How significant is the character of the woman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman?
The woman could be seen as an incredibly minor character in Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman who offers little either to the dramatic effect or tragedy of the play. How far do you agree with this statement?
It's not so much her significance as an individual as it is the significance of the scene in which she appears. This scene is the catalyst for Willy's mental breakdown. He has effectively blocked this from his memory, and as his realizations about Biff's failure in life, compounded by his firing from his salesman job help bring this episode back to the foreground of his memory. It is during his re-living of this moment that he realizes that it was his betrayal of Linda (through the affair) that initiated Biff's downfall. It also illustrates his weakness and lack of success as a salesman. After all, he did have to sleep with the receptionist to get put through to the buyers!
The character of the woman in the hotel room with Willy Loman is not developed in the drama. She functions as a minor character, but her very presence is of vital importance. Biff's finding Willy in the hotel room with this strange woman forever alters his opinion of his father, drives an unspoken wedge between them, and sends Biff spiraling into an adult life of failure and personal destruction.
Biff and Willy never discuss the incident, but it poisons their relationship. Biff's pain and disillusionment fester as an intense anger and sense of betrayal; Willy spends years struggling to rationalize all the actions of his life. The woman in the hotel room participates in the inciting incident that sets events in motion leading to the tragic conclusion of the play.