In Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller, the exposition of the play lays the groundwork for the audience’s introduction to the main character, Willy, as well as to Linda and Biff. In the opening of act 1, the audience is introduced to Willy. The stage directions note,
Willy Loman, the Salesman, enters, carrying two large sample cases. The flute plays on. He hears but is not aware of it. He is past sixty years of age, dressed quietly. Even as he crosses the stage to the doorway of the house, his exhaustion is apparent.
When Linda seems worried that Willy has returned earlier than expected, he says,
WILLY [with casual irritation]: I said nothing happened. Didn’t you hear me?
LINDA: Don’t you feel well?
WILLY: I’m tired to the death. [The flute has faded away. He sits on the bed beside her, a little numb.] I couldn’t make it. I just couldn’t make it, Linda.
LINDA [very carefully, delicately]: Where were you all day? You look terrible.
From just these few lines, we are cued in to Willy’s outlook on life. He says, “I’m tired to the death,” from which we also get foreshadowing about his ultimate death in the play, as the title suggests. That “the flute has faded away” also suggests that Willy’s life has faded away. Shortly afterwards, Willy says about his employers, “I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England.” This is also part of the exposition. The audience will soon learn how self-delusional this statement is when it becomes apparent that he is not “vital” at all to his employer.
Then Willy asks Linda about Biff, and she replies, “You shouldn’t have criticized him, Willy, especially after he just got off the train. You mustn’t lose your temper with him.” We learn immediately about the tension between Biff and Willy, which is another element of the exposition and introduces the audience to Biff’s character.
In the next portion of the dialogue, which comprises the rising action in the play, we learn why Willy is so critical of Biff. He’s “lazy,” Willy says. He has not accomplished anything in life. Willy and Linda continue to talk about the old days and about how much promise Biff had then, which further contributes to the audience's understanding and is part of the rising action.
The next scene in the boys’ bedroom between Biff and Happy is another element of the rising action. They are also discussing the past, and the audience gets the impression that all the important characters in the Loman family are stuck in the past, presumably because they never fulfilled their original aspirations. The flashback scene when Willy returns from the New England sales trip and discusses it, as well as his outlook on life, is another element, as well as the scene between Willy and “The Woman” and Biff’s surprise visit to the hotel, which shockingly reveals to him that his father is having an affair.
The climax of the play comes towards the end when Willy realizes that Biff loves him. He says,
WILLY [after a long pause, astonished, elevated]: Isn’t that— isn’t that remarkable? Biff—he likes me!
LINDA: He loves you, Willy!
HAPPY [deeply moved]: Always did, Pop.
WILLY: Oh, Biff! [Staring wildly] He cried! Cried to me. [He is choking with his love, and now cries out his promise.] That boy—that boy is going to be magnificent! [Ben appears in the light just outside the kitchen.]
BEN: Yes, outstanding, with twenty thousand behind him.
LINDA [sensing the racing of his mind, fearfully, carefully]: Now come to bed, Willy. It’s all settled now.
WILLY [finding it difficult not to rush out of the house]: Yes, we’ll sleep. Come on. Go to sleep, Hap.”
Thereafter, the falling action follows the climax and is seen in Willy’s death and the requiem. Seemingly almost in slow motion, “Biff slowly returns to his bedroom. He and Happy gravely don their jackets. Linda slowly walks out of her room. The music has developed into a dead march” and Charley and Bernard are dressed somberly with “Linda, in clothes of mourning” and the stage direction notes they “All stare down at the grave.”
The resolution comes when in the Requiem, Biff says, “He had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong ... He never knew who he was.” Presumably, Biff will not follow his father’s lead and make the same mistake. The conflict between Biff and Willy is resolved. Willy was happy in the knowledge that Biff loved him, and Biff is more convinced of the importance of following one’s dreams.