What roles do women play in Death of a Salesman?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Willy's character is developed through his relationships to the women in the play and how they view him.

The silly women Happy picks up in the restaurant see Willy as the stereotype of the "daddy" and think it is "sweet" the boys want his company. Miss Forsythe flirts with Willy, patronizing him as the old man he is: "Oh, he isn't really your father!" In contrast, Howard's secretary, who knows him in another context, thinks Willy is an annoying nuisance.

Willy's affair with the woman in the hotel room reveals a great deal more of Willy's character. She is a secretary Willy must "get by" to see his customers. She says, "From now on, whenever you come to the office, I'll see that you go right through to the buyers. No waiting at my desk any more, Willy." The suggestion is that Willy has used her to make sales. It appears later he "buys" her with gifts, like the nylon stockings she demands before leaving the hotel room after Biff arrives unexpectedly.

Linda Loman is the best developed female character. Through her, we see a positive side of Willy's character, as slanted and unrealistic as it is. Linda gives us an understanding of the real tragedy Willy's life in relation to his work and their sons. Linda loves Willy Loman; she fights to defend and protect him, but she does not help him. Linda has enabled both her husband and her sons in their failures, although she always believed she was doing her best for her family.


zumba96 | Student

Linda is perhaps the best developed female character there is. While she does not do much in order to stop her husband from committing suicide, she loves him till no ends and does her utter best to protect him. Other times the female characters can be served as problems, for example, "The Woman". Because of her, she has been stuck in Willy's mind for ages and will not leave causing him further confusion. She was also the cause of the rift in the family. Most times the girls have been shown as unimportant or as objects and this exemplifies the cruel stereotypical nature of men back in the 1950s and how they viewed women. 

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Death of a Salesman

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