Death of a Salesman
Summary & Analysis
As a flute melody plays, Willy Loman returns to his home in Brooklyn one night, exhausted from a failed sales trip. His wife, Linda, tries to persuade him to ask his boss, Howard Wagner, to let him work in New York so that he won’t have to travel. Willy says that he will talk to Howard the next day. Willy complains that Biff, his older son who has come back home to visit, has yet to make something of himself. Linda scolds Willy for being so critical, and Willy goes to the kitchen for a snack.
As Willy talks to himself in the kitchen, Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is also visiting, reminisce about their adolescence and discuss their father’s babbling, which often includes criticism of Biff’s failure to live up to Willy’s expectations. As Biff and Happy, dissatisfied with their lives, fantasize about buying a ranch out West, Willy becomes immersed in a daydream. He praises his sons, now younger, who are washing his car. The young Biff, a high school football star, and the young Happy appear. They interact affectionately with their father, who has just returned from a business trip. Willy confides in Biff and Happy that he is going to open his own business one day, bigger than that owned by his neighbor, Charley. Charley’s son, Bernard, enters looking for Biff, who must study for math class in order to avoid failing. Willy points out to his sons that although Bernard is smart, he is not “well liked,” which will hurt him in the long run.
A younger Linda enters, and the boys leave to do some chores. Willy boasts of a phenomenally successful sales trip, but Linda coaxes him into revealing that his trip was actually only meagerly successful. Willy complains that he soon won’t be able to make all of the payments on their appliances and car. He complains that people don’t like him and that he’s not good at his job. As Linda consoles him, he hears the laughter of his mistress. He approaches The Woman, who is still laughing, and engages in another reminiscent daydream. Willy and The Woman flirt, and she thanks him for giving her stockings.
The Woman disappears, and Willy fades back into his prior daydream, in the kitchen. Linda, now mending stockings, reassures him. He scolds her mending and orders her to throw the stockings out. Bernard bursts in, again looking for Biff. Linda reminds Willy that Biff has to return a football that he stole, and she adds that Biff is too rough with the neighborhood girls. Willy hears The Woman laugh and explodes at Bernard and Linda. Both leave, and though the daydream ends, Willy continues to mutter to himself. The older Happy comes downstairs and tries to quiet Willy. Agitated, Willy shouts his regret about not going to Alaska with his brother, Ben, who eventually found a diamond mine in Africa and became rich. Charley, having heard the commotion, enters. Happy goes off to bed, and Willy and Charley begin to play cards. Charley offers Willy a job, but Willy, insulted, refuses it. As they argue, Willy imagines that Ben enters. Willy accidentally calls Charley Ben. Ben inspects Willy’s house and tells him that he has to catch a train soon to look at properties in Alaska. As Willy talks to Ben about the prospect of going to Alaska, Charley, seeing no one there, gets confused and questions Willy. Willy yells at Charley, who leaves. The younger Linda enters and Ben meets her. Willy asks Ben impatiently about his life. Ben recounts his travels and talks about their father. As Ben is about to leave, Willy daydreams further, and Charley and Bernard rush in to tell him that Biff and Happy are stealing lumber. Although Ben eventually leaves, Willy continues to talk to him.
Back in the present, the older Linda enters to find Willy outside. Biff and Happy come downstairs and discuss Willy’s condition with their mother. Linda scolds Biff for judging Willy harshly. Biff tells her that he knows Willy is a fake, but he refuses to elaborate. Linda mentions that Willy has tried to commit suicide. Happy grows angry and rebukes Biff for his failure in the business world. Willy enters and yells at Biff. Happy intervenes and eventually proposes that he and Biff go into the sporting goods business together. Willy immediately brightens and gives Biff a host of tips about asking for a loan from one of Biff’s old employers, Bill Oliver. After more arguing and reconciliation, everyone finally goes to bed.
Act II opens with Willy enjoying the breakfast that Linda has made for him. Willy ponders the bright-seeming future before getting angry again about his expensive appliances. Linda informs Willy that Biff and Happy are taking him out to dinner that night. Excited, Willy announces that he is going to make Howard Wagner give him a New York job. The phone rings, and Linda chats with Biff, reminding him to be nice to his father at the restaurant that night.
As the lights fade on Linda, they come up on Howard playing with a wire recorder in his office. Willy tries to broach the subject of working in New York, but Howard interrupts him and makes him listen to his kids and wife on the wire recorder. When Willy finally gets a word in, Howard rejects his plea. Willy launches into a lengthy recalling of how a legendary salesman named Dave Singleman inspired him to go into sales. Howard leaves and Willy gets angry. Howard soon re-enters and tells Willy to take some time off. Howard leaves and Ben enters, inviting Willy to join him in Alaska. The younger Linda enters and reminds Willy of his sons and job. The young Biff enters, and Willy praises Biff’s prospects and the fact that he is well liked.
Ben leaves and Bernard rushes in, eagerly awaiting Biff’s big football game. Willy speaks optimistically to Biff about the game. Charley enters and teases Willy about the game. As Willy chases Charley off, the lights rise on a different part of the stage. Willy continues yelling from offstage, and Jenny, Charley’s secretary, asks a grown-up Bernard to quiet him down. Willy enters and prattles on about a “very big deal” that Biff is working on. Daunted by Bernard’s success (he mentions to Willy that he is going to Washington to fight a case), Willy asks Bernard why Biff turned out to be such a failure. Bernard asks Willy what happened in Boston that made Biff decide not to go to summer school. Willy defensively tells Bernard not to blame him.
Charley enters and sees Bernard off. When Willy asks for more money than Charley usually loans him, Charley again offers Willy a job. Willy again refuses and eventually tells Charley that he was fired. Charley scolds Willy for always needing to be liked and angrily gives him the money. Calling Charley his only friend, Willy exits on the verge of tears.
At Frank’s Chop House, Happy helps Stanley, a waiter, prepare a table. They ogle and chat up a girl, Miss Forsythe, who enters the restaurant. Biff enters, and Happy introduces him to Miss Forsythe, continuing to flirt with her. Miss Forsythe, a call girl, leaves to telephone another call girl (at Happy’s request), and Biff spills out that he waited six hours for Bill Oliver and Oliver didn’t even recognize him. Upset at his father’s unrelenting misconception that he, Biff, was a salesman for Oliver, Biff plans to relieve Willy of his illusions. Willy enters, and Biff tries gently, at first, to tell him what happened at Oliver’s office. Willy blurts out that he was fired. Stunned, Biff again tries to let Willy down easily. Happy cuts in with remarks suggesting Biff’s success, and Willy eagerly awaits the good news.
Biff finally explodes at Willy for being unwilling to listen. The young Bernard runs in shouting for Linda, and Biff, Happy, and Willy start to argue. As Biff explains what happened, their conversation recedes into the background. The young Bernard tells Linda that Biff failed math. The restaurant conversation comes back into focus and Willy criticizes Biff for failing math. Willy then hears the voice of the hotel operator in Boston and shouts that he is not in his room. Biff scrambles to quiet Willy and claims that Oliver is talking to his partner about giving Biff the money. Willy’s renewed interest and probing questions irk Biff more, and he screams at Willy. Willy hears The Woman laugh and he shouts back at Biff, hitting him and staggering. Miss Forsythe enters with another call girl, Letta. Biff helps Willy to the washroom and, finding Happy flirting with the girls, argues with him about Willy. Biff storms out, and Happy follows with the girls.
Willy and The Woman enter, dressing themselves and flirting. The door knocks and Willy hurries The Woman into the bathroom. Willy answers the door; the young Biff enters and tells Willy that he failed math. Willy tries to usher him out of the room, but Biff imitates his math teacher’s lisp, which elicits laughter from Willy and The Woman. Willy tries to cover up his indiscretion, but Biff refuses to believe his stories and storms out, dejected, calling Willy a “phony little fake.” Back in the restaurant, Stanley helps Willy up. Willy asks him where he can find a seed store. Stanley gives him directions to one, and Willy hurries off.
The light comes up on the Loman kitchen, where Happy enters looking for Willy. He moves into the living room and sees Linda. Biff comes inside and Linda scolds the boys and slaps away the flowers in Happy’s hand. She yells at them for abandoning Willy. Happy attempts to appease her, but Biff goes in search of Willy. He finds Willy planting seeds in the garden with a flashlight. Willy is consulting Ben about a $20,000 proposition. Biff approaches him to say goodbye and tries to bring him inside. Willy moves into the house, followed by Biff, and becomes angry again about Biff’s failure. Happy tries to calm Biff, but Biff and Willy erupt in fury at each other. Biff starts to sob, which touches Willy. Everyone goes to bed except Willy, who renews his conversation with Ben, elated at how great Biff will be with $20,000 of insurance money. Linda soon calls out for Willy but gets no response. Biff and Happy listen as well. They hear Willy’s car speed away.
In the requiem, Linda and Happy stand in shock after Willy’s poorly attended funeral. Biff states that Willy had the wrong dreams. Charley defends Willy as a victim of his profession. Ready to leave, Biff invites Happy to go back out West with him. Happy declares that he will stick it out in New York to validate Willy’s death. Linda asks Willy for forgiveness for being unable to cry. She begins to sob, repeating “We’re free. . . .” All exit, and the flute melody is heard as the curtain falls.
Death of a Salesman Summary. Willy Loman is a salesman living in New York City in the late 1940’s. He lives with his wife, Linda, in the same house for the last twenty-five years. The house once sat apart from other homes, now it is surrounded by apartment buildings, which makes Willy feel closed in.
How does the salesman die in Death of a Salesman?
Willy definitely goes to his death amid a cloud of delusion. Even after Biff totally lays it out for his dad that all he wants to do is be a cowboy or whatever, Willy refuses to understand. The pitiful salesman kills himself, thinking that Biff will use the life insurance money to start a business.
What is the theme of Death of a Salesman?
Critical Essays Major Themes in Death of a Salesman. Death of a Salesman addresses loss of identity and a man’s inability to accept change within himself and society. The play is a montage of memories, dreams, confrontations, and arguments, all of which make up the last 24 hours of Willy Loman’s life.
At the end of Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, the main character throughout the story, commits suicide in an automobile accident and dies. Willy commits this act to allow his family to cash in on his 20,000 dollar life insurance policy so that his son Biff can get the money he needs to start his own business.
What is the rubber tubing in Death of a Salesman?
The rubber pipe Linda, the wife, found in the basement is a symbol for Willy’s desperate attempts at suicide. He once drove off a bridge to kill himself but the shallow water saved him. Then he apparently tried to kill himself by inhaling gas. … Instead, Biff was the one that got rid of the pipe, not Willy.Mar 19, 2011
What is the significance of the flute in Death of a Salesman?
For Willy, music symbolizes his mood and sets the tone of the different settings he is in. The flute in "Death of a Salesman" is played in the play whenever Willy is talking to Ben, his father. Willy’s father was a flute maker and left Willy and his mother at a young age. The flute is a reminder to Willy of his father.Dec 17, 2013
How old is Biff in the death of a salesman?
Biff bailed on summer school and the math credit. From here, he spiraled downward. He started working on ranches in the West, but couldn’t hold a job because he kept stealing from his bosses. When we meet him in the play, he’s 34 years old and has finally realized just how bad Willy messed him up.
Who said attention must be paid?
When Linda admonishes the couple’s grown sons, Biff (Kevin Anderson) and Happy (Ted Koch), saying that Willy is ”a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him,” it is not mere hyperbole. Linda goes on to conclude the sentence with the famous words ”so attention must be paid.”Feb 11, 1999
Who is Ben in the death of a salesman?
Ben is Willy Loman’s brother. He is already dead as the play begins, and he appears only in Willy’s memories and reveries. Willy looks up to Ben and holds him up as an example to his sons Biff and Happy.
What happened to Willy’s father in Death of a Salesman?
Ben left home to look for their father in Alaska but never found him. At Willy’s request, Ben tells young Biff and Happy about their grandfather. Among an assortment of other jobs, Willy and Ben’s father made flutes and sold them as a traveling salesman before following a gold rush to Alaska.
Who is David singleman?
Desperate, Willy tries to relate an anecdote about Dave Singleman, an eighty-four-year-old salesman who phoned his buyers and made his sales without ever leaving his hotel room. After he died the noble “death of a salesman” that eludes Willy, hundreds of salesmen and buyers attended his funeral.
Who is Howard Wagner in Death of a Salesman?
Howard Wagner. The thirty-six year old son of Frank Wagner, Willy Loman’s former boss, Howard now occupies the same position as his late father. Although Willy was the one who named Howard, Howard is forced to fire Willy for his erratic behavior.
Who is happy in the death of a salesman?
Happy Loman is Willy and Linda Loman’s son in Death of a Salesman. Happy is thirty-two years old, younger than his brother Biff by two years.
What year does the death of a salesman take place?
Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. It was the recipient of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.
What is the meaning of the name Charley?
English Meaning: The name Charley is an English baby name. In English the meaning of the name Charley is: From the Old English ‘ceorl’ meaning man.
Who is Oliver in the death of a salesman?
In the play Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, the character of Bill Oliver is an old supervisor for whom Willy Loman’s son, Biff, used to work.
Willy Loman is the protagonist. He is a traveling salesman, the low man of popular United States culture, who believes in the false promises of the American Dream.May 9, 2017
Who is Linda Loman?
Linda is Willy’s doting wife. She refuses to see through her husband’s lies. This is a woman on a mission: protect Willy’s emotions and dreams. Part of her nature is the result of naïveté; Linda doesn’t know the full picture here, from Willy’s finances to his job to his mistress.
Who is Arthur Miller?
Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and figure in twentieth-century American theater. Among his most popular plays are All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (1955, revised 1956).
Who married Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller?
Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller on June 29th, 1956. The marriage lasted five years. In the early months of 1956 Marilyn Monroe was preparing to star in Bus Stop, discussing with Laurence Olivier a role in The Prince and the Showgirl and romancing Arthur Miller, who was divorcing his wife, Mary.
What is Marilyn Monroe known for?
Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) was an American actress, model and singer. Famous for playing comic "blonde bombshell" characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and was emblematic of the era’s attitudes towards sexuality.
Why was Arthur Miller found guilty of contempt of Congress?
31. 1957: Arthur Miller guilty of contempt. US playwright Arthur Miller has been convicted of contempt of Congress. The conviction relates to an investigation last year by the House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) into a Communist conspiracy to misuse American passports.
How old is Marilyn Monroe would be today?
Famed actress and legendary sex symbol Marilyn Monroe would have turned 89 on June 1, 2015. Born Norma Jean Mortenson, Monroe passed away at the age of 36 on Aug. 5, 1962. Why Marilyn Monroe remains a ‘Hot’ topic.Jun 1, 2015
What side of the face was Marilyn Monroe’s beauty mark?
If your mole was on the left side of your forehead, though, you were probably just a spendthrift. The 1950s were a time of buttoned-up sexuality, and Marilyn Monroe, the era’s greatest sex symbol, quickly became known for the off-centre mole on the left side of her mouth.
How do you get rid of moles on your skin?
Try apple cider vinegar.
Wash the mole for 15 to 20 minutes using warm water so that the skin becomes soft.
Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar. …
Wash the apple cider vinegar off with clean water and dry the area.
Repeat these steps four times a day for a week or so.
Death of a Salesman Summary
In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is an aging salesman who’s fired from his job. When his son Biff admits that he couldn’t get a loan to start his new business, Willy commits suicide so that Biff can use the insurance money to secure his future.
Willy expresses disappointment with his son Biff, who’s unable to find a job at the beginning of the play.
A series of flashbacks reveals Willy’s thoughts of suicide, which his sons dispel by promising to go into business together.
Despite Willy’s last wishes, his funeral is not well attended. The play ends tragically.
More On Primary Summary
Summary of the Play
Death of a Salesman is subtitled “Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem” and, accordingly, the acts are divided into conversations – in the present and from the past – that flow in and out of each other. The play encompasses an evening and the following day, but the action is interrupted by or mixed with flashbacks or memories of a period approximately 17 years earlier.
Act I opens in Willy Loman’s house in Brooklyn. Willy, a traveling salesman of 63, is exhausted after years of making his trips. (Even by the end of the play, we do not know what product he sells.) He has yet to reach a level of success that would allow him to stop traveling and afford the household bills that always seem to swallow his diminishing wages. We learn that Willy’s grown son, Biff, has returned to visit. And we come to know Willy’s character as he complains to his wife Linda about his disappointment in Biff’s failure to find a steady, serious job. Willy is tired, confused, and argumentative, a man who loves his son and has tried to infuse him with a salesman’s enthusiastic optimism and self-confidence.
In the rest of Act I, through various flashbacks that might also be Willy’s memories, we become familiar with the salesman’s philosophy of success that has guided Willy to his current less-than-successful state. Compared with his neighbor Charley and Charley’s son Bernard, Willy and his sons Biff and Hap are athletic, rather than studious; in Willy’s mind, a likable personality is more important for success than academic grades. Willy endorses Biff’s cheating at school; and, we learn, Willy himself cheated on his wife by having an extramarital affair with a woman in Boston. Linda informs Biff and Hap she has discovered that Willy has secretly started to contemplate suicide. The evening of Act I winds down as Biff and Hap attempt to cheer up Willy by promising to go into business together.
In Act II, which encompasses the day following the evening of Act I, Willy asks his boss for a new, non-traveling job. Instead of being rewarded for years of service, Willy is fired because he has not been able to sell enough. Bewildered, he asks his friend Charley for another of many loans and, while doing so, meets Bernard, now a successful lawyer. In the evening, Willy joins Biff and Hap at a restaurant and eventually tells them his bad news; unable to depress a father who wants good news at the end of a terrible day, Biff fails to tell Willy that he did not get the loan that would have made it possible for Hap and him to start a business together. The scene then changes to years earlier, when Biff comes to Boston just after flunking math, which has endangered his chances for college by preventing him from graduating high school. Biff there discovers Willy is having an affair.
In the present, when Biff and Hap return to the house, their mother reproaches them for abandoning Willy in the restaurant. Delusional, Willy is planting a garden in the dark and having an imaginary conversation with his elder brother Ben, who made a fortune in diamonds as a young man. Biff tries to explain the ungranted loan to Willy, as well as his decision to leave so as not to disappoint Willy ever again. Willy believes Biff has been unsuccessful out of spite for him, but when Biff begins to cry, Willy sees Biff’s love for him. Inspired by this realization, but obviously disoriented, Willy sneaks away that night and kills himself in a car accident, thinking his life insurance money will give Biff a new start and that a well-attended funeral will prove his own popularity. In a very short third act that Miller calls a “Requiem,” we see that almost no one has attended the funeral. Although Hap defends Willy’s “good dream,” Biff is subdued and Linda weeps as she asks Willy’s grave why he did such a thing.