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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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Explain the irony of Linda's last speech in Miller's Death of a Salesman.

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The most ironic thing about Linda's speech is when she says that she and the family are now "free." In a financial sense, that's perfectly true. Now that Linda's finally paid off the mortgage, a great burden of debt has been lifted from everyone's shoulders. But Linda herself is certainly...

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not free from illusions. She still doesn't understand why Willy killed himself, despite all the obvious signs that had been there for ages.

By refusing to face up to the harsh realities of his failures as a husband and a father—not to mention as a salesman—Linda is still clinging loyally to the memory of a man who, in the end, didn't really deserve such loyalty. Willy may be gone, but he still exerts a powerful degree of control over Linda's life. And where on earth is the freedom in that?

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In the play's Requiem, Linda pauses a moment at her husband's grave to have a moment alone.  She sadly tells him

"I made the last payment on the house today.Today, dear. And there'll be nobody home."

The irony in the statement is that Willy Loman killed himself because he thought he was doing his family a favor.  After years of working at a job he disliked trying to make enough money to support his family, his work has finally paid off.  They can relax and enjoy the house without having to worry about making the monthly mortgage payments.  However, sadly, Willy act of suicide means that the house is paid for, but he won't be there to enjoy it.  The boys are gone and Linda is left alone. The family is "free" of the debt that has plagued them, but Willy will not be with them.

Linda's last statement to her Willy's grave also shows irony. 

"Why did you do it? I search and search and I search, and I can't understand it, Willy."

Throughout the play she was the champion for Willy. She supported and stood up for him, but in the end, it becomes evident that she didn't know him any better than the rest of the family. 

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The tragic irony of this speech is identified when Linda closes this speech, and the play, with the final words that she utters. Note what it is precisely that she says as she addresses her husband's grave and the stage directions that accompany it:

I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there'll be nobody home. A sob rises in her throat. We're free and clear. Sobbing more fully, released: We're free.

After working for so many years in a job that he was never suited for, Willy has finally paid of his mortgage. The irony is that now that he and Linda are free from their financial debt and obligations, he is now no longer able to experience and enjoy that freedom with Linda. It is immensely tragic that at the time when Willy and Linda should be happy, Willy chooses to kill himself. I wonder too whether there is a note of irony when the stage directions refer to Linday being "released." Is there a sense in which Linda is really talking about how she is free and doesn't have to worry about her delusional husband any more? What do you think? Either way, the chief irony is the way in which they now should be settling down and enjoying retirement without any financial burdens. However, Willy's suicide has left Linda to enjoy this by herself.

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