In Death of a Salesman, what is the twenty-thousand dollar proposition Willy discusses with Ben? How does Willy envision his funeral?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Willy's emotional disintegration continues, he begins to consider suicide. Linda's finding the piece of rubber hose in the basement is one sign, for sure. Willy's increasingly frequent car accidents may be another. By the conclusion of the play, Willy is moving closer to taking his own life, thinking that the proceeds from his insurance policy ($20,000) will do more for his family after he is dead than he can do for them while he lives. In his troubled state, he has another hallucination in which he talks to his brother Ben, long dead. He explains his $20,000 "proposition" and seeks Ben's thinking in the matter. As he carries on his conversation with Ben, we gain insight into Willy's feelings and sense of failure. He imagines his own funeral, with people coming from great distances to pay respects to him. He loves the idea that at his funeral his sons will realize what a "great man" he had been. He imagines what great things Biff can do with $20,000 to back him up. In the hallucination, despite raising the issue of cowardice, Ben finally agrees with him. Willy does take his own life. Few attend his funeral, and his grieving wife is left wondering why he would choose to leave her.

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Death of a Salesman

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