Willy is unable to reconcile himself to the fact that he is a failure and that he has not reached the heights he aspired to as a salesman, husband or father. He is mentally unstable from the beginning of the play, and he does realise that he is inadequate. However, the enormity of Willy’s lack of success and the fact that it pervades every part of his life is too unbearable for him to accept totally, and he regresses into flashbacks where he has not yet wasted his life, or when the promise of some success still exists.
His conversation with Linda about the Chevrolet is within one of these flashbacks, and reveals that even when there was some hope, Willy was never a decisive man, and could not be honest with himself even then. He begins to tell Linda that on his most recent trip he was
Sellin’ thousands and thousands
However, when Linda tries to get him to be precise so she can calculate his earnings, the figure drops from over two hundred dollars to seventy. As their outgoings, which involve paying for the car and other trappings of materialistic life, are one hundred and twenty dollars.
Their poor financial status is tempered in the flashback by the fact that Willy still has the love and respect of his sons –
Few men are idolized by their children the way you are
He also has the solid support of Linda, which he retains until his death. However, the next flashback he experiences is when he is with the woman he had an affair with. It shows how Willy destroys what is good about his life, and how he is fully capable of pinpointing when his family life was shattered: as a result of the fateful business trip to Boston.