Death of a Salesman Act 1, Part 3: Summary and Analysis
by Arthur Miller

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Act 1, Part 3: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Charley: neighbor of the Lomans, called Uncle Charley by Biff and Happy, even though he is not their actual uncle; father of Bernard

Ben: Willy’s older brother (Biff and Happy’s uncle); made his fortune in African diamonds as a very young man

The Woman: the woman with whom Willy has an extramarital affair during his sales trips to Boston

Part 3 covers the action up to Willy’s line “...I was right! I was right! I was right!”

As the previous section ends, we remain in the flashback. Willy and Linda are alone, discussing the outcome of Willy’s sales trip and whether there is enough money to pay the bills. Willy exaggerates his success, but is slowly forced to admit his trip was not very profitable once Linda begins listing the household expenses. Trying to keep his own spirits up, as well as Linda’s, Willy insists, “Oh, I’ll knock ’em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me.” Willy’s optimism falters uncharacteristically, and the audience sees his desperation as he tells Linda that he fears people see him as fat, foolish, and too talkative.

Linda comforts her husband, reassuring him that he’s “the handsomest man in the world” and idolized by his sons. Willy replies earnestly, “You’re the best there is, Linda, you’re a pal, you know that? On the road – on the road I want to grab you sometimes and just kiss the life outa you.” As Willy finishes these loving words, he appears to daydream. On the left part of the stage, a woman appears silhouetted and then standing in front of a mirror as she dresses. From the conversation between Willy and this woman (whose name we do not learn), the audience can surmise she is Willy’s mistress in Boston. After Willy kisses her, and after she thanks him for a gift of new stockings, the woman’s laughter fades away; the woman is gone again – Willy’s daydream memory is over.

Willy wakes from this daze and chastises Linda for mending her stockings; as Bernard runs by, Willy demands he give Biff the answers for the upcoming test. Willy’s temper builds as Bernard and Linda begin to speak: Bernard cannot cheat for Biff on this test, Linda wants Biff to return the borrowed football, Bernard says Biff is driving without a license, Linda says Biff is too rough with girls. As the woman’s laugh rises in the background, Willy becomes overwhelmed, yelling “Shut up!” Bernard backs out of the room and Linda leaves almost crying as the flashback ends and Willy is left alone in the kitchen, where he originally came to make a sandwich.

Hap comes downstairs to help his father to bed but leaves when Charley appears and begins to play a late-night game of cards with Willy. Charley – “a large man, slow of speech, laconic, immovable” – engages in teasing banter with Willy, who feels insulted when Charley good-heartedly offers Willy a job. Charley urges Willy not to worry about Biff, but Willy is not soothed and begins talking aloud to his older brother, Ben, visible only to Willy and the audience. Charley and Willy continue playing cards, but half of Willy’s comments are directed toward Ben – “a stolid man, in his sixties, with a mustache and an authoritative air” – who made his fortune in African diamonds as a very young man. Charley quits the game after Willy accuses him of cheating, and the scene slips into a full flashback as Willy walks through a wall-line to shake Ben’s hand.

The flashback shows the audience the first time Willy and his family met Ben, years ago when Biff and Hap were teenagers. Willy did not know Ben or their father while growing up and thus asks Ben to tell Biff and Hap about their grandfather. “With one gadget,” Ben says of his and Willy’s father, “he made more in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime.” Willy admires Ben tremendously and vigorously seeks his approval for the way he has...

(The entire section is 1,512 words.)