DEATH

NOTES
• •
BY

OF A

SALESMAN

BY ARTHUR MILLER

D. HERNANDEZ

Written in 1949 Original working title was Inside of his Head but, of course, that doesn't really sound nice. • Sometimes it can be difficult to follow because the scenes often move from past to present and occasionally they occur together. • The flashbacks are sometimes physical and sometimes only occurring within Willy's mind. • The flashbacks are not chronological. They are all over the place. • Disillusionment is a theme. o Willy with himself (as husband, father, and salesman) o Biff and Happy with their father. • The play ends in a requiem- a funeral after Willy's suicide. o However Arthur Miller does not want the reader to see Willy as crazy. He wants the reader to think that the system has made him that way. o Also, Miller wants us to see his suicide as an act of courage- not cowardice. • Character Name o Loman He is a "low man" • Though he is common and "low", he has a tragic flaw because • he sets the bar very high. He wants to be loved and recognized by everyone. He wants to be defined by things that don't define his nature. He aimed to be successful in a way he wasn't meant to. • Willy o He probably deals with the clothing industry. o He carries around two huge briefcases with samples o He really never was all that o He lacks self-confidence. o He is the most boxed in of all the characters. • Linda o She admires her husband o She shares Willy's dreams (though they are not realistic) o She will never burst his bubble or be critical and he is the center of her life. • Setting o Brooklyn o A private home that has been recently surrounded by apartment buildings that block out the light and fresh air. • Symbolism o The silver trophy of Biff's that is in Willy and Linda's room. Act One • Willy is supposed to be on his way to New England and his wife didn't expect him back. She is obviously concerned.

She immediately asks if he smashed the car because this had happened a number of times. • He kept on going off the road and Linda is making up excuses for him. • She is the perfect little 1950's housewife (in some ways). She even takes off her husband's shoes. o She may lash out at her sons at times, but never her husband. Everyone is in denial. • • She asks (once again, apparently) him to move to the office in NY so that he doesn't have to travel but he is deluded into thinking that he is "vital" in New England. • Howard Wagner is his boss. His father was the one who had hired Willy and Willy doesn't get the same respect from the son. • Happy and Biff, the sons, are at home temporarily. • Linda and Willy are arguing about their son's finding himself. Willy considers Biff a bum and a rolling stone. o Then he contradicts himself and says that Biff is a hard worker. o Willy doesn't have a clue as to what his son wants! He says that he will get him a job selling. • • Willy's mind wanders. This play is written in a stream of consciousness form. • Flute music plays whenever Willy is confused or is in the past. This happens first when he doesn't know which car he was driving. • Happy and Biff are chatting in their room and Biff is lost and also thinks that his father mocks him. They don't have a very good relationship. • Biff isn't sure he wants to continue bumming around but he sure as hell isn't happy when he's at home because he and his father go at it. • Biff makes a suggestion that Happy should go get a ranch with him and they can be rugged manly men. o Initially, Happy likes the idea! o But really… Happy isn't cut out for going out west. This would never happen. Happy doesn't want to give up his job because he has an • apartment, a car, and women. These cost money!  This would be a risky business. • • Finally, Happy asks him how much money he could actually make. • Biff is talking about going to this Oliver dude who he used to work for and asking him for 7 or 8 thousands dollars to open a ranch! He hasn't seen him in years! This is extremely rude! In addition, Biff stole a carton of basketballs from that boss! Seriously!? o Happy never wants to admit to any disturbances (sweep everything under the rug). This is why his name is appropriate. No unpleasantness. o This is the pattern- Biff worries and Happy tries to make it stop. Ironically, it is Biff who really cares about his father- he tells him like it is because he cares! o Happy decides that his boss forgot about the incident. • Willy then has his first flashback o The boys are teenagers and are washing the car o Happy wants attention and Biff has stolen a football. Willy isn't concerned about the theft because he figures the • coach loves him!

Biff's friends… his followers… stay in his basement of his home and do his chores. Isn't that rosy! • Finances o Willy works only on commission o He then admits to his wife that it totaled $200 gross. This is before taxes, etc. o They are a family of four and they have installment plans on a bunch of appliances and stuff and so now Linda begins to deduct what is owed on all of these. o His income always fluctuates o He now shows flip sides of everything he just said was good- like the car which he now says is horrible! • Willy now begins listing his faults o Linda always counters them and is basically his cheerleader. • Willy now praises her as being the only thing that he can count on o This is when there is another flashback in this flashback Suddenly, Willy is in Boston with his mistress. • He goes into this flashback because he is feeling guilty! He • doesn't deserve his wife! Another reason that he had this flashback is because his wife • was mending stockings since money is tight. Meanwhile, he had given God knows how many pairs of stockings to the other woman. He had the affair because it boosts his ego. He is insecure. He is • also using this woman as a connection to specific buyers of a company. • He goes back to the first flashback. o He says, "I'll make it up to you Linda." She thinks he is talking about income but, as a reader, we know • he's talking about the affair. o Bernard comes back, everyone comes back, people are swirling around him, and memories are piling up. Bernard can't help Biff cheat on the Regents, he usually does. • Linda says that he is too rough with the girls • Bernard says he's driving a car without a license. • This dream kid is actually going off in the wrong direction. Willy • is responsible because he gives the sons mixed signals. Happy is also not so good- he's a womanizer. • They are going to flunk classes because they are stuck-up • Willy explodes and says that there is nothing wrong with them. • He STILL SUPPORTS EVRYTHING THEY DO! • Now we are back in the present. o He is telling Happy that he almost hit a kid in Yonkers now. He didn't tell Linda this before! This is serious! o Now he starts talking about Ben, his brother who was rich and successful! Ben had offered him opportunities which he regrets not jumping on. Again, he is living in the past. • o He starts yelling that the woods are burning. It makes no sense. He feels boxed in.

He makes so much of a ruckus that Charley, his neighbor, friends, and Bernard's father, comes in. Charley is trying to help him out but Willy is just getting insulted • because of his pride. Charley knows that they are not as well-off as Willy pretends to be. Bernard is now successful and stable. He is living the American • dream. Willy wishes this for his sons but then abruptly changes the subject to the ceiling he put up because he is good at it (which Charley is not). o He calls Charley Ben because he reminds him of his brother. Now "Ben" comes in in Willy's mind and makes everything confusing. Comparison to the short story about Darling o Linda and Darling's wife are similar in that they both are all "Yes, dear." But it is for different reasons because, unlike Linda, Darling's wife is happy and wants to go out and work and is optimistic. o Biff is like Darling because both are big football stars and think that they will need nothing but their good looks and popularity. Both have the educated counterparts rise above them. Darling never gets it. Biff finally gets it in the end when he speaks his mind and finds himself. Biff may go and do what he wants, but Happy doesn’t. He also • puts himself first. Happy is more like Willy than Biff. • Ben o He had initially taken off at a young age- about 17- to go find his father in Alaska who had taken off (the father had been a traveling salesmen) However, he accidentally ended up in Africa and became rich. • o Willy grew up without a male father-figure! o He is, however, not the best role model. He does not criticize Biff and Happy's behaviors. He fake boxes with Biff and he trips him (cheats) and says, • "Never play fair with a stranger- you'll never get out of the jungle alive." This makes you think- what did he do in the jungle to  make his great fortune. It is also a bit cold and ruthless to call family "strange" to  you. o Then, however, he acts like the perfect gentleman to Linda but she backs off in some fear. o He wishes Willy to do well in… what is it that you do? He is very condescending and patronizing. Willy then tries to show off! He says they hunt rabbits in • Brooklyn (yeah right) and then has his sons go steal lumber and sand. The sons are gutsy and nervy which makes them like Ben  and so they are praised. Charlie comes in and says that they will be arrested and  they just brush him off. o Ben is now off. He will not stay for a while. o Willy begs him for advice about himself and his boys. o All Ben replies with is the same "I went into the jungle when I was 17 and came out when I was 21 and, by God, I was rich."

Linda They boys are in the kitchen with their mother in the present Linda explains to Biff that Willy is most upset about Biff. She asks why he is hateful towards the father and she gets angry at him- legit! o She says that if Biff has no feeling for Willy, he can't have feelings for her. She said that if he doesn't love Willy, he and his brother can not come home anymore. o SHE IS CHOOSING WILLY OVER HER OWN SONS AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN! She is also in her right mind and knows what she is saying. • o Biff says that Linda was never shown respect by Willy (*ahem* the affair *ahem*) o Linda then reveals something that no one ever knew- not the audience or other characters. Willy has been attempting to commit suicide. • Apparently, the car accidents are not accidents.  There was a woman who was witness to this and • when Linda mentions a woman, Biff jumps and says What woman!? And Linda picks up on the fishiness of it. He also was trying to poison himself with CO from a tube  She adores him but can not confront him about a matter of life • and death. This is not a sign of love. She doesn't want to get him help or anything.  She says that his life is in Biff's hands (which is difficult  considering the father-son relationship) o We find out that Willy had kicked Biff out of the house. Linda asks why. • Biff answers that he knows he is a fake and he doesn't like  anyone around who knows. He is speaking about the affair but still doesn't tell his mother, of course. o At the end of the night after everyone is happier (Willy, at least) and then she timidly asks why Biff doesn't get along with him. She has gotten some suspicion. She wants to hear but she doesn't want to hear. The next question for him is if he will go to work in the city tomorrow (permanently) because this means no overnight stays at hotels. See? Willy goes to ask Howard to have a job right in New York o Howard finally tells him he can't and Willy is begging him! o The more and more desperate Willy gets, the more and more patronizing Howard gets. o Willy is not producing and so he finally had to fire him. o For a very breif moment, the Loman family is happy at the beginning of this act but it won't last AT ALL! For some time, Willy is not thinking about suicide! He is thinking • about the future! He thinks about short and long-term dreams and stuff. Foreshadowing o They have to pay the life insurance premium for Willy. Linda tells him that they need the money for that badly. o Willy says he slept like a dead man.
o o o

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Of course, things aren't going to work out for Biff and Happy at all! Meeting with Howard o Howard is also very rude to Willy by ignoring him and talking about his new recorder. o Willy tries to bring his subject up so many times. o Willy can not even relate to his machine because of their economic difference. Howard talks about an expensive machine and a maid turning it • on. Also speaks about a car with a radio in it. Howards knows what his income is!  o Howard initially thinks that Willy is going to retire but he just wants a job in NY and mentions that Howard promised this to him. Howard was at a Christmas party. He was probably drunk. • o He blames space. "There is no spot." o Howard starts being really condescending and Willy is starting to beg and you feel bad for him. o He eventually fires him in a very rude and cruel way. It needed to be done but it could've been done more gently and kindly. o Willy continues explaining his hero who was a very well-known salesman and when he died, he died the death of a salesman. Everyone was at his funeral! Everyone knew him! • o Now he is getting very angry and more and more desperate. o Willy starts talking to "Frank," Howard's late father. He accidentally turns on the recorder and Howard comes back. • o Willy is so desperate that he wants to forget he ever came and says he'll go back to Boston. This is when he gives him the boot. He asks him to drop off his sample cases. That is it. • o Now he calls on his brother Ben. Alaska is not state yet- it is a US territory bought from Russia. • Ben never has any patience for his brother because he is a • realist and he believes that wealth and success is something tangible like gold and diamonds but Willy talks abstractly about "building a future." Linda puts her foot down. She doesn't want a glamorous life like • Ben! Willy has doubts but then always slips back into "I'm right! Sales • are the best! MY kids are the best! This is all that matters!" Her brother doesn't think he's right and doesn't give him the validation that he wants. Flashback to the football game. o Bernard really did care about Biff as a friend. Now in the present, Willy talks to Bernard and then Charlie o Charlie tries to be like Ben bringing him a reality check, offers him a job (declined), and gives him money. o Willy is talking about insurance and says "You're worth more dead than alive." and Charlie chastises him saying "Nobody's worth nothing dead." The last stuff

Biff and Happy never get to see Bill Oliver. They admit their lie. They meet Willy at the restaurant and abandon him for some whores and then come back home drunkenly. Final showdown between mother and sons! o These high class prostitutes are with them. Happy is trying to impress everyone with bullshit! • o He tells the girl to go out and get a friend. o When she leaves, Happy is not above using her but doesn't respect her. This is his excuse to not get married because "NY is filled with women like this" o Eventually, Willy comes in and Biff wants to tell him the truth about the whole ordeal but Willy starts going WAY crazy and so they begin to just appease him. Then Willy starts talking about failing math. o Flashback time! Bernard is talking to Linda and saying how he has to go to • summer school but Linda is all, "no Willy will talk to the teacher and he will be graduated" o Willy says, "you stole Bill Oliver's fountain pen!?" Biff had been trying to talk to him about that but Willy was not • listening. He was in a flashback. o Another flashback Willy is in Boston in a hotel with his mistress. • Biff goes up and knocks on the door. (Realistically, if he was • knocking, he would have heard them… but… that's not the case here) o Back to reality The girls think it is "cute" that they have their father there. • Unusually, Biff (the one who hates the father) is the one who • defends him here. This is because the girls say, "That isn't really your  father." Later Biff is the one who denies that Willy is their father! How • low can you go!? Biff then reveals the rubber piping. • Happy makes it seem that he takes care of the parents, but he • isn't really! Biff says, "Help him! Happy! Help him! He's going to kill himself! • Biff can't help just because he cares too much! He is too  emotional. o Back to Boston flashback If his teachers see "what kind of a man" Willy is, he will pass in • Biff's mind. The teacher could have probably found 4 points to give  him - they do that stuff- but Biff used to cut class and he was just a horrible student. Again, the grade isn't the problem. He is well liked. Willy  didn't even listen when he said he cut classes- just when he made the class laugh. He is all upset about failing and the woman is hiding in the • bathroom. Biff only discovers that she is there when she laughs from the • bathroom.
o

She comes out and says to Biff, "are you baseball or football?" He says football and she says, me too, because she lets herself get kicked around. She leaves. Now Biff refused to be helped or go to college or anything • because he is so traumatized because his idol is a liar! But his lack of direction can't be put completely to blame  on his father! o The boys leave with the girls and Willy comes out of the bathroom to find them gone. He then gives Stanley, the waiter, some money claiming he no • longer needs it. He has decided to kill himself and wants to plant a garden before he dies. o They stumble back home very late and very drunk and Linda gives them hell. Linda wants to throw them out then and there. • o Willy is talking to Ben again and Ben agrees with Willy because the $20,000 from the life insurance is definite and tangible. Ben though does say that the insurance may not provide the • money because it is suicide. However, he's nothing anyway and his death will make him • something. Don't make a fool of himself… what about Biff? • o Now Biff is going to get it all out! He is spilling all! This is the final confrontation between father and son. • Biff shows him the tubing and Willy denies it!  He also talks about how much of a thief he has been. He  steals a lot. Biff not only shows all that he wants to say, but he also finally • shows his love for his father. Once the lies are gone, the love shines clear.  o Biff then leaves and Linda insists of Willy coming up to bed with him but he refuses. Throughout the next few minutes, Linda keeps asking him to • please come up, etc. persistently. o Willy speaks with Ben once again and Happy and Linda see him just as he is driving his car into something and commits suicide Requiem o Biff is realizing the sadness that Willy never knew who he was. o Charley says no man just needs a salary. o Happy is still in la-la land and he declares that he will rise up for Willy. But we aren't too sure if he'll do so.
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