Emily Gong AP English Notes: Death of a Salesman Characters Willy Loman – the father and the salesman Linda

- the salesman’s wife Biff- the salesman’s oldest son and the pride of his life Happy- the neglected second son of the salesman Bernard- Charley’s clever son; at present, a lawyer The Woman- Willy’s mistress Charley- Willy’s next door neighbor and long-time associate Uncle Ben – Willy’s older brother Howard Wagner- Willy’s ex-boss Jenny Stanley- Charley’s secretary Miss Forsythe- a prostitute Happy invites spontaneously to dinner Letta- Ms. Forsythe’s friend, [possibly] another prostitute The Play • A sense of failure and foreboding tragedy is instilled in the setting as Willy Loman, the Salesman, enters exhausted --- “An air of the dream dings to the place, a dream rising out of reality” • Linda, Willy’s wife, awakes and puts on a robe- she seems like she has resigned herself to Willy’s behavior and lowered expectations, but is still affectionate and perceived as a caring wife and mother---“She has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior” • Know that Willy has suddenly appeared home at night, introducing a possible problem/ conflict • Willy explains his weariness and fear: he begins daydreaming and his thoughts wander while he is dreaming; he almost drives off the road (foreshadowing? His numerous suicide attempts?) • Linda, as the good, kind wife, continues to comfort Willy and offers him words of candy • Willy is extremely frustrated and diatribes Howard Jr, his old boss’s son, for his lack of consideration • He then scorns Biff, his oldest son, for his sluggishness with life and incapability to live the productive and “resourceful” life that Willy reveres • Willy’s first question to his son is about money--- emphasizing the importance of money and the role it plays in dictating Willy’s every thought and action • Enormous disapproval of Biff’s job as a farmer--->the value of men based on wages and salaries

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Willy constantly remembers the “glorious” days of the past ---Biff being a confident, charismatic, and self-assured young lad Willy also scolds development and change he is extremely unwilling to acknowledge the changes o Biff’s status and ability in society--- he is no longer the idol of the crowd o Cars and apartment house near his home---the sign of innovative technology and rapid change---something that Willy is unable to recognize and accept o “You make mountains out of molehills”---Linda, pg. 6 Happy & Biff, in the bedroom Happy recall their childhood with a gleeful eye, and comments on Biff’s changing perspective of life Biff is aware of his limited will and commitment to the American Dream---he tries in vain to integrate himself into the monotonous lifestyle of the successful men, but has found it too robotic and impersonal to care o “Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still--- that’s how you build a future.”---Biff’s opinion on the American rat race o has not completely given up the hope of a prosperous future; he has consistently tried to motivate himself but always ends in failure ---“Texas is cool now and it’s spring. And whenever spring comes to where I am, I suddenly get the feeling, my God, I’m not gettin’ anywhere! What the hell am I doing playing around with horses, twenty-eight dollars a week!...I’ve always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that All I’ve done is to waste my life.” o Everything is scaled by the value of money; Biff, though rebellious, cannot revolt against the ideal American Dream---he knows that he cannot conform, but he hardly tries to deny his disappointment o “No, I’m mixed up very bad. Maybe I oughta get married. Maybe I oughta get stuck into something. Maybe that’s my trouble. I’m like a boy. I’m not married, I’m not in business I’m just--- I’m like a boy.” ---proof of Biff’s uncertainty and frustration, seeing himself as a youth who hasn’t quite grown up and gone “practical”

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Happy is probably very much like the younger Biff: confident, self-renounced, and blunt o He does not have a full understanding of how the world beats; he also measures success as a matter of physical strength and battle (“I mean I can outbox, outrun, and outlift anybody in that store, and I have to take orders from those common, petty sons-of-bitches till I can’t stand it anymore.”) o Unlike Biff, he blames others for his problems: “See, Biff, everybody around me is so false that I’m constantly lowering my ideals” o He dotes on the possible life that he may lead: “but when he [merchandise manager] walks into the store the waves part in front of him. That’s fifty-two thousand dollars a year coming through the revolving door, and I got more in my pinky finger than he’s got in his head.”, “I want to walk into the store the way he walks in.” o He is vivaciously promiscuous and believe that by sexually dominating girls in other romantic relationships that he has proven himself superior; he purposefully makes love with Charlotte who is engaged to marry with son of the vice president of the store o He feels that in this way he can grasp some of the glory of the lionized sort of life Biff propose that he will ask Bill Oliver for ranch money; Biff is serious of moving to the West Biff also mentions his uneasiness about a possible grudge between Bill Oliver and him over a stolen carton of basketballs what kind of man was Biff before? Willy again begins his random ranting---Biff shows contempt for his father as he’s worried about his mother, while Happy is clearly thinking only of himself “it’s embarrassing” First memory: o Young Biff: still in high school, extremely popular, a ladies man, plays football, and content about stealing  Willy encourages the manner by excusing Biff’s mistake as evidence of his initiative  Adores his father; a great constant to the older Biff; he does everything to bring pride in his father  He commits a touchdown even to Willy  He is in command of his fans and teammates; they help him wash the furnace room and hang up clothes---shows the level of idolatry and the source of all of Biff’s recklessness and Willy’s arrogance

o Young Happy: a forgotten, typical brother that always besides Biff but on the sidelines of the spotlight; respects his father o Willy: jovial, high-spirited, but conceited and critical of other people  Speaks of Uncle Charley as not “well-liked”  Gloat about his travels and the important figures he meets, an air of exaggerated self-significance: “America is full of beautiful towns and fine, upstanding people. And they know me, boys, they now me up and down New England. The finest people…I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own.”  Shakes off Bernard’s warning about Biff not graduating; believes that Biff will pull off because he’s “well-liked”  Is consumed by the importance of appearances; he thanks God that his two boys are built like “Adonieses”  His philosophy: “Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates person interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.”  Willy brags about his accomplishments to his wife, but when she starts counting, the darker truth comes out  He didn’t earn enough money to pay his debts; he is not as glorified as he portrays himself to be---he believes that people are laughing at him as he enters the room  Examples: • Chevrolet, the salesman business, the prestige  He perceives his lacking of charm and respect is due to his clothes, his appearance, his manners---he doesn’t believe he is “built” or “fit” for success  Thinks that if he changes attire and stays fit, he’ll be better perceived---doesn’t realize that he is the main obstacle to his dreams o Bernard: a studious, earnest, and anxious boy who is Biff’s math tutor  Warns Biff about the math teacher’s [Mr. Brinbaum] warning about raising his math grade; if not, Biff will not graduate

First hint showing that Biff is not valued as much as Willy seems to think o Linda: a conventional loving wife who adorns her life with materialistic merchandises  Meticulously calculates Willy’s earnings---a feeling that she is materialistic  Mentions a refrigerator that is of questionable quality, yet they bought it because it had the largest advertisements  She strikes down the dream with her payment list; we learn Willy’s true opinion on the Chevrolet “That goddam Chevrolet, they ought to prohibit the manufacture of that car!”  Tries to comfort Willy about his faults and denies that he isn’t capable of what he says; indefinitely wishing from Willy more Second Memory: o The Woman: the woman that Willy has an affair with; she is properly dressed, and evocative o Willy: playful, shameless; he gives her stockings as a present Third Memory: o Willy: angered by Biff’s ignorance and his life; he is furious at Linda mending and cleaning the house by herself [like a servant]hints of his impoverishment that he always tries to ignore  He refuses to accept fault in Biff, his pride and joy o Linda: frightened and scared; asks Willy to control Biff o Bernard: is sent again, warning Willy of Biff’s failure; seen as a threat to Biff’s future and Willy’s dream o Willy casts them all away---the signs of his dream eroding Fourth Memory: o Willy: fearful, panicky; he cries about his driving problems (first signs); he almost hit a boy in Yonkers  He directly insults Charley of being disgusting since he does not do menial house labor o Happy: speaks in the manner of “matter of fact” o Charley: laconic, silent man; next door neighbor of Willy  He comes and plays card with Willy  Tries to reach Willy with a conversation; ends up with Willy dismissing it as “insulting”  Tries to help him by offering him a job since Willy is having a difficult time with his own; Willy rejects it, 

deeming it shameful and hurtful for him to beg for a job from a person he believes is inferior Interrupted Fifth Memory: o Willy: talks to both the imagined Ben and Charley o Ben: Willy’s older brother, hit a jackpot in Alaska, has died in Africa; speaks of his transformation in the African jungle, in a young man, out a hero; brute strength---influences Willy like a father figure, Willy asks him for advice on the upbringing of his children o Charley: is stunned and confused by Willy’s constant switching off; leaves o Completely obvious that Willy is out of his mind; he has failed himself

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