Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Act 2, Part 5: Summary and Analysis

Summary
Part 5 covers the action up to when Linda says, “He’s planting the garden!”

After Biff, Hap, and the two women leave the restaurant, Willy’s daydream involving the Boston woman becomes a full-fledged flashback. The Woman is in a black slip and Willy is buttoning his shirt. We hear raw, sexy music as The Woman teases Willy, telling him to stop dressing in the middle of the night. The audience must suspect that The Woman is Willy’s mistress, with whom he just finished making love in this hotel room. When Willy says he’s lonely, The Woman – a secretary at a company that Willy sells to – tries to cheer and console him by telling him that from now on she will send him right through to see the buyers without delay. Willy then tries to pull himself out of his depression by kissing The Woman after she only somewhat jokingly teases him about being sad and self-centered. Willy tries to ignore someone knocking at the door, but finally opens it after making The Woman hide in the bathroom.

Willy discovers the young Biff at the door, extremely upset over flunking math. Biff asks Willy to persuade his math teacher to let Biff graduate: “[I]f he saw the kind of man you are, and you just talked to him in your way, I’m sure he’d come through for me…. He’d like you, Pop. You know the way you could talk.” Willy agrees – partially as a way to keep Biff from entering the room and discovering The Woman – but Biff keeps talking. When Biff recounts how he once mocked the teacher, Willy laughs, but so does The Woman, unseen in the bathroom. Discovered, The Woman emerges from the bathroom, and Willy lies to Biff, explaining that she is simply “Miss Francis,” a buyer whom he allowed to take a shower in his room while the hotel paints hers. Biff stares open-mouthed and horrified at her, realizing that his father has been cheating on his mother, Linda. Willy hurries The Woman out the door, but not before she demands the silk stockings Willy promised her.

Alone with Biff, Willy assures a weeping Biff that The Woman is merely a business associate. However, Biff clearly senses the truth and even Willy’s promising to fix the flunking grade cannot win back Biff. Biff no longer believes the teacher would listen to Willy. Willy finally admits his infidelity: “She’s nothing to me, Biff. I was lonely, I was terribly lonely.” Biff will accept no explanation or excuse; seeing The Woman receive stockings that should have been his mother’s, Biff rushes out of the room, weeping and yelling at Willy, “You fake! You phony little fake! You fake!”

As Biff leaves, Stanley enters, indicating to the audience that the flashback has ended and Willy remains in the restaurant. In a move of bravado, Willy tries to force a large tip on Stanley even though Biff and Hap have already paid the bill and tip. Stanley slips the money back into Willy’s pocket when Willy is not looking; this gesture of common decency toward someone showing poor judgment contrasts Stanley with Willy and the other Loman men, who think nothing of lying and stealing. Learning from Stanley that his sons have left without him, Willy leaves to find seeds at a hardware store. It is late at night, as he exits, remarking anxiously, “I’ve got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground.”

The scene shifts back to the Loman house, where Biff and Hap enter late at night, finding Linda outraged at them for abandoning Willy at the restaurant. Anticipating Linda’s anger, Hap has brought roses to calm her; he proceeds to pretend Willy had a terrific time tonight with them. Still enraged, Linda violently asks Biff whether he cares if Willy lives or dies. “Get out of here,” Linda orders, “both of you, and don’t come back!” Hap goes upstairs after Biff yells at him to stop pretending Willy spent a great evening with them. Biff had tried to deny Linda’s accusations at first, but now he feels guilty and...

(The entire section is 1,519 words.)