Death of a salesman: Death of a Salesman is a 1949 stage play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances.
Death of a salesman Characters
Willy Loman is An elderly salesman. His dissipating career, estranged relationship with his oldest son, Biff, and guilt over an extramarital affair led him to anxiety and depression. Willy’s ability to differentiate between the present moment and the past becomes more difficult as the play progresses.
Linda Loman Willy Loman is her wife. She is Willy’s champion and takes it upon herself to reconcile with her family. She will defend Willy at any cost, even if she has to perpetuate his fantasies or deny his suicide attempts.
Biff Loman is The older son of the Lomans. Biff has been separated from Willy for more than 15 years. During that time, he has yet to be in a position to work steadily. Biff is the only family member to know about Willy’s affair, and he bitterly resents his father.
Happy Loman, The younger son of the Lomans. His sexuality drives Happy to be a womanizer. Although he works as an assistant, he exaggerates his position and authority.
Uncle Ben is Willy’s older brother. By 21, he had made a fortune in Africa’s jungle. Willy was once offered a job in Alaska by him. Ben is only present in Willy’s dreams and memories.
Charley is a Long-time friend of Willy Loman. Charley provides Willy with a weekly loan once Willy has been placed on straight commission. He also offers Willy a job. Charlie is Willy’s faithful friend, even though Willy feels jealous. Charley is present in Willy’s memories as well as the actions of the future.
Bernard is Charley’s son. He helped Biff get answers when they were high school students and tried to help Biff learn so he could graduate. Willy and Biff both criticized Bernard. He is a highly successful lawyer. Bernard is present in Willy’s past and future memories.
Willy’s ex-lover, with whom he had an illicit affair many years back in Boston. Biff found out about the affair after she walked out of the bathroom while he was still in the room. Willy only sees her in his fantasies and memories. However, as the play progresses, Willy struggles to distinguish between his memories of the Woman and those of Linda.
Howard Wagner is currently Willy’s boss. Willy was placed on straight commission by Howard before the play’s opening. Later, he fired him. Howard is a businessman who doesn’t care that Willy is his father’s employee and names him his child.
Jenny Charley is Charley’s secretary.
Miss Forsythe, Letta Young prostitutes.
Death of a salesman Summary
The Death of a Salesman is held in New York and Boston. Willy Loman is an old salesman who just returned from a long road trip to his home. Willy has difficulty recalling past events and distinguishing the present from the past. Linda, his wife, suggests that Willy request a job in New York instead of traveling each week.
Biff and Happy overhear Willy talking to himself. Biff discovers that Willy is often talking to him (Biff) during these private reveries. Happy and Biff discuss women and the future. Both are unhappy with their jobs. Happy can only be promoted once the merchandise manager passes away. They are considering buying a ranch (farm) together.
Willy reminisces about several events from his childhood, including when Biff, a high school student, admitted to stealing a football. He promises to throw a pass to Willy during the game. Willy also recalls his childhood dream of visiting the boys in Boston while on a road trip. In his reverie, Willy recalls the time when Bernard, the son of next-door neighbor Charley, informs Willy about Biff’s failing grades in math. He will only graduate if he improves his scores. Willy hears this last scene but dismisses it as irrelevant because Biff is “well-liked”, and Bernard isn’t.
Willy recalls having a conversation about his earnings with Linda. Linda then calculates his commission, and Willy admits that he exaggerated. Willy says he is unhappy with his appearance, and Linda assures him that he looks attractive. Willy’s memories start to blur together at this point. He is recalling his conversation with Linda and begins to recall his conversation with the Woman, a woman with which he had an affair. He cannot separate his memories of Linda and the Woman.
His neighbor Charley comes over to play cards. Willy is distracted by Charley’s cards, and Uncle Ben suddenly appears. Willy reminisces with Ben about an old conversation while Charley talks to him. Willy is confused by the two “discussions” he’s having, one in his present and one in the past, and accuses Charley of cheating. After leaving Charley, Willy is again lost in his old memories.
Once again the play returns to the present. Biff and Happy have a conversation with Linda about Willy. Biff and Happy come to know that Willy has been on straight commission and has borrowed money from Charley to pay his bills. Linda criticizes her boys for abandoning their father to pursue their selfish desires and gives Biff the choice of respecting his father. Biff decides that he will stay in New York. However, he reminds Linda of Willy’s throwing him out. He tells Linda that Willy is a “fake.” Linda tells her sons at this point that Willy has committed suicide.
Willy listens to his sons and wife talking, and then he and Biff have a heated argument. Willy guides Biff during an interview with Bill Oliver as Happy talks about Biff’s plans to start his own business. Willy recalls Biff’s football matches. Linda questions Willy before she and Willy go to sleep. She wants to know what Biff is holding against him, but Willy refuses to answer. Biff removes the rubber tubing Willy hid behind the heater.
Willy plans to meet Howard the following day to ask for a job in New York. Howard informs Willy during the meeting that no New York jobs are available. Howard is reminded by Willy that he was named by him and he was a successful salesman during his time working for Howard’s father. Howard is still impassive, and he fires him instead.
After being fired, Willy starts freefalling into the memories of his past. Willy remembers Ben’s visit again. Willy seeks advice this time because things are not going according to plan. He recalls Ben offering him an Alaska job. He agrees, but Linda intervenes to remind him of Dave Singleman. Willy’s memory shifts to Biff’s last game. Willy remembers Charley pretending to be unaware of Biff’s game. This infuriates Willy. His daydream is over when he arrives at Charley’s office.
Bernard is waiting for his father Charley in his office. Willy and Bernard discuss Biff and the possible causes for his failure to be motivated and successful. Bernard claims that Biff’s life changed after high school when Willy visited Boston. Bernard asks Willy what happened to him when he visited him. Willy gets defensive. Bernard is on his way to presenting a case before the Supreme Court. Willy is both pleased and disappointed by Bernard’s success. Charley offers Willy a job and pays his insurance. Willy declines the offer.
Happy and Oliver are about to meet at a restaurant. Happy tease a young prostitute, and Biff is annoyed that Oliver doesn’t remember him. Biff realizes that he is not a salesman for Oliver. Instead, he was a shipping clerk. Willy informs his sons that he has fired him. Biff tries to explain the events to Oliver. However, Willy still relives the past and recalls Bernard telling Linda that Biff had failed math and would not graduate. Willy then remembers Bernard telling her Biff has taken a train to Boston.
Willy reminisces about the moment Biff learned about Willy’s affair with the Woman. Biff visits Willy in Boston’s hotel room to inform him that he won’t graduate unless Willy convinces Mr. Birnbaum. Willy recalls his desperate attempts to hide the Woman in the bathroom. Willy’s attempt to hide the affair is foiled when the Woman comes out of the bathroom. Willy’s last memory is that Biff called him a “fake” before he walked out of the room.
Willy comes out of the past memories and finds he is still at the restaurant. Willy goes home at night and starts building a garden. Linda throws Happy & Biff out of her house. Willy is planting seeds when Ben appears. Willy doesn’t remember any previous conversation with Ben at this point. He does so several times in the play. Instead, he and Ben talk about his plans to commit suicide. Willy and Ben talk about the past, but the future is what they are discussing. Ben warns Willy that an insurance company may refuse to settle the case, and Biff may never forgive him.
Biff approaches Willy outside the garden to inform him that he is leaving home for good. Biff and Willy argue, and Biff confronts Willy using the rubber hose. He says he won’t pity him if Willy commits suicide. Biff claims that the Lomans are not truthful with each other or themselves. Biff believes that he and Willy are ordinary people who can be easily replaced. Biff and Willy agree. Willy sees Ben again and reminds him about the insurance policy. Willy then drives off and meets with an accident and dies. Charley, Bernard, and the Lomans gather at Willy’s grave.
- BBMKU Semester 3 Notes