she cries out "Attention must be paid." . implacable wish in him which never goes away. while the universe remains infinite and incomprehensible. no longer having to care for her husband who never grew up. Summer 1966 Obviously. the absurdity of life." The Portable Arthur Miller. and the deterioration of American individualism is traced through the Loman generations in a descending scale.lf. he commits suicide in the conviction that a legacy of twenty thousand d ollars is all that is needed to save his beloved but almost equally damaged offs pring. 1971 The particulars concerning Willy's situation also have universal significance. nor. does not go back to the past. Willy himself. The past. This may not be "tragic. I was a kid. P. to the empty predatoriness of Happy. he would mean. And. Morgan would it h ave helped. and much more successful as a personality. The word "dream" is a key word. Linda is free to grow old and die. of someone who has some driving. evidently. 1969 Willy Loman. If Happy said the same thing. "Point of View in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman." the belief in untrammelled individualism. it presents Willy as a victim of the deterioration of the "American dream.--"Arthu r Miller: An Interview.. a much more realistic guy than Willy Loman. Willy comes to face. I'm somebody. Drama. When I thought of him. Poetry. if you will. his life is brief and his comprehension finite. it makes him happy sometimes or it makes him suicid al. "Death of a Salesman: An Appreciation.--Harold Clurman. All are free to live and die. who is he admits. who wa s a salesman. and he comes to find that they are false and inadequate. "Editor's Introduction." Inevitably. A pension would not help him." The Forties: Fiction . literally. Th e house is free to begin to decay. fr om the Whitman-like exuberance of Willy's father. lacking Willy's handyman skills. January. The blight of his own confusion is visited upon them. His foolishness is really no greater than Othello's r aving jealousy or Lear's appreciation of the insincere. also obviously." The Paris Review." -Lois Gordon. I've always been aware of that kind of an agony. And he'd be the last man in the world to ever commit suicide. and he discovers really the vanity of all human en deavor. he would simply be a mute man: he said no more than two hundred words to me.. exhausted salesman." University of Toronto Quarterly. had he come to be J. Unaware of what warped his mind and b ehavior. comes back to him. leaving nothing behind them. Death of a Salesman is a criticism of the moral and social standards of contemporary America. whether it's Lear or Hamlet or the women in the Greek plays. 1966 So Willy Loman wreaks havoc on his own life and on that of his sons. "A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. not merely a record of the particular plight of one man . as in h allucination. He has loved his sons with a passion w hich wanted for them that which would destroy them. with a man whose fantasy was always overreaching his real ou tline. W illy has lived passionately for values to which he is committed. which he can never block out. as all things must. it was years later that I realized I had only seen that man about a total of four hours in twenty years.My father is. compulsively competitive in sex and business for no reason at all. Only the musi c of the flute plays on." but such distorted thinking maims a very great number of folk in the world today. He gave one of those impressions that is basic. Linda says. Willy is based on an individual whom I knew very little. and it is for this reason that "attention must be p aid. He has grown old and he will soon vanish without a trace. Later on. but dynami . through Ben. not chronologically as in flashback. no matter what material h eights a man succeeds to. recurring frequently in the play. And it broods over him. but it never leaves him. while "the hard towers of the apartment buildings rise into sharp focus. -Brian Parker. save perhaps love.

full of a sen se of worthlessness and inadequacy and dislocation and a failure.cally with the inner logic of his erupting volcanic unconscious. This makes Charley untroubled and a success. as someone said once. full of love and longing need for admiration and affection. Schneider. and Willy contradictory.--Elia Kazan. 1960 THE END .D. The Psychoanalyst and the Artist. M." when a mind breaks under the invasion of primitive impulses no longer capable of compromise with reality.. 1950 Willy is one vast contradiction." in A Theater in Your Head. neu rotic. " Notebook. and this contradiction is his downfall. he's got to end up poor. He is a nicer guy than Charley. -Daniel E. In psychiatry w e call this "the return of the repressed. He is so nice.

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