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Describe Willy's meeting with Howard and the significance of Dave Singleman in Death of...

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vannesao | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 24, 2013 at 12:53 AM via web

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Describe Willy's meeting with Howard and the significance of Dave Singleman in Death of a Salesman.

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:32 PM (Answer #1)

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Willy goes to see Howard, his boss, to ask him for a settled job in New York instead of having to travel all the time. He finds Howard totally wrapped up in a new tape recorder he has just bought. Howard insists that Willy listen to it too, to the recordings of his family, and even when he finally gets around to hearing what Willy has to say, he doesn’t seem very interested. In fact, far from granting Willy’s request for a New York Job, he fires him. Willy is getting old and has not been making very good sales, and so Howard doesn’t want to keep him on any longer.

Willy is utterly shocked and in despair resorts to trying to impress Howard with stories of his past career and life. He tells Howard about an old and rich salesman he met once, called Dave Singleman, who inspired him to become a salesman himself. Willy paints Singleman’s career in glowing colours. Singleman was the role model for Willy, but he has not been able to emulate Singleman’s success. He goes on to give his own reason why:

In those days there was personality in it Howard. There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear – or personality. You see what I mean? They don’t know me any more. (Act II)

 Willy, then, does not put the blame on himself for his failure - he says the times have altered instead, and salesmen are no longer respected and valued, as they were in Singleman’s day. He is also implying strong criticism of Howard here, as Howard is one of these cold, ‘cut and dried’ businessmen who think nothing of oldfriendships and connections. Willy has been with Howard’s firm for over thirty years and was a good friend of Howard’s father Frank, but this means nothing to Howard; he can discard Willy with barely a second thought.

Howard’s dismissal of Willy’s connection with his family is given ironic emphasis when he is shown as being totally preoccupied with his wife and children’s voices on his new tape recorder, while ignoring his father’s great friend who is standing right in front of him.

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