Who exactly is "The Woman" in The Death Of A Salesman?

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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...

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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.

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Willy Loman is a sad, older salesman who is dissatisfied with his career and with his life. Willy once had a dream to open his own business but never succeeded in making it a reality. He often talks to himself and daydreams about past experiences. His memories include his two sons Biff and Happy when they were younger.

Willy is married to the loyal, devoted Linda, who consoles him over his troubles at work. Scenes with Linda are often interrupted by "The Woman." The first time the Woman appears is when Willy hears her laughter—haunted by the memory of them flirting and then him giving her stockings that she thanks him for. It becomes clear that the Woman was Willy's mistress, whom he would encounter during some of his business trips. Willy gives his mistress brand-new stockings while his wife is forced to mend her own disheveled ones.

The Woman's laughter constantly haunts Willy throughout the play. Not only is he ridden with guilt for having betrayed his wife, but he also feels responsible for Biff's failure and their tense relationship. It is revealed that when Biff is in high school and is a successful football star, he walks in on his father and the Woman. After discovering his father's indiscretion, Biff believes him to be a "fake" and seems to lose his ambition following the incident.

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The Woman in Author Miller's classic play Death of a Salesman was Willy Loman's mistress, who carried on an extramarital affair with him while he was out of town. The Woman appears twice in the play and haunts Willy's memory while he interacts with his faithful, supportive wife, Linda. The Woman is unnamed and worked as a secretary for one of Willy's buyers in Boston. Whenever Willy visited Boston on a sales trip, he carried on an affair with the Woman, who gave him instant access to her boss. Their affair seemed to be mutually beneficial as Willy was given priority to meet the buyer and the Woman received small gifts from Willy and the thrill of carrying on an affair with him.

In act 2, Willy experiences a flashback to the time when Biff unexpectedly visited him in Boston and discovered that he was cheating on Linda. Shortly after Biff learned that he failed an important exam that would prevent him from getting into college, he traveled to Boston to ask for Willy's help. When Biff arrived at Willy's apartment, the Woman was hiding in the bathroom and ended up walking out into the room. From that moment on, Biff lost all respect for his father, who he considers a despicable phony. Biff never gets over his father's infidelity and resents him for the rest of his life. Willy Loman attempts to suppress the painful memory and does not recognize that his infidelity ruined his relationship with Biff.

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"The Woman" is someone Willy is having an affair with.  Her presence feeds into the theme of illusion vs. reality.  Biff thinks the world of his father, but doesn't know until it's too late that his dad is cheating on his mom.  "The Woman" has been forced to hide in the bathroom upon Biff's arrival because she is a secret herself.  She is "hidden" from the rest of the family. She is completely different from Linda, the boys' mother.  Willy buys gifts for "The Woman" like silk stockings, while Linda has to sew the holes in her own stockings.

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Simply put, "the woman" is the person with whom Willy has an affair. She is set up as a contrast to Linda, particularly in the way that Willy treats them both. Throughout the play, her flashbacks are juxtaposed with scenes of tension between Linda and Willy. For example, Willy gives her a gift of nylon stockings, which were a rare luxury for women during World War II, and it is the memory of this gift that causes Willy's pangs of guilt and anger when he sees Linda mending her stockings.

Her personality is also contrasted with Linda through her laughter. It serves as a piercing, shrill, painful reminder to Willy and Biff of Willy's infidelity. Willy's affair with the Woman is further evidence of his shortcomings, and illustrates how he has failed to live up to his own image of himself as the ideal husband and father.

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