Death of a Salesman Written by: Arthur Miller
Willy Loman: The main character, a traveling salesman who is fairly unsuccessful, who is losing touch with reality. • Linda Loman: Willy’s wife, supports Willy through everything. • Biff Loman: Willy’s favorite and oldest son who never met the expectations of his father. • Happy Loman: Willy’s youngest son, who is in business but is not at the high level him and his father desire. He is the one trying harder to get recognition from his father but his father is to busy flattering biff.
Charley: Willy’s neighbor, is very successful with a successful son as well. Helps Willy pay for some bills when Willy can not do so himself. Despite Willy being jealous of Charley he admits that Charley is his only real friend. • Bernard: Charley’s son, a successful lawyer. Always thought of Biff as his “hero”. • Ben: Willy’s wealthy older brother. He is deceased and only appears in Willy’s daydreams. • The Woman: Secretary of one of Willy’s buyers. Also his mistress when Biff and Happy are in high school. Biff catches Willy and the woman together and loses faith in his father and some of his dreams such as college die. • Howard Wagner: Willy’s boss. Who refuses to let Willy have a non-traveling job.
This act begins with Willy, a 63 year old traveling salesman, returning home from a business trip early. Next, you find out that Willy has had many automobile accidents which will serve importance later in the book. Because of these accidents, Linda, Willy’s wife, begs Willy to talk to his boss about a non-traveling job. Willy’s two sons are visiting him right now, Biff and Happy. Willy complains that Biff is lazy but not long after contradicts himself. He believes that Biff will be successful because he is “well liked”. Biff and Happy talk about moving to Florida with what they believe to be a great business plan. Biff plans on asking an old boss for the money to buy a ranch. Willy constantly daydreams about his brother asking him to go to Alaska with him and back to when his kids were younger.
Willy daydreams about this because his brother was very successful at his job in Alaska. Biff was a football star and seemed like he was going to have a very successful life. Willy seemed to be happier then because he had high hopes for Biff and he was happier with his job. Now he has to borrow money from Charley to pay bills and hides it from his wife. The voice of a woman’s laughter is heard in this act and this woman is a big confidence boost for Willy because she says he is a wonderful man. Near the end of this act it is revealed that all the car accidents are failed suicide attempts and she also found a rubber hose that Willy tried to choke himself with. The boys say they’ll stay home and get jobs to help pay the bills for the house.
The next morning when Willy wakes up he says that both his sons have left the home. He finds out they went to see Bill Oliver Biff’s old boss for money to start their own business. Willy is overjoyed when he hears this because he desperately wants his boys to become successful business men. Biff and Happy offer to take Willy to dinner. Willy notices Linda mending a stocking and suddenly feels guilty because he buys stockings for his mistress. He then goes to visit Howard his boss to ask for a non traveling job. This request annoys Howard and “fires” Willy and tells him to ask his sons for financial help. This horrifies Willy because he is way to proud to ask his sons for help.
After this experience Willy starts to hallucinate about his dead brother Ben. He imagines Ben offering him to go to Alaska with him again. Ben compares Willy’s life to Dave Singleman who was a successful salesman and then the image of Ben disappears before Willy can get his approval. Jenny, Charley’s secretary, approaches Bernard and asks him to comfort Willy through his issues. Bernard tries to reinsure Willy that Biff really did try in math even after he failed he was still determined to go to summer school. Willy accuses Bernard of blaming Willy for Biff’s failure but during the conversation Charley enters the scene to say goodbye to Bernard. In Charley’s office Charley counts out $50 but Willy has to ask for over $100 to pay his bills. Charley then offers him a non-traveling job for $50 a week but Willy feels insulted at the offer and refuses it. Charley gets upset by Willy’s reaction but still gives him the money to help his friend.
Charley gets upset by Willy’s reaction but still gives him the money to help his friend. Biff and Happy meet at the restaurant and Biff explains that Bill didn’t remember him, so they didn’t get the loan to start a business. Happy tells Biff not to tell Willy he didn’t get the loan because it would lower their father’s spirits even further. Willy comes to the dinner and Biff going against his brother’s request tries to explain how he didn’t receive the loan. Willy begins hallucinate during Biff’s explanation and hides in the bathroom remembering how Biff caught Willy with his mistress. Biff and Happy leave Willy in the bathroom to return to their home. Linda angry with her kids yells at Biff and Happy for abandoning their sick father.
Willy is contemplating suicide because then his family could cash in a life insurance claim for $20,000. Biff confronts his father about the rubber hose because he is worried about him. This starts an argument between the two while Linda and Happy don’t’ help the situation at all. This brings Biff to tears and then his father suddenly is happy because he finally feels that his son loves him. After the argument is over everyone but Willy goes to bed and then the car is heard starting and speeding off into the night.
Requiem: This starts the funeral for Willy. No one shows up expect for Linda, Biff, Happy, Bernard, and Charley. This surprises Linda because Willy talked about how many friends he had at work. This just proves that Willy’s life never went the way he wanted it and was to ashamed to admit it to anyone. Happy swears to become the big business man his father wanted him to be. Biff is sad about his father’s death and disgusted that his father had a dream to be a rich business man even though the thing that made him the happiest was doing home improvement. Charley explains Willy had to dream big because without a dream a salesman is nothing. Linda has trouble crying at the start of the funeral and she starts to ask her husband why he did it when she finally paid the house off the day of the funeral. She starts repeating “we’re free” and then breaks down and begins to sob.
Theme • Abandonment is a huge theme in this story. Willy feels abandoned by his father and his older brother. Which causes his hallucinations and his strong need for approval from others. Without a supportive male figure Willy feels like he needs approval from everyone and gives himself very high expectations.
Social Relevance • The Social Relevance is the American Dream. The dream is always to start from the lowest social class and rise to the highest through being a successful worker. Throughout the entire novel you see the constant struggle with Willy and his expectations of the American Dream. Willy feels that he and his sons have all failed the dream because they don’t have the most successful jobs. This failure leads Willy to insanity and his eventual suicide.
Evaluation • After reading this novel we feel that it is a very well written story. We feel that the reader must have a certain interest for the book. The reader must be ok with the constant change of dialogue between reality and Willy’s conversations with people that aren’t there. We also think although short, the book did progress kind of slowly.