What does the company owe Willy in Death of a Salesman Act II?Linda says, "He works for a company thirty-six years this MArch, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old...

What does the company owe Willy in Death of a Salesman Act II?

Linda says, "He works for a company thirty-six years this MArch, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away."  Later, Willly says, "I put thirty-four years into this firm... You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away--a man is not a piece of fruit!"  What does the company owe Willy?

Asked on by ehskagus

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is an excellent question and the answer lies at the heart of what Arthur Miller is trying to communicate through this outstanding play. The short answer to your question is: nothing. The point of the play is that we are presented with an impersonal capitalist system which only values a man by the amount of money he is worth. If you are not worth anything, as Willy is not by his failure in his salesman role, you are discarded. This is part of the tragedy of this play--that Willy can work for so long in his job and put so much of himself into it, and then be thrown away as if he were useless orange peel, as the quote you have identified suggests.

Note how, in his conversation with Charley, Willy reflects on the irony of the situation:

Funny, y'know? After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.

It is following a strictly capitalist view that results in Willy's suicide, as he follows this logic through to its conclusion and takes his own life so that he can be "worth" something to his family and to the world through the insurance money he will receive. Miller then forces us to examine very closely the morality of a world where it is logical for a man to take his own life because of the sum he will receive.

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