Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Act 2, Part 6: Summary and Analysis

Summary
Part 6 covers the action up to the end of Act II.

After Biff leaves the house with Linda, we see Willy alone on stage. Blue light covers the stage, indicating night time. With a flashlight, a hoe, and several packets of seeds, Willy begins to plant his garden. Ben appears and listens to Willy describe his “proposition,” one that would leave $20,000 to Linda, who Willy says has suffered. (Today, that $20,000 would be equivalent to roughly $250,000.) The “proposition” implied is Willy’s suicide, which would leave Linda the large amount of insurance money. Ben warns Willy that the insurance company might not pay if Willy’s death were a suicide, but Willy remains confident that Linda would receive the money because he worked hard for years to meet the insurance payments.

Ben suggests that the proposition is also a cowardly solution to Willy’s problems; however, Ben does agree with Willy that $20,000 is a significant amount of money. Willy adds that actual money is better than an appointment, implying that mere “appointments” cannot ensure success. Encouraged by Ben’s response, Willy describes how a large funeral attended by all of Willy’s business friends would impress Biff and win his sympathy: “Because he thinks I’m nothing, see, and so he spites me. But the funeral – Ben, that funeral will be massive!” When Ben replies that Biff will consider Willy a coward, Willy becomes worried again: “Why, why can’t I give him something and not have him hate me?”

Ben drifts offstage as Biff appears. Biff tells Willy he wants to say good-bye because he has decided to leave and not return. Willy refuses to go inside the house with Biff because he does not wish to see Linda, but he then quickly enters the house when Biff confesses, “This isn’t your fault; it’s me, I’m a bum.” Inside the house Linda and, eventually, Hap are also present. Willy becomes angry when Biff insists he has no real appointment with Bill Oliver tomorrow. Willy refuses to take the blame for any future regret Biff will feel for ruining his own life merely to spite Willy. Biff becomes furious that Willy believes he is acting out of spite. Biff pulls out the rubber pipe, calls Willy a phony, and promises no pity for him if Willy commits suicide. Caught, Willy must listen as Biff attributes his own failures largely to Willy: “I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!”

After stealing Oliver’s pen, Biff explains, he realized that pursuing success through a business career was making him into someone he did not want to be. Refusing to accept Biff’s idea that both of them are just ordinary, forgettable people, Willy bursts out, “I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!” Biff persists, “Pop, I’m nothing! I’m nothing, Pop. Can’t you understand that? There’s no spite in it any more. I’m just what I am, that’s all…. Will you let me go, for Christ’s sake? Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens?” Holding on to Willy, Biff begins to sob and then goes upstairs. Surprised by Biff’s expression of affection, Willy’s mood changes. Convinced that Biff does not actually spite him but likes him, Willy declares, “That boy – that boy is going to be magnificent!” Unnoticed by the Lomans, Ben replies, “Yes, outstanding, with twenty thousand dollars behind him.”

Linda wants Willy to come to bed immediately, but he promises to come upstairs shortly. Alone with Ben again, Willy marvels at how Biff has always loved him and will “worship” him after receiving the $20,000. The money will even put Biff “ahead of Bernard again,” Willy tells Ben; Ben agrees, calling it “a perfect proposition all around.” Outside the house, now, Willy looks back and begins speaking as if he were once again giving Biff football advice and reminding him of the important people who would be watching the game.

Suddenly unable to find...

(The entire section is 1,849 words.)