Silhouette of a grinning person wearing a top hat with a skull-like face and a red nighttime sky in the background

Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Linda's treatment and attitude towards Willy in Death of a Salesman

Summary:

Linda treats Willy with unwavering support and compassion, often acting as a mediator between him and their sons. She defends Willy's dreams and tries to shield him from harsh realities, despite recognizing his flaws. Her attitude reflects deep love and concern, as she remains loyal and hopeful for his well-being throughout his struggles.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Act 1 of Death of a Salesman, how does Linda treat Willy?

Linda tries to protect and support Willy in every way, constantly looking after his physical welfare and propping up his sagging ego and self-esteem. She also runs interference between Willy and their sons as she tries to make Biff and Happy appreciate their father and treat him with more respect. All of these behaviors are established in Act One of the play.

As the play opens, Willy returns home unexpectedly, which raises Linda's immediate concerns. She peppers him with questions. She wants to know what has happened, where he has been, whether or not he has had an accident, and whether or not he feels well. When Willy explains that he couldn't drive farther, that he "just couldn't make it," Linda offers many excuses for him: the coffee he drank, the car's steering, Willy's glasses--anything to explain away his problem. She tells him he must rest his "overactive" mind. He should take an aspirin. He should, he should, he should . . . .

Later in Act One, Willy expresses his insecurities to his wife, and Linda immediately plays her role as supporting spouse. When Willy says he is overlooked in his job, Linda says he's doing a wonderful job. Willy says he talks too much; Linda says he's "just lively." Willy says he is fat and "foolish to look at." Linda assures him he is "the handsomest man in the world."

Knowing her husband's greatest pain, she then props him up further with what she knows to be a blatant lie: "Few men are idolized by their children the way you are." In fact, Linda continually tries to change the boys' opinion of Willy:

He's just a big stupid man to you, but I tell you there's more good in him than in many other people.

Linda acts as the nurturer and peace maker in her family. She tries to save Willy from himself (and his terrible temper), and she wants her husband and sons to love each other as much as she loves them. Linda is vigilant, on duty every hour of the day to hold her troubled family together.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Death of a Salesman, how is Linda's attitude towards Willy in act 2?

The music which opens Act II certainly sets the mood as we are introduced to a cheerful and happy scene as Willy and Linda have breakfast. It reminds us that they are in an optimistic mood as they contemplate a new business which will make them all happy and might solve all of their problems. Linda here plays the role of the devoted wife, showing her love and care of her husband. She gently reminds him about asking for an advance, which shows that she is still concerned about the financial situation they are in, and perhaps indicates that she is more responsible than he is when it comes to their monetary affairs.

It is as Willy leaves that Linda checks he has his glasses, gives him a handkerchief and also checks he has his saccharine, which again emphasises her loving, devoted wifely role that she fulfils. What is interesting to note is that as she kisses Willy goodbye, he spots a silk stocking hanging from her hand, which to Willy, is a symbol of his infidelity. His shame and guilt is therefore heightened by this symbol being placed next to such examples of wifely love and affection from Linda.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on