Can somebody describe the nature of Linda Loman's relationship with her sons in Death of a Salesman?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Death of a Salesman," Linda Loman seems to have more forgiving and understanding view of her sons, Biff and Happy, than does Willy.  Veering between open expressions of disappointment and delusional expectations of what Biff, in particular, can become with some effort, Willy is unable to come to grips with the nature of his children.  Linda, on the other hand, keeps any ambitions she may have for her sons firmly in check, as witnessed in the following exchange:

Willy: Did Biff say anything after I went this morning?

Linda: You shouldn't have criticized him, Willy, especially after he just got off the train. You mustn't lose our temper with him.

Willy: When the hell did I lose my temper? I simply asked him if he was making any money.  Is that a criticism?

Linda: But, dear, how could he make any money?

Linda's rhetorical question regarding Biff's failure to find a lucrative career is one of resignation rather than criticism.  She accepts Biff for who and what he is, not what Willy would like him to be.

Later during the same scene, Linda and Willy disagree over Biff's career failures:

Linda: He's [Biff] finding himself, Willy.

Willy: Not finding himself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!

Linda is a mother and, as with most mothers, has feelings for her children that don't fade because they don't turn out to be successfull professionally.  Biff and Happy are her children, and they always will be her children  The nature of her relationship with them, however, is primarily one of defender of Willy's image, at least inside the Loman home.  As much as Willy decries Biff's failures, Biff and Happy don't hold Willy in very high regard:

Linda: Biff, dear, if you don't have any feeling for him [Willy], then you can't have any feeling for me.

Biff: Sure I can, Mom.

Linda: No.  You can't just come to see me, because I love him [referring again to Willy].

And, again, during a major exchange between Linda, Biff and Happy, Linda defends Willy and explains why the sons cannot merely reject Willy:

Biff: He's [Willy] got no character -- Charley wouldn't do this.  Not in his own house -- spewing out that vomit from his mind.

Happy: Charley never had to cope with what he's got to.

Biff: People are worse off than Willy Loman. Believe me, I've seen them.

Linda: Then make Charley your father, Biff.  You can't do that, can you? I don't say he's [Willy] a great man.  Willy Loman never made a lot of money.  His name was never in the paper.  He's not the finest character that ever lived.  But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him.  So attention must be paid.

Linda has endured an episode of infidelity on the part of Willy, and he's not treated her with the respect he should have, but she remains dutifully devoted to him.  As much as she loves her sons, she also loves and defends Willy against Biff's verbal assaults.