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WillyLoman'sPotencyin an Episode
of ArthurMilledsDeathpf a
Salesman

PatrickMcEvoy-Halston
9712576

English437R01
Dr. Baillargeon
August1011998
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Thefirstmemoryepisodein ArthurMifle/s Dgathgf a_Salesmqn
is distinctfromthe
in theplay. lt highlights
othermemoryepisodes a relationship
thatWlly haswithhis
sons,andwiththeworld,thatis highlyvulnerable: balloonjustwaitingto
an over-inflated
be punctured.Theothermemoryepisodes'
expositions
revealmuchlessaboutthe
insteadtheyrevealtheparticular
characters; - fromBiffs
mannerof thepuncturing
failureof theRegents
to hisdiscovery
of hisfathe/saffair.Therefore,
thisepisode's
providesuswiththe information
exposition \ € needto understand
whythe members
of
the Lomanfamilyareas troubled
as theyarein thescenesprevious
to thisepisodein
the play. Moreover,
it ie possiblefom thisepisodeto anticipate
andundenstrand
Willy's
eventualsuicide,andHappy'srefusalto disassociate
himself,
as Biffdoes,fromWilly's
ideafs.Buttheepisodeis atsodistincti
vet#fring theonlyonein theplaywhicfr
dramatizes
theappealof Willy'sideale,notsimplyforWilly,butfor us as well. lt is
thatbr thefirsttimeintheplAr-rhcr6iilrtfr"nii}Uingsunounding
t,-'/ - \imponant theLoman
{b*^tr'nf) ," llgf,"il o"*;;'*" simurtaneousry,
,n"ilIn rhehouse
ar€
highllghtod.Thehauntinguoman'slaughis absent; insteadvrrahearthe futs music. lt
is the onlyscenewhor€Wlly'e idealsdo nots6emat oddewiththeri,orldaroundhim;a
rcminderthatthe playis notsimplyaboutthe ridiculownessof child-likeidealsoubide
y' A AtitAncf,f..I abo contrains
a cdtigueof thevrorldin whicfrspiritedidealss€emso
ridicnlousas to s€emchild-like.

ln the prcviousepisodgBiffadmitsto his brotherHappythat he is "mixedup very
bed'(139).Heenjolalib on thefarm,saying-there'snothingmon inspiring
or -
beautifulthanthe sightof a marcanda nal colt' (138)yet'h€ hasaluraysmadea point
of notwaaiing'(139)hb lib, andb€ls as if this kindof life is a wastewery timehe
-f

, l ' {- " i j . ' ' tl.' ,)- !fu-'' J
l' l,i ^$ ,
t, lit* {'
r. t,
l" i-,.',' i:- .-'tsfr -2-
/ k'r
returnshome. Farmlife offersBiffthe kindof work he mostenjoys,but it cannotoffer

the prestigeor statusthat the life of a successfulbusinessman
wouldprovide.Clearlya

choicemustbe made,but this is difficultfor Biff becausehe once livedthe ilfusionthat

he couldhavethe bestof bothworlds.

InthisepisodpwewitnessBiffworkingwithhishands,pofishing
andwashingthecar,
andaboutto takedownthebigbranchof thetree. Thisis thesortof labourhewilllater
findsatisffingas a profession;
andthisis nosurpriseconsidering
howWillyemphasizes
thedramaof theseactivities,
offeringencouragement theirsignificance,
suggesting and
a surpriseaftertheyaredoneas if in rewardfor a jobwelldone.Willybarksordersas if
thecarwasa military
cleaning operatiofl"Oon't
leavethehubcaps...Get
thechamois
to
thehubcaps...use
newspaper (la3)+esays. Then,thisjob done,he
on tnewiliOowsj
directsBiffsattention to, will"
to thebigbranchoverthehousewhich,if notattended
falfin a stormandhittheroof (143).Seemingly,
a battlehasbeenwon,butthewaris
notyetover. Then,he rewardshisboyswitha punching
bagfromthebackseatof his
car,whichhas"gotGeneTunney's on it!' (1M1. lt is notsurprising
signature thatthe
romance
associated
withthesesortsof activities
willneverfadefor Biff.
thatBiffplaysbotball,as thisis alsoa sportof intense
It is alsonotsurprising
physical
dramasetin a paistoral
scene.Justas Biffis competent
at hisworkat home,
at footballibutwithfootballhissuccessbringsnotonlythepraiseof his
he is competent

aswell. So,br a time,Biffis ableto enjoythefabours-
father,butof hisschoolmates
theplay- which heenjoysandalsohavestatusamongsthispeers.Biffsstatusas a
't l o
footballherois consideredvery importantby Willy. Willysuggeststhat it will enableBiff

to havea specialprivilegesdeniedto his peers. After Biffadmitsto 'borrowing'a
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footballfromthelockerroom,Willyinitiallytellshimto takeit back;butthenimmediately
aften^rards anddecidesthatbecauseof Biffs popularity
reconsiders thatthecoach
mightevencongratulate
Biffon hisinitiative.

abouthisownjob. Hetalksabout
Status,beingwellliked,is whatWillyhighlights
havingcoffeewiththe mayor,andthe specialattentionhisautomobile
receivesbythe
copsin NenrEngland.Biffcannotyetknor thatachieving
statusin thewort worldis not
statusin highschool.Status,andjob satisfaction
thesameas achieving willnotgo
Willyhaslinkedhisloveof hissonwithhispopularity,
togetherfor Biff. Butbecause
andas Biffwantsto pleasehisfatherbadlyenoughto offerto'breakthroughbr a
(145),otakin'oneplayfor Pop"(145)evenwhenhe is supposed
toucttdown' to pass,wo
whyBiffadmitsto Happythathe is so messedup. Theillusionof
understand
existsonlywhileBiffis ignorant
compatibility of lifeat work;andwhenhe is no longer
ignoranlhe is leftunprepared by hisnewreality.Hischoiceto workat a
andconfused
J

farmwill puta banierbetweenthe loveof WillyandBiffwhichis an important
factorin
theweakening
of thefamily'scohesiveness.
hisfathe/sapproval
Bifflsdesireto maintain helpsus understand
whyhe stillwants
to makeit big;butin Happy'scase,it helpsus anticipate
Happy'sreaction
to hisfathe/s
suicide.UnlikeBiff,Happyis notwillingto lethisfathe/sdreamsdiewithhim. We can
thisreactionas a consequen@
understand hisfathe/s
of neverhavingachieved
attention.lt is in thisepisodethatwe seethetruthof this. Glearly,
it is Biffwhohas
Willy'sfullattention;
commanded physicafly
leavinglittlefor Happy.Happy,although
presentthroughout,
is almostexcluded
ffomthedialogue.Andoneof thefewthingshe
doessay- oI'mlosingweight,younotice,Pop"(1+4)- emphasizes
hisfathe/s
4-
inattention.
Theepisodealsohelpsus anticipateWilly'ssuicide.NothingpleasesWlly more
thanthe loveof his sons. WhenBiffsaysto Willylhat 'un wele lonesomebr you'
(14a),Wlly putshisarmaroundeachof hisboys.\Men Biffadds,'mFeedyouarery

minute'(1214),
Wlly respondsbytellingthemof his epecialsecrot hewill onedayorn
his orrn businessand"neverhav€to leavehomeanymoro'(144). LMllywantsto reward
hi8sons'loveby offeringtheman idyllicfutue. Heblours thispromisewiththe promise
future,theywill visitboautifultorns andthe fineetpeoplein Nav
thatin thdr immediate
England.lt is notsurprising,then,thatWlly, at the ageof sixtythrce,withno illusions
thathe can provideanythingmonumental
to his sonsin lib, willconceiveof doingso
withthe insurarrce
moneytheyuouldcollectwithhis death.Laterin thisepisodewhen
Bifftellshis fetherthathewill makeoneplaytur his father,Willykiss€8himand
'Oh,uaifll I tellthisin Boston!'(145).lt is a sequence
el<claims remarkably
similarto
hisson'slove. Hiselatedreadionis to prcmisa
theepisodewhercWlly rediecovers
that that boy- thatboyis goingto be magnifrcent!'
(218),endto wish,"oh,if I could

kisshim'(219).
Thescenepecedingthis rpalization,
whereWillyis alonein the gardenplanting
4 v"F
h-,
ll ,n",.,, seeds,is aleogivenprecadence
in thisepiso6. Willybringsourattsntion
to thebig
t' ., \t"l
;tJi; . " th€hous€.Hi6intention,
branchthetoverhengs to eliminate
tiilBthr€atto hishouso,
(' rt'
r,r , i , , ...enticipetes
Wlly's futilebattleto plantseedsdespitethe shadoilefromthe pressing
'"' bui6ings.lt is eppropriate, in thb laterscene,wherethememories of his
'lr ',' Fpartment
^,1' t,It
. l,i^ llnl infdelityhavefloodedhismind,thatthisbdtleseemfutile;turtheimposing
natureof the
V,r'-,lttt
jro {' ,-'. apartment is notopposedbythememoryof Willy'astrength.Butin thisearlier
buildings
1c
,,1'-1t.,,l
("ll'' 4r
' 'i. '
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Willyhasnotyetaflowedhisinfidelity
episode, hismemory,
to dominate so it is
thatthethreatpresented
appropriate bythebranch,hisenvironment,
is metand
mastered
byWll/s ingenuity.
Cuttingdowna branchis,of course,notequivalent
to banishing
theapartment
buildings.But,in thisepisode, a pastbeforethe
Willydoesexactlythisby remembering
apartment werebuilt.Whatmakesthismorethansimplenostalgia
buildings is thathis
memoryis nota simpfeflashback;
insteadhe is invokingmemories
almostas if to use
themto battlethepresent.Strengthened
in hisremembran@
of thestrengthof his
homeandfamilyin thepast,he blotsouttheapartment in hismind,coatshis
buildings
housewithgreenleavesandconjuresup theflutemusicassociated
withthefieedom
hisfatheroncehad,andan idyllicNewEnglandlife. All of thisis manifested
on stage.
hisboysaregivena physical
In addition, presence
on stage,andthewallsin hishouse
aremadepermeable
to them. Certainly
thiscanbe understood
as a deviceof epic
thatthisis a play,butit canalsobe
theatreto remindus,whilewe arewatching,
as a defiantWilly'sresponse
understood madeon himbythe
to thesunealimposition
buildings.Themanipulations
apartment of thewallsin thehousein Willy'smind,canbe
likenedto therepairs,andalterations
he hasdoneto hishome;it is a displayof his
masteryof hisownhousehold;
to shapeandalterit as hewills.
,tP

Thedefiantnatureof Willy'salterations.Ef arcechoedin the
nir environment
used,andin Wlly'sphysical
language gestures of voicein thisepisode;
andloudnese
whichin sumsetthetoneforthisepisode.WhenWlly andBiffmentionplaces,people,
or things,thelanguage
theyusein response
to thesubjectmattersuggestthat
everything
withintheirenvironment
existsto be mastered
bythe Lomanfamily.The
4-
familycarandthetreebranchhavealreadybeendiscussed,
buttherearemanyother
examples,Willymentions andfollowsbysaying.he had
theMayorof Providence,
cofbewithmeo(145).Hementions
othercitieslikeWaterbury,
andBoston,in so few
manner-"...isa finecity...sold
words,andin sucha conclusive a nicebillthere...is
the
(145)- thatwe feelthatwhatWillyis sayingis thathecame,
cradleof the Revolution"
sawandconquered.
WhenWlfy mentions
UncleGharleyhe saysthathewillbe'bigger
(144r,andwhenBiffmentions
thanUncleCharleyl" footballgamehe says
the upcoming
to Happy's"you'resupposed
in response to pass"(145),that'whenI takeoff my
helmet,thatmeansI'mbreakinout.Thenyouwatchmecrashthroughthatline!"(145).

andaggressive.Happyorunson stage
Thegesturesin theepisodearepurposeful
witha punching
bag"(aQ:Willy"pufsan armaroundeachboy'(144);
Willy"sfopsthe
incipient
argument"(l around,'practicing
44); Biffpnan@s passingtheball"(145),
Biff
fakesWilly'shand,andWillykissesBiff. Mostsignificantly,
Wlly "nodsin approbation
thenlooksupwart(}!3), {hroughouttheplay,Millerhashis
fora fewseconds,
v e( \ryqt
mnstantlyrising,sittingorffig down.lt is appropriate
characters in thisoptimistic
episodein whichtheapartment
buildings
havebeenerasedin Willy'smind,thatWilly
fooksconfidently
upwards.Forthesamereason,it is alsoappropriate
thatat the
beginning Willyraiseshisvoiceto a @nveraational
of thisepisode, level.
Thecumulative
effectuponus bythisechochamberof an episode,is to associate
potency,
forthefirstandonlytimein theplay,withWilly. Wthoutthisepisodeof the
Willymakesneartheendof theplaythathe is 'not a dimea
pfay,thedeclaration

dozen!'(217r,thathe is'WillyLomanl',wouldseementirely
withoutsubstance.
With
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thisepisodeincludedin the play,we canat leastlookbackwithWillyandfindsome
the removal
thenat leasteffectuality.Moreover,
proofin Willy'slife,ol if notgreatness,
usthatwhilewe are
buiHingsrerninds
of lightingin thisepisodefromtheapartment
naturallyinclinedto lookat the memoryepisodesfor signsof charaderflawswhichbring
of the play,wo mugtalso
aboutthe saggingLomanfamilywe meetat the beginning
y' remember throughtimeas
menacingly,
thattheworldaboutthefamily,haschanged,
of Willy.Wlly rages,
rcdeemsourfinalimpression
well. lt is a factwhichpartially
againsthisworfd;butwe knowthatit is a worldworthragingagainst.
inefbctually,

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WORKSCITED

Miller,Arthur. Deathof a S_ales.man.
ArthufMille/s 9olle4ed Plays.Ed.A. Miller.
NewYork:MkingPress,1957.

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