What is the relationship between Charley and Willy in Death of a Salesman?

The relationship between Charley and Willy is relatively complex. Charley is Willy's longtime neighbor and only friend in the play. Charley tries his best to help Willy by giving him money to pay the bills, sharing valuable advice, and offering him a job. Despite Charley's generosity, Willy resents Charley's success and treats him disparagingly because he is jealous. Charley does not view Willy as a competitor and sympathizes with him. Unfortunately, Willy is too proud to appreciate Charley's friendship.

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Charley and Willy are next door neighbors and antagonists, but at the same time, they are friends or, more precisely, frenemies. They play cards together, and Willy is dependent on Charley for a flow of "loans" that keep him financially afloat. Charley, who owns a successful business, offers Willy a job when he is laid off, even though, as Charley puts it:

I know you don’t like me, and nobody can say I’m in love with you

The play makes clear that Willy is the problem in this relationship. Charley is a kind, humble, helpful, down-to-earth person, but rather than appreciate those traits, Willy is eaten with jealousy at his friend's success. Rather than being grateful for the lifeline Charley offers him, Willy bitterly resents him.

Because we are so much in Willy's head throughout the play and see life largely through Willy's eyes, Charley is a crucial corrective to Willy's delusions, which makes their relationship important. Willy constantly looks down on Charley for lacking the flash and...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1168 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on October 30, 2020
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