The Woman is one of the characters who appears only in Willy’s mind. Similar to his brother Ben, the Woman is part of a memory or a hallucination that plagues Willy. While Ben appears as if he is present in the current era, and Willy converses with him, the Woman...
The Woman is one of the characters who appears only in Willy’s mind. Similar to his brother Ben, the Woman is part of a memory or a hallucination that plagues Willy. While Ben appears as if he is present in the current era, and Willy converses with him, the Woman is confined to the past. She and Linda, the only two female characters, are presented as foils. While Linda epitomizes security and domesticity, the Woman stands for the fantasy life that Willy constantly thinks of as superior to what he actually has.
The Woman’s symbolic role is more important than her actual identity. She works with one of the clients on his New England route, and Willy has an affair with her while on the road. The fact that she alone has no name in the play both indicates that Arthur Miller has confined her to a symbolic role, and that her actual identity did not, and still does not, matter to Willy. The audience is left to decide if he even remembers her name. If not, given that he retains dozens of minor details from the past, his forgetting accentuates her lack of importance.
What is significant is her function in representing the flimsy, unstable foundation of Willy’s marriage and family. He pretends to care about being a good provider and role model, but when he had the chance, he was unfaithful to his wife. Even more than his betrayal of Linda, the scenes with the Woman are important because they expose Willy’s hypocrisy as a father. Once Biff discovers that his father is not the man he thought he was, his trust is shattered. It devolves to Biff to keep the secret and protect his mother, with the consequence that she can never understand or accept his disdain for his father.