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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 buying a ranch out West, Willy becomes immersed in a daydream.
Despite being much younger than Willy. He moves into the living room and sees Linda. One example is the daydream of a woman that Willy had an affair with. Happy has a steady job in New York, but the rat race does not satisfy him. By the time the play opens, Willy suffers from crippling self-delusion. Forty years D.
He thinks that if Frank Wagner were alive he would be in charge of New York, but his son, Howard, does not appreciate him as much.
Linda tells him how Happy, his younger son, took Biff, his eldest son, out on a double-date, and it was nice to see them both at home. She reminds Willy not to lose his temper with Biff, but Willy feels that there is an undercurrent of resentment in Biff. Linda says that Biff is crestfallen and admires Willy.
They argue about whether or not Biff is lazy, and Willy believes that Biff is a person who will get started later in life, like Edison or B. Biff Loman , at thirty-four, is well-built but not at all self-assured. Happy, two years younger, is equally tall and powerful, but is confused because he has never risked failure. The two brothers discuss their father, thinking that his condition is deteriorating. Biff wonders why his father mocks him, but Happy says that he merely wants Biff to live up to his potential.
Biff claims he has had twenty or thirty different jobs since he left home before the war, but has been fired from each. He reminisces about herding cattle and wistfully remembers working outdoors.
Biff worries that he is still merely a boy, while Happy says that despite the fact that he has his own car, apartment, and plenty of women he is still unfulfilled. Happy believes that he should not have to take orders at work from men over whom he is physically superior. He also talks about how he has no respect for the women he seduces, and really wants a woman with character, such as their mother. Biff thinks that he may try again to work for Bill Oliver, for whom he worked years ago but quit after stealing a carton of basketballs from him.
The play shifts in time to the Loman house years before, when Biff and Happy were teenagers. Willy reminds the teenage Biff not to make promises to any girls, because they will always believe what you tell them and he is too young to consider them seriously.
Happy brags that he is losing weight, while Biff shows Willy a football he took from the locker room. Willy claims that someday he'll have his own business like Charley , their next door neighbor.
His business will be bigger than Charley's, because Charley is "liked, but not well-liked. Bernard , Charley's son, enters and tells Willy that he is worried that Biff will fail math class and not be able to attend UVA.
Willy tells Bernard not to be a pest and to leave. After Bernard leaves, Willy tells his sons that Bernard, like Charley, is liked but not well-liked.
Willy claims that, although Bernard gets the best grades in school, in the business world it is personality that matters and that his sons will succeed.
After the boys leave, Linda enters and Willy discusses his worry that people don't respect him. Linda reassures him and points out that his sons idolize him. Miller returns to the more recent past past for a short scene that takes place in a hotel room in Boston.
A nameless woman puts on a scarf and Willy tells her that he gets lonely and worries about his business. The woman claims that she picked Willy for his sense of humor, and Willy promises to see her the next time he is in Boston.
Willy, back in the kitchen with Linda, scolds her for mending her own stocking, claiming that she should not have to do such menial things. He goes out on the porch, where he tells Bernard to give Biff the answers to the Regents exam. Bernard refuses because it is a State exam. Linda tells Willy that Biff is too rough with the girls, while Bernard says that Biff is driving without a license and will flunk math.
Willy, who hears the voice of the woman from the hotel room, screams at Linda that there is nothing wrong with Biff, and asks her if she wants her son to be a worm like Bernard. Linda, in tears, exits into the living room. The play returns to the present, where Willy tells Happy how he nearly drove into a kid in Yonkers, and wonders why he didn't go to Alaska with his brother Ben , who ended up with diamond mines and came out of the jungle rich at the age of twenty-one.
Happy tells his father that he will enable him to retire. Charley enters, and he and Willy play cards. Charley offers Willy a job, which insults him, and they argue over the ceiling that Willy put up in his living room.
Willy tells Charley that Ben died several weeks ago in Africa. Willy hallucinates that Ben enters, carrying a valise and umbrella, and asks about their mother. Charley becomes unnerved by Willy's hallucination and leaves. The play returns to the past, where Willy introduces his sons to Ben, whom he calls a great man.
Ben in turn boasts that his father was a great man and inventor. Willy shows off his sons to Ben, who tells them never to fight fair with a stranger, for they will never get out of the jungle that way. Many critics described Death of a Salesman as the first great American tragedy. Death of a Salesman. Miller fashioned a particularly American version of the European existentialist stance.
The notions of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung regarding the role of the human subconscious in defining and accepting human existence. He transformed the story into one of the most successful dramas in the history of the American stage. His relationship with Manny revived his interest in the abandoned manuscript. Many Americans could not subscribe to the degree of social conformity and the ideological and cultural orthodoxy that a prosperous.
Miller managed to touch deep chords within the national psyche. Newman imagined a continuous competition between his son and Miller.
Uneasy with this American milieu of denial and discord. Such discontented individuals railed against capitalist success as the basis of social approval. In his youth. Newman refused to accept failure and demanded the appearance of utmost confidence in his household. Manny Newman. In expressing the emotions that Manny Newman inspired through the fictional character of Willy Loman.
Miller had written a short story about an unsuccessful salesman. The climate of the American art world had likewise long been stuck in its own rut of conformity.
As Biff and Happy. Biff and his younger brother. Willy points out to his sons that although Bernard is smart. His wife. A younger Linda enters. Willy complains that Biff. As Willy talks to himself in the kitchen. The young Biff. Willy boasts of a phenomenally successful sales trip. He praises his sons. Willy confides in Biff and Happy that he is going to open his own business one day. Linda scolds Willy for being so critical. He approaches The Woman. Willy Loman returns to his home in Brooklyn one night.
As Linda consoles him. Willy says that he will talk to Howard the next day. They interact affectionately with their father. Howard Wagner. Willy and The Woman flirt. Willy becomes immersed in a daydream. The Woman disappears. Willy accidentally calls Charley Ben. Happy goes off to bed. Willy continues to mutter to himself.
Happy intervenes and eventually proposes that he and Biff go into the sporting goods business together. Although Ben eventually leaves. Both leave. As they argue. Linda mentions that Willy has tried to commit suicide. Back in the present. Willy announces. Willy enters and yells at Biff. As Ben is about to leave. Linda reminds Willy that Biff has to return a football that he stole. Willy shouts his regret about not going to Alaska with his brother.
Willy hears The Woman laugh and explodes at Bernard and Linda. Willy daydreams further. He scolds her mending and orders her to throw the stockings out. The older Happy comes downstairs and tries to quiet Willy. Linda informs Willy that Biff and Happy are taking him out to dinner that night. Linda scolds Biff for judging Willy harshly.
Bill Oliver. After more arguing and reconciliation. Willy yells at Charley. The younger Linda enters and Ben meets her. Ben recounts his travels and talks about their father. As Willy talks to Ben about the prospect of going to Alaska. Willy imagines that Ben enters. Biff tells her that he knows Willy is a fake. 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. Charley offers Willy a job. Willy asks Ben impatiently about his life. Bernard bursts in. Happy grows angry and rebukes Biff for his failure in the business world. Willy continues to talk to him. When Willy asks for more money than Charley usually loans him. Willy again refuses and eventually tells Charley that he was fired.
Howard leaves and Ben enters. Willy speaks optimistically to Biff about the game. Howard rejects his plea.
Biff enters. Ben leaves and Bernard rushes in. Happy helps Stanley. Charley again offers Willy a job. As Willy chases Charley off. Upset at. Miss Forsythe. Willy exits on the verge of tears. When Willy finally gets a word in. Willy asks Bernard why Biff turned out to be such a failure.
Willy continues yelling from offstage. Charley enters and teases Willy about the game. Howard leaves and Willy gets angry. Calling Charley his only friend. Howard soon re-enters and tells Willy to take some time off. Willy defensively tells Bernard not to blame him. Willy tries to broach the subject of working in New York.
Charley enters and sees Bernard off. As the lights fade on Linda. Willy launches into a lengthy recalling of how a legendary salesman named Dave Singleman inspired him to go into sales. The phone rings. The young Biff enters. Charley scolds Willy for always needing to be liked and angrily gives him the money.
The younger Linda enters and reminds Willy of his sons and job. They ogle and chat up a girl. Bernard asks Willy what happened in Boston that made Biff decide not to go to summer school. Stanley helps Willy up. Willy hears The Woman laugh and he shouts back at Biff. Miss Forsythe enters with another call girl.
The door knocks and Willy hurries The Woman into the bathroom. Biff finally explodes at Willy for being unwilling to listen.
Willy then hears the voice of the hotel operator in Boston and shouts that he is not in his room. Biff plans to relieve Willy of his illusions. She yells at them for abandoning Willy.
Happy attempts to appease her. Willy enters. Willy tries to cover up his indiscretion. The light comes up on the Loman kitchen. Willy answers the door. The young Bernard runs in shouting for Linda. Biff helps Willy to the washroom and. He moves into the living room and sees Linda. Biff scrambles to quiet Willy and claims that Oliver is talking to his partner about giving Biff the money.
Willy moves into the house. The young Bernard tells Linda that Biff failed math. As Biff explains what happened. Willy tries to usher him out of the room. Biff approaches him to say goodbye and tries to bring him inside. Biff again tries to let Willy down easily. Biff storms out. Willy asks him where he can find a seed store. Stanley gives him directions to one. The restaurant conversation comes back into focus and Willy criticizes Biff for failing math.
Willy and The Woman enter. Willy blurts out that he was fired. He finds Willy planting seeds in the garden with a flashlight. Biff states that Willy had the wrong dreams. Ready to leave. Biff invites Happy to go back out West with him. Happy tries to calm Biff. Everyone goes to bed except Willy. Biff starts to sob. In the requiem. Charley defends Willy as a victim of his profession.
She begins to sob. Linda soon calls out for Willy but gets no response.
Biff and Happy listen as well. Linda asks Willy for forgiveness for being unable to cry. Since then. He failed math. The overwhelming tensions caused by this disparity. Biff led a charmed life in high school as a football star with scholarship prospects. Although he works as an assistant to an assistant buyer in a department store. Nor do his sons fulfill his hope that they will succeed where he has failed. He cannot ignore his instincts.
Willy believes wholeheartedly in the American Dream of easy success and wealth. Charley owns a successful busi- ness and his son.
Although Willy used to mock Bernard for studying hard. It seems likely that Miss Forsythe and Letta are prostitutes.
Stanley and Happy seem to be friends. Charley gives Willy money to pay his bills. When Biff catches Willy in his hotel room with The Woman. Howard inherited the company from his father. Howard treats Willy with condescension and eventually fires him. He cannot grasp the true personal. Willy does experience a sort of revelation. Willy is able to achieve a tangible result. Through the imaginary advice of Ben.
Despite this failure. Willy does not achieve the self-realization or self-knowledge typical of the tragic hero. While he achieves a professional understanding of himself and the fundamental nature of the sales profession. The quasi-resolution that his suicide offers him represents only a partial discovery of the truth. Willy makes the most extreme sacrifice in his attempt to leave an inheritance that will allow Biff to fulfill the American Dream.
Willy fails to realize his personal failure and betrayal of his soul and family through the meticulously constructed artifice of his life. His final act.
In some respect. While his father and brother are unable to accept the miserable reality of their respective lives. Biff feels compelled to seek the truth about himself.
Biff determines to break through the lies surrounding the Loman family in order to come to realistic terms with his own life. Even the difference between his name and theirs reflects this polarity: He is one-dimensional and static throughout the play. Biff bristles stiffly at self-deception. Biff acknowledges his failure and eventually manages to confront it. As such.
Willy sees Biff as an underachiever. Happy is a doomed. Happy is a difficult character with whom to empathize. Charley understands his plight and shields him from blame. Miller portrays Charley as ambiguously gendered or effeminate. If Linda is a sort of emotional prophet. Though he is not terribly fond of Willy. Linda views freedom as an escape from debt. Linda is probably the most enigmatic and complex character in Death of a Salesman. Willy develops a fear of abandonment.
Willy finally believes that Biff is on the cusp of greatness. His efforts to raise perfect sons. Ben eventually departs for Alaska. Likely a result of these early experiences. He speaks of Dave Singleman as a legend and imagines that his death must have been beautifully noble. Whereas Willy feels that Biff has betrayed him. Biff feels that Willy.
Willy believes that he has every right to expect Biff to fulfill the promise inherent in him. 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. His desperate. Realizing that his all-American football star has turned into a lazy bum. Biff realizes that he has been content only when working on farms. Seeds Seeds represent for Willy the opportunity to prove the worth of his labor.
The American West. Stockings assume a metaphorical weight as the symbol of betrayal and sexual infidelity. At the end of the play. He has apparently attempted to kill himself by inhaling gas. Literal death by inhaling gas parallels the metaphorical death that Willy feels in his struggle to afford such a basic necessity.
Happy and Biff reminisce about the good old days when they were young. The argument that ensued was left unresolved. Willy explains that he kept falling into a trance while driving—he reveals later that he almost hit a boy. Shortly thereafter. Linda returns to bed while Willy goes to the kitchen to get something to eat.
Willy criticized Biff for working at manual labor on farms and horse ranches in the West. She asks if he had an automobile accident. Happy observes. Although Happy. Willy says that his thirtyfour-year-old son is a lazy bum.
They speculate that he had another accident. Biff and Happy. Linda urges him to ask his employer. Most of the time. Biff seems worn.
Before he left that morning. 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. Biff plans to ask Bill Oliver, an old employer, for a loan to buy 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. The boys are disgusted to hear Willy talking to himself downstairs. They try to go to sleep.
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.
Now, however, the house is hemmed in by apartment buildings on all sides, and sunlight barely reaches their yard. 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.
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.
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. Willy is lost in his memories. Willy laughs knowingly. 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. 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. As Linda assures him that he is the handsomest man ever, Willy replies that she is his best friend in the world. One of the most interesting aspects of Death of a Salesman is its fluid treatment of time: 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. In the midst of his memories. He would rather work in the open air on a ranch than enter business and make a fortune.
As an adult. Happy competes with more successful men by sleeping with their women—he thus performs a sort of theft and achieves sexual prowess. Willy sees his family as happy and secure. Willy cannot completely erase the evidence to the contrary. In the present. In fact. Biff has never held a steady job.
In his memories. Willy is unable to let go of his commitment to the American Dream. Biff and Willy have come to a mutual antagonism. He wants to remember Biff as the bright hope for the future. He searches for the mistake that he made that frustrated his hopes for fame and fortune and destroyed his relationship with Biff. In the past. No matter how much he wants to remember his past as all-American and blissful.
Over the years. Biff feels a deep sense of inadequacy because Willy wants him to pursue a career that conflicts with his natural inclinations and instincts. Bernard returns to the Loman house to beg Biff to study math. She also sees through his lie when he tries to inflate his commission from his latest trip. Bernard leaves the house. In one of his moments of self-doubt. Willy orders him to give Biff the answers. He notices Linda mending stockings and angrily demands that she throw them out—he is too proud to let his wife wear an old pair Biff later discovers that Willy has been buying new stockings for The Woman instead of for Linda.
The Woman fades into the darkness as Willy returns to his conversation with Linda in the present. She tells him that she picked him because he is so funny and sweet.
Bernard replies that he cannot do so during a state exam.
Willy loves the praise. Although she does not buy his pitch to her. Either way, individuals continue to react to Death of a Salesman because Willy's situation is not unique: He made a mistake — one that irrevocably changed his relationship with the people he loves most — and when all of his attempts to eradicate his mistake fail, he makes one grand attempt to correct the mistake.
Willy vehemently denies Biff's claim that they are both common, ordinary people, but ironically, it is the universality of the play that makes it so enduring. Biff's statement, "I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you" is true after all.
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Sign In. Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller. Scene 1 Act I: Scene 2 Act I: Scene 3 Act I: Scene 4 Act I: Scene 5 Act I: Scene 6 Act I: Scene 7 Act I: Scene 8 Act I: Scene 9 Act I: Scene 10 Act I: Scene 11 Act I: Scene 12 Act II: Scene 1 Act II: Scene 2 Act II: Scene 3 Act II: Scene 4 Act II: