What are 15 significant plot developments in Act 1?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Plot development is when the author adds necessary details to either the setting, plot, or characters in order to advance the story and keep the audience compelled.

1. Willy Loman expresses to his wife, Linda, that he is tired from traveling all day. This is significant because the audience learns that Willy is unhappy with his job as a traveling salesman.

2. Willy almost died when he lost control of his car because he was daydreaming. Willy's mind tends to wander, which is dangerous because he is constantly driving.

3. Willy is not as successful as he used to be and tells Linda that his new boss, Howard Wagner, does not appreciate him. Willy feels unappreciated and his better days as a salesman are in the past.

4. Willy tells his wife that Biff is a lazy bum, and she comments that Biff is "lost." Willy then contradicts his previous statement by calling Biff a hard worker. The audience learns that Biff is "lost" and that Willy shows signs of delusion.

5. In their upstairs bedroom, both Biff and Happy express their disappointment and lack of success. Biff is unsure about his future and feels like he's wasting his time because he has not had financial success. Happy resents his superiors at work and portrays his lack of morals by discussing his affairs with coworkers' wives.

6. Biff expresses his desire to ask his old boss, Bill Oliver, for a loan to buy a ranch but worries that Oliver will remember when he stole a carton of basketballs. Biff's dream depicts his desire to please his father and also his history of stealing.

7. Willy becomes lost in his memory of when Biff and Happy were boys. Willy dismisses the fact that Biff stole a football and tells his son that being well-liked is the most important thing in life. The audience gains insight into Willy's parenting techniques, which help to explain why his sons are unsuccessful.

8. When Bernard, their neighbor, comes over to warn Biff to study for his upcoming test, Willy dismisses Bernard as a pest. Willy then tells his sons that since they are built athletically, they will be successful. Biff's academic struggles are significant and the lack of importance Willy places on them will have a negative effect on Biff's future.

9. A younger Linda enters the scene, and Willy lies about his sales. He also confides in his wife that he thinks other people do not like him. The Lomans' financial difficulties are depicted, and the audience gains insight into Linda's supportive role in the family.

10. Willy begins to hear the laughter of another woman who then appears on stage. She turns out to be a secretary for a buyer who has been having an affair with Willy. Willy's infidelity haunts him, and his affair contrasts with Linda's unconditional love.

11. When Charley, Willy's neighbor, comes over to see what the noise is all about, he begins to play cards with Willy. Throughout the card game, Charley offers Willy a job, and Willy begins to daydream about his successful brother, Ben. Charley is portrayed as a sympathetic neighbor that Willy takes for granted. Willy's inability to block out his memories depict how he is detached from reality.

12. Throughout Willy's dream, Ben describes their father as a successful man who traveled and sold handmade flutes. Ben's success story is told, and Willy's admiration for his brother and father is revealed. The audience learns that Willy lives in the shadow of his father and brother's success.

13. While Willy is outside, Happy and Biff come downstairs and have a discussion with their mother. Linda criticizes Biff for fighting with Willy and tells her sons that Willy has been attempting to commit suicide. The extent of Willy's depression is revealed and Biff hearing "The Woman" hints at the fact that he knows that Willy cheated on Linda.

14. Biff feels guilty about his father's suicide attempts and Happy tells Willy that Biff is going to ask his old boss for money to start a business. The plot develops as Biff will ask Oliver for a loan in the following act.

15. Linda reminds her husband to ask his boss for a new position as Biff simultaneously takes the rubber hose from behind the heater. Willy will ask for a new position in the following act, and Miller suggests that only Biff has the ability to save his father's life.

Read the study guide:
Death of a Salesman

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