From a general summary to chapter summaries to explanations of famous quotes , the SparkNotes Death of a Salesman Study Guide has everything you need to. Death of a Salesman quiz that tests what you know. Perfect prep for Death of a Salesman quizzes and tests you might have in school. Death of a Salesman Summary. As a flute melody plays, Willy Loman returns to his home in Brooklyn one night, exhausted from a failed sales trip. As Biff and Happy, dissatisfied with their lives, fantasize about downloading a ranch out West, Willy becomes immersed in a daydream.
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Now Willy gets in on the family discussion and the situation goes downhill. He and Biff begin to argue, but Happy interjects that Biff plans to see Oliver the following morning. Willy is overjoyed. Everyone goes to sleep believing that tomorrow will fulfill their dreams: Willy expects to get a local job, and Biff expects to get a business loan.
The next day, of course, everything goes wrong. Willy feels happy and confident as he meets with his boss, Howard. But instead of getting a transfer to the New York office, Willy gets fired. Destroyed by the news, he begins to hallucinate and, yes, once again speak with imaginary people as he heads out to meet his sons at a restaurant. By now, Biff has realized that he was crazy to think he would ever get a loan, and that he and his family have been lying to themselves for basically their entire lives.
When Willy comes into the restaurant demanding good news, Biff struggles to explain what happened without letting his father down. While their dad is busy being detached from reality, Biff and Happy ditch him for two girls. Biff and Happy return home from their dates to find their mother waiting for them, fuming mad that they left their father at the restaurant.
A massive argument erupts. The quasi-resolution that his suicide offers him represents only a partial discovery of the truth.
While he achieves a professional understanding of himself and the fundamental nature of the sales profession, Willy fails to realize his personal failure and betrayal of his soul and family through the meticulously constructed artifice of his life. He cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself as a literal loman or low man. Willy is too driven by his own willy-ness or perverse willfulness to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has forged.
Still, many critics, focusing on Willys entrenchment in a quagmire of lies, delusions, and self-deceptions, ignore the significant accomplishment of his partial self-realization. Willys failure to recognize the anguished love offered to him by his family is crucial to the climax of his torturous day, and the play presents this incapacity as the real tragedy.
Despite this failure, Willy makes the most extreme sacrifice in his attempt to leave an inheritance that will allow Biff to fulfill the American Dream. Bens final mantraThe jungle is dark, but full of diamonds turns Willys suicide into a metaphorical moral struggle, a final skewed ambition to realize his full commercial and material capacity.
His final act, according to Ben, is not like an appointment at all but like a diamond rough and hard to the touch. In the absence of any real degree of self-knowledge or truth, Willy is able to achieve a tangible result. In some respect, Willy does experience a sort of revelation, as he finally comes to understand that the product he sells is himself.
Through the imaginary advice of Ben, Willy ends up fully believing his earlier assertion to Charley that after all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive. While his father and brother are unable to accept the miserable reality of their respective lives, Biff acknowledges his failure and eventually manages to confront it. Even the difference between his name and theirs reflects this polarity: whereas Willy and Happy willfully and happily delude themselves, Biff bristles stiffly at self-deception.
Biff s discovery that Willy has a mistress strips him of his faith in Willy and Willys ambitions for him.
Consequently, Willy sees Biff as an underachiever, while Biff sees himself as trapped in Willys grandiose fantasies. After his epiphany in Bill Olivers office, Biff determines to break through the lies surrounding the Loman family in order to come to realistic terms with his own life.
Intent on revealing the simple and humble truth behind Willys fantasy, Biff longs for the territory the symbolically free West obscured by his fathers blind faith in a skewed, materialist version of the American Dream.
Biff s identity crisis is a function of his and his fathers disillusionment, which, in order to reclaim his identity, he must expose.
As such, Happy is a difficult character with whom to empathize. He is one-dimensional and static throughout the play. His empty vow to avenge Willys death by finally beat[ing] this racket provides evidence of his critical condition: for Happy, who has lived in the shadow of the inflated expectations of his brother, there is no escape from the Dreams indoctrinated lies.
Happys diseased condition is irreparablehe lacks even the tiniest spark of selfknowledge or capacity for self-analysis. He does share Willys capacity for self-delusion, trumpeting himself as the assistant downloader at his store, when, in reality, he is only an assistant to the assistant downloader.
He does not possess a hint of the latent thirst for knowledge that proves Biff s salvation. Happy is a doomed, utterly duped figure, destined to be swallowed up by the force of blind ambition that fuels his insatiable sex drive. Linda is probably the most enigmatic and complex character in Death of a Salesman, or even in all of Millers work. Linda views freedom as an escape from debt, the reward of total ownership of the material goods that symbolize success and stability.
Willys prolonged obsession with the American Dream seems, over the long years of his marriage, to have left Linda internally conflicted. Nevertheless, Linda, by far the toughest, most realistic, and most levelheaded character in the play, appears to have kept her emotional life intact. As such, she represents the emotional core of the drama. If Linda is a sort of emotional prophet, overcome by the inevitable end that she foresees with startling clarity, then Charley functions as a sort of poetic prophet or sage.
Miller portrays Charley as ambiguously gendered or effeminate, much like Tiresias, the mythological seer in Sophocles Oedipus Trilogy. Whereas Lindas lucid diagnosis of Willys rapid decline is made possible by her emotional sanity, Charleys prognosis of the situation is logical, grounded firmly in practical reasoned analysis.
He recognizes Willys financial failure, and the job offer that he extends to Willy constitutes a commonsense solution. Though he is not terribly fond of Willy, Charley understands his plight and shields him from blame. The American Dream Willy believes wholeheartedly in what he considers the promise of the American Dreamthat a well liked and personally attractive man in business will indubitably and deservedly acquire the material comforts offered by modern American life.
Oddly, his fixation with the superficial qualities of attractiveness and likeability is at odds with a more gritty, more rewarding understanding of the American Dream that identifies hard work without complaint as the key to success. Willys interpretation of likeability is superficialhe childishly dislikes Bernard because he considers Bernard a nerd. Willys blind faith in his stunted version of the American Dream leads to his rapid psychological decline when he is unable to accept the disparity between the Dream and his own life.
Abandonment Willys life charts a course from one abandonment to the next, leaving him in greater despair each time. Willys father leaves him and Ben when Willy is very young, leaving Willy neither a tangible money nor an intangible history legacy.
Ben eventually departs for Alaska, leaving Willy to lose himself in a warped vision of the American Dream. Likely a result of these early experiences, Willy develops a fear of abandonment, which makes him want his family to conform to the American Dream.
His efforts to raise perfect sons, however, reflect his inability to understand reality.
The young Biff, whom Willy considers the embodiment of promise, drops Willy and Willys zealous ambitions for him when he finds out about Willys adultery. Biff s ongoing inability to succeed in business furthers his estrangement from Willy.
When, at Franks Chop House, Willy finally believes that Biff is on the cusp of greatness, Biff 14 Death of a Salesman shatters Willys illusions and, along with Happy, abandons the deluded, babbling Willy in the washroom.
Betrayal Willys primary obsession throughout the play is what he considers to be Biff s betrayal of his ambitions for him. Willy believes that he has every right to expect Biff to fulfill the promise inherent in him. When Biff walks out on Willys ambitions for him, Willy takes this rejection as a personal affront he associates it with insult and spite. Willy, after all, is a salesman, and Biff s ego-crushing rebuff ultimately reflects Willys inability to sell him on the American Dreamthe product in which Willy himself believes most faithfully.
Willy assumes that Biff s betrayal stems from Biff s discovery of Willys affair with The Womana betrayal of Lindas love. Whereas Willy feels that Biff has betrayed him, Biff feels that Willy, a phony little fake, has betrayed him with his unending stream of ego-stroking lies.
MOTIFS Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the texts major themes.
Mythic Figures Willys tendency to mythologize people contributes to his deluded understanding of the world.
He speaks of Dave Singleman as a legend and imagines that his death must have been beautifully noble. Willy compares Biff and Happy to the mythic Greek figures Adonis and Hercules because he believes that his sons are pinnacles of personal attractiveness and power through well liked-ness; to him, they seem the very incarnation of the American Dream.
Willys mythologizing proves quite nearsighted, however. Willy fails to realize the hopelessness of Singlemans lonely, on-the-job, on-theroad death. Trying to achieve what he considers to be Singlemans heroic status, Willy commits himself to a pathetic death and meaningless legacy even if Willys life insurance policy ends up paying off, Biff wants nothing to do with Willys ambition for him.
Similarly, neither Biff nor Happy ends up leading an ideal, godlike life; while Happy does believe Themes, Motifs, and Symbols 15 in the American Dream, it seems likely that he will end up no better off than the decidedly ungodlike Willy. Willys father found success in Alaska and his brother, Ben, became rich in Africa; these exotic locales, especially when compared to Willys banal Brooklyn neighborhood, crystallize how Willys obsession with the commercial world of the city has trapped him in an unpleasant reality.
Whereas Alaska and the African jungle symbolize Willys failure, the American West, on the other hand, symbolizes Biff s potential. Biff realizes that he has been content only when working on farms, out in the open.
His westward escape from both Willys delusions and the commercial world of the eastern United States suggests a nineteenthcentury pioneer mentalityBiff, unlike Willy, recognizes the importance of the individual. Seeds Seeds represent for Willy the opportunity to prove the worth of his labor, both as a salesman and a father.
His desperate, nocturnal attempt to grow vegetables signifies his shame about barely being able to put food on the table and having nothing to leave his children when he passes. Willy feels that he has worked hard but fears that he will not be able to help his offspring any more than his own abandoning father helped him.
The seeds also symbolize Willys sense of failure with Biff. Despite the American Dreams formula for success, which Willy considers infallible, Willys efforts to cultivate and nurture Biff went awry. Realizing that his all-American football star has turned into a lazy bum, Willy takes Biff s failure and lack of ambition as a reflection of his abilities as a father. Correlatively, diamonds, the discovery of which made Ben a fortune, symbolize Willys failure as a salesman. Despite Willys belief in the American Dream, a belief unwavering to the extent that he passed up the opportunity to go with Ben to Alaska, the Dreams promise of financial security has eluded Willy.
At the end of the play, Ben encourages Willy to enter the jungle finally and retrieve this elusive diamondthat is, to kill himself for insurance money in order to make his life meaningful.
Lindas and The Womans Stockings Willys strange obsession with the condition of Lindas stockings foreshadows his later flashback to Biff s discovery of him and The Woman in their Boston hotel room. Stockings assume a metaphorical weight as the symbol of betrayal and sexual infidelity. New stockings are important for both Willys pride in being financially successful and thus able to provide for his family and for Willys ability to ease his guilt about, and suppress the memory of, his betrayal of Linda and Biff.
The Rubber Hose The rubber hose is a stage prop that reminds the audience of Willys desperate attempts at suicide. He has apparently attempted to kill himself by inhaling gas, which is, ironically, the very substance essential to one of the most basic elements with which he must equip his home for his familys health and comfortheat.
Literal death by inhaling gas parallels the metaphorical death that Willy feels in his struggle to afford such a basic necessity. After some light changes on stage and ambient flute music the first instance of a motif connected to Willy Lomans faint memory of his father, who was once a flute-maker and salesman , Willy, a sixtythree-year-old traveling salesman, returns home early from a trip, apparently exhausted. His wife, Linda, gets out of bed to greet him. She asks if he had an automobile accident, since he once drove off a bridge into a river.
Irritated, he replies that nothing happened. Willy explains that he kept falling into a trance while drivinghe reveals later that he almost hit a boy. Willys two adult sons, Biff and Happy, are visiting. Before he left that morning, Willy criticized Biff for working at manual labor on farms and horse ranches in the West. The argument that ensued was left unresolved.
Willy says that his thirtyfour-year-old son is a lazy bum. Shortly thereafter, he declares that Biff is anything but lazy. Willys habit of contradicting himself becomes quickly apparent in his conversation with Linda. Willys loud rambling wakes his sons. They speculate that he had another accident. Linda returns to bed while Willy goes to the kitchen to get something to eat. Happy and Biff reminisce about the good old days when they were young.
Although Happy, thirty-two, is younger than Biff, he is more confident and more successful. Biff seems worn, apprehensive, and confused. Happy is worried about Willys habit of talking to himself.
Most of the time, Happy observes, Willy talks to the absent Biff about his disappointment in Biff s unsteadiness. Biff hopped from job to job after high school and is concerned that he has waste[d] his life. He is disappointed in himself and in the disparity between his life and the notions of value and success with which Willy indoctrinated him 18 Death of a Salesman as a boy.
Happy has a steady job in New York, but the rat race does not satisfy him. He and Biff fantasize briefly about going out west together. However, Happy still longs to become an important executive.
He sleeps with the girlfriends and fiances of his superiors and often takes bribes in an attempt to climb the corporate ladder from his position as an assistant to the assistant downloader in a department store.
Biff plans to ask Bill Oliver, an old employer, for a loan to download a ranch. He remembers that Oliver thought highly of him and offered to help him anytime. He wonders if Oliver still thinks that he stole a carton of basketballs while he was working at his store. Happy encourages his brother, commenting that Biff is well likeda sure predictor of success in the Loman household. The boys are disgusted to hear Willy talking to himself downstairs.
They try to go to sleep. Analysis It is important to note that much of the plays action takes place in Willys home. In the past, the Brooklyn neighborhood in which the Lomans live was nicely removed from the bustle of New York City. There was space within the neighborhood for expansion and for a garden. When Willy and Linda downloadd it, it represented the ultimate expression of Willys hopes for the future.
Now, however, the house is hemmed in by apartment buildings on all sides, and sunlight barely reaches their yard. Their abode has come to represent the reduction of Willys hopes, even though, ironically, his mortgage payments are almost complete. Just as the house is besieged by apartment buildings, Willys ego is besieged by doubts and mounting evidence that he will never experience the fame and fortune promised by the American Dream. Willys reality profoundly conflicts with his hopes.
Throughout his life, he has constructed elaborate fantasies to deny the mounting evidence of his failure to fulfill his desires and expectations.
By the time the play opens, Willy suffers from crippling self-delusion. His consciousness is so fractured that he cannot even maintain a consistent fantasy. In one moment, he calls Biff a lazy bum. In the next, he says that Biff is anything but lazy. His later assessment of the family car is similarly contradictoryone moment he calls it a piece of trash, the next the finest car ever built. Labeling Biff a lazy bum allows Willy to deflect Lindas criticism of his harangue against Biff s lack of material success, ambition, Act I continued 19 and focus.
Denying Biff s laziness enables Willy to hold onto the hope that Biff will someday, in some capacity, fulfill his expectations of him. Willy changes his interpretation of reality according to his psychological needs at the moment. He is likewise able to reimagine decisive moments in his past in his later daydreams.
Ironically, he asks Linda angrily why he is always being contradicted, when it is usually he who contradicts himself from moment to moment. The opening pages of the play introduce the strangely affected and stilted tone of the dialogue, which transcends the s idiom of nonspecific pet names an ungendered pal or kid for adult and child alike and dated metaphors, vocabulary, and slang.
Some critics cite the driving, emphatic, repetitive diction Maybe its your glasses. You never went for your new glasses; Im the New England man.
How can they whip cheese? Miller intended the singsong melodies of his often miserable and conflicted characters to parallel the complex struggle of a family with a skewed version of the American Dream trying to support itself.
The dialogues crooked, blunt lyricism of stuttering diction occasionally rises even to the level of the grotesque and inarticulate, as do the characters themselves.
Miller himself claims in his autobiography that the characters in Death of a Salesman speak in a stylized manner to lift the experience into emergency speech of an unabashedly open kind rather than to proceed by the crabbed dramatic hints and pretexts of the natural. Suddenly, the memories of his sons childhood come alive.
Young Biff and Happy wash and wax their fathers car after he has just returned from a sales trip. Biff informs Willy that he borrowed a football from the locker room to practice. Willy laughs knowingly. Happy tries to get his fathers attention, but Willys prefer- 20 Death of a Salesman ence for Biff is obvious.
Willy whispers that he will soon open a bigger business than his successful neighbor Uncle Charley because Charley is not as well liked as he is. Charleys son, Bernard, arrives to beg Biff to study math with him. Biff is close to failing math, which would prevent him from graduating. Willy orders Biff to study. Biff distracts him by showing him that he printed the insignia of the University of Virginia on his sneakers, impressing Willy.
Bernard states that the sneakers do not mean Biff will graduate. After Bernard leaves, Willy asks if Bernard is liked. The boys reply that he is liked but not well liked.
Willy tells them that Bernard may make good grades, but Happy and Biff will be more successful in business because they are well liked. Willy then hedges his estimation. In a rare moment of lucidity and self-criticism, Willy moans that he cannot move ahead because people do not seem to like him.
Linda tells him that he is successful enough. Willy complains that he talks and jokes too much. He explains that Charley earns respect because he is a man of few words. His jealousy of his neighbor becomes painfully clear. Willy thinks people laugh at him for being too fat; he once punched a man for joking about his walrus physique.
As Linda assures him that he is the handsomest man ever, Willy replies that she is his best friend in the world. Just as he tells her that he misses her terribly when he is on the road, The Womans laughter sounds from the darkness. Analysis One of the most interesting aspects of Death of a Salesman is its fluid treatment of time: past and present flow into one another seamlessly and simultaneously as various stimuli induce in Willy a rambling stream-of-consciousness.
It is important to remember that the idyllic past that Willy recalls is one that he reinvents; one should not, therefore, take these seeming flashbacks entirely as truth. The idyllic past functions as an escape from the present reality or a retrospective reconstruction of past events and blunders. Even when he retreats to this idyllic past, however, Willy cannot completely deny his real situation.
He retreats into his Act I continued 21 daydreams not only to escape the present but also to examine the past. He searches for the mistake that he made that frustrated his hopes for fame and fortune and destroyed his relationship with Biff. Willys treatment of his life as a story to be edited and rewritten enables him to avoid confronting its depressing reality.
It is important to examine the evolution of Willys relationship with his family, as the solid family is one of the most prominent elements of the American Dream. In the present, Willys relationship with his family is fraught with tension. In his memories, on the other hand, Willy sees his family as happy and secure. But even Willys conception of the past is not as idyllic as it seems on the surface, as his split consciousness, the profound rift in his psyche, shows through.
No matter how much he wants to remember his past as all-American and blissful, Willy cannot completely erase the evidence to the contrary. He wants to remember Biff as the bright hope for the future. In the midst of his memories, however, we find that Willy does nothing to discourage Biff s compulsive thieving habit.
In fact, he subtly encourages it by laughing at Biff s theft of the football. As an adult, Biff has never held a steady job, and his habitual stealing from employers seems largely to be the reason for this failing. Over the years, Biff and Willy have come to a mutual antagonism. Willy is unable to let go of his commitment to the American Dream, and he places tremendous pressure on Biff to fulfill it for him.
Biff feels a deep sense of inadequacy because Willy wants him to pursue a career that conflicts with his natural inclinations and instincts. He would rather work in the open air on a ranch than enter business and make a fortune, and he believes that Willys natural inclination is the same, like his fathers before him.
Willys relationship with Happy is also less than perfect in Willys reconstruction of the past, and it is clear that he favors Biff. Happy tries several times to gain Willys attention and approval but fails. The course of Happys adult life clearly bears the marks of this favoritism. Happy doesnt express resentment toward Biff; rather, he emulates the behavior of the high-school-aged Biff.
In the past, Willy expressed admiration for Biff s success with the girls and his ability to get away with theft. As an adult, Happy competes with more successful men by sleeping with their womenhe thus performs a sort of theft and achieves sexual prowess. In one of his moments of self-doubt, she assures him that he is a good provider and that he is handsome.
She also sees through his lie when he tries to inflate his commission from his latest trip. Although she does not download his pitch to her, she still loves him. His failure to make her believe his fantasy of himself does not lead her to reject himshe does not measure Willys worth in terms of his professional success. Willy, however, needs more than love, which accepts character flaws, doubts, and insecurityhe seeks desperately to be well liked.
As such, he ignores the opportunity that Linda presents to him: to view himself more honestly, to acknowledge the reality of his life, and to accept himself for what he is without feeling like a failure. Instead, he tries to play the salesman with her and their sons. In Willys daydream, they sit in a hotel room. She tells him that she picked him because he is so funny and sweet. Willy loves the praise. She thanks Willy for giving her stockings and promises to put him right through to the downloaders when she sees him next.
The Woman fades into the darkness as Willy returns to his conversation with Linda in the present. He notices Linda mending stockings and angrily demands that she throw them outhe is too proud to let his wife wear an old pair Biff later discovers that Willy has been downloading new stockings for The Woman instead of for Linda. Bernard returns to the Loman house to beg Biff to study math. Willy orders him to give Biff the answers. Bernard replies that he cannot do so during a state exam.
Bernard insists that Biff return the football. Linda comments that some mothers fear that Biff is too rough with their daughters. Willy, enraged by the unglamorous truth of his sons behavior, plunges into a state of distraction and shouts at them to shut up.
Bernard leaves the house, and Linda leaves the room, holding back tears. Act I continued 23 The memory fades. Willy laments to himself and Happy that he did not go to Alaska with his brother, Ben, who acquired a fortune at the age of twenty-one upon discovering an African diamond mine.
Charley, having heard the shouts, visits to check on Willy. They play cards. Charley, concerned about Willy, offers him a job, but Willy is insulted by the offer.
He asks Charley if he saw the ceiling he put in his living room, but he becomes surly when Charley expresses interest, insisting that Charleys lack of skill with tools proves his lack of masculinity. Ben appears on the stage in a semi-daydream. He cuts a dignified, utterly confident figure. Willy tells Charley that Bens wife wrote from Africa to tell them Ben had died. He alternates between conversing with Charley and his dead brother. Willy gets angry when Charley wins a hand, so Charley takes his cards and leaves.
He is disturbed that Willy is so disoriented that he talks to a dead brother as if he were present.
Willy immerses himself in the memory of a visit from his brother. Ben and Willys father abandoned the family when Willy was three or four years old and Ben was seventeen.
Ben left home to look for their father in Alaska but never found him. At Willys request, Ben tells young Biff and Happy about their grandfather. Among an assortment of other jobs, Willy and Bens father made flutes and sold them as a traveling salesman before following a gold rush to Alaska. Ben proceeds to wrestle the young Biff to the ground in a demonstration of unbridled machismo, wielding his umbrella threateningly over Biff s eye. Willy begs Ben to stay longer, but Ben hurries to catch his train.
Analysis Just as the product that Willy sells is never specified, so too does The Woman, with whom Willy commits adultery, remain nameless. Miller offers no description of her looks or character because such details are irrelevant; The Woman merely represents Willys discontent in life. Indeed, she is more a symbol than an actual human being: she regards herself as a means for Willy to get to the downloaders more efficiently, and Willy uses her as a tool to feel well liked.
Biff sees her as a sign that Willy and his ambitions are not as great as Willy claims. Willys compulsive need to be well liked contributes to his descent into self-delusion.
Whereas Linda loves Willy despite his considerable imperfections, Willys mistress, on the other hand, merely likes him. Linda regards Willys job merely as a source of income; she draws a clear line between Willy as a salesman and Willy as her husband. Willy is unable to do so and thus fails to accept the love that Linda and his sons offer him. Willy was first abandoned by his father and later by his older brother, Ben. Willys father was a salesman as well, but he actually produced what he sold and was successful, according to Ben, at least.
Ben presents their father as both an independent thinker and a masculine man skilled with his hands. In a sense, Willys father, not Willy himself, represents the male ideal to Biff, a pioneer spirit and rugged individualist.
Unlike his father, Willy does not attain personal satisfaction from the things that he sells because they are not the products of his personal effortswhat he sells is himself, and he is severely damaged and psychically ruptured. His professional persona is the only thing that he has produced himself. In a roundabout manner, Willy seeks approval from his professional contacts by trying to be well likeda coping strategy to deal with his abandonment by the two most important male figures in his life.
Willys efforts to create the perfect family of the American Dream seem to constitute an attempt to rebuild the pieces of the broken family of his childhood. One can interpret his decision to become a salesman as the manifestation of his desperate desire to be the good father and provider that his own salesman father failed to be.
Willy despairs about leaving his sons nothing in the form of a material inheritance, acutely aware that his own father abandoned him and left him with nothing. Willys obsession with being well liked seems to be rooted in his reaction to his fathers and brothers abandoning of himhe takes their rejection of him as a sign of their not liking him enough. Willys memory of Bens visit to his home is saturated with fears of abandonment and a need for approval.
When Ben declares that he must leave soon in order to catch his train, Willy desperately tries to find some way to make him stay a little longer. He proudly shows his sons to Ben, practically begging for a word of approval.
Additionally, he pleads with Ben to tell Biff and Happy about their grandfather, as he realizes that he has no significant family history to give to his sons as an inheritance; the ability to pass such a chronicle on to ones offspring is an important part of the American Dream that Willy so highly esteems.
Biff asks Linda how long he has been talking to himself, and Happy joins them outside. Linda explains that Willys mental unbalance results from his having lost his salary he now works only on commission. Linda knows that Willy borrows fifty dollars a week from Charley and pretends it is his salary.
Linda claims that Biff and Happy are ungrateful. She calls Happy a philandering bum. Angry and guilt-ridden, Biff offers to stay home and get a job to help with expenses. Linda says that he cannot fight with Willy all the time. She explains that all of his automobile accidents are actually failed suicide attempts.
She adds that she found a rubber hose behind the fuse box and a new nipple on the water heaters gas pipea sign that Willy attempted to asphyxiate himself. Willy overhears Biff, Happy, and Linda arguing about him.
When Biff jokes with his father to snap him out of his trance, Willy misunderstands and thinks that Biff is calling him crazy. They argue, and Willy maintains that he is a big shot in the sales world. Happy mentions that Biff plans to ask Bill Oliver for a business loan.
Willy brightens immediately. Happy outlines a publicity campaign to sell sporting goods; the business proposal, which revolves around the brothers using their natural physical abilities to lead publicity displays of sporting events, is thenceforth referred to as the Florida idea. Everyone loves the idea of Happy and Biff going into business together.
Willy begins offering dubious and somewhat unhelpful advice for Biff s loan interview. One moment, he tells Biff not to crack any jokes; the next, he tells him to lighten things up with a couple of funny stories.
Linda tries to offer support, but Willy tells her several times to be quiet.
He orders Biff not to pick up anything that falls off Olivers desk because doing so is an office boys job.