In Act One of Death of a Salesman, how does Linda treat Willy?
Linda tries to protect and support Willy in every way, constantly looking after his physical welfare and propping up his sagging ego and self-esteem. She also runs interference between Willy and their sons as she tries to make Biff and Happy appreciate their father and treat him with more respect. All of these behaviors are established in Act One of the play.
As the play opens, Willy returns home unexpectedly, which raises Linda's immediate concerns. She peppers him with questions. She wants to know what has happened, where he has been, whether or not he has had an accident, and whether or not he feels well. When Willy explains that he couldn't drive farther, that he "just couldn't make it," Linda offers many excuses for him: the coffee he drank, the car's steering, Willy's glasses--anything to explain away his problem. She tells him he must rest his "overactive" mind. He should take an aspirin. He should, he should, he should . . . .
Later in Act One, Willy expresses his insecurities to his wife, and Linda immediately plays her role as supporting spouse. When Willy says he is overlooked in his job, Linda says he's doing a wonderful job. Willy says he talks too much; Linda says he's "just lively." Willy says he is fat and "foolish to look at." Linda assures him he is "the handsomest man in the world."
Knowing her husband's greatest pain, she then props him up further with what she knows to be a blatant lie: "Few men are idolized by their children the way you are." In fact, Linda continually tries to change the boys' opinion of Willy:
He's just a big stupid man to you, but I tell you there's more good in him than in many other people.
Linda acts as the nurturer and peace maker in her family. She tries to save Willy from himself (and his terrible temper), and she wants her husband and sons to love each other as much as she loves them. Linda is vigilant, on duty every hour of the day to hold her troubled family together.
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