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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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Act II, Part 1: Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. In the morning, Willy tells Linda he will buy something for the backyard. What does he intend to buy and what does Miller seem to mean by this purchase?

2. As he leaves the house, what does Willy plan to ask Howard?

3. What message does Linda relay to Willy from Biff and Hap?

4. Why do Linda’s stockings make Willy nervous?

5. What machine does Howard show Willy? How might Howard’s comments about this machine make Willy uncomfortable?

6. Does Willy receive a non-traveling job or does he continue in his old job as traveling salesman?

7. Who is Dave Singleman and what significance does he hold for Willy?

8. What reasons does Howard give for not granting Willy’s requests and finally firing him?

9. Why does Willy mention Howard’s father?

10. Where does Howard suggest Willy look for support?

1. Willy intends to buy some seeds to plant a garden in the backyard. The seeds seem to signify Willy’s renewed hope, but because of his lack of success in the past we must question whether anything will change for Willy.

2. Willy plans to ask Howard for a non-traveling sales job. In addition, he plans to ask for an advance in pay so he can settle his bills.

3. Linda tells Willy that he should meet Biff and Hap at a restaurant at six o’clock because his sons want to buy him dinner and celebrate; at this point, however, Biff has not even visited Oliver, so the celebration is not ensured.

4. Although Willy never explains, we can guess that seeing Linda mend stockings reminds him of his inability to buy her new stockings and of his betrayal of her with another woman, to whom he did give stockings.

5. The machine is a wire recorder, similar to today’s tape recorder. As Howard shows the recorder to Willy, he mentions his happy family, which may make Willy feel uncomfortable because his family has not been happy lately. Furthermore, Willy does not make enough money to hire a maid or buy a recorder.

6. Neither. Howard refuses to give Willy a non-traveling job and moments later fires Willy, meaning Willy loses his job as traveling salesman, too.

7. Singleman was a salesman whom Willy admired for having been so successful and well liked that at age 84 he could make sales by phone. Hundreds of people came to Singleman’s funeral to express their friendship, a measure of respect that Willy has aspired to achieve.

8. When Willy asks for a non-traveling job, Howard answers that there are no openings now, saying “business is business.” When Willy offers to remain in his traveling job, Howard fires him, telling Willy to take “a good long rest.” By firing Willy, Howard implies that not only is Willy not a good salesman but his personality is an embarrassment to the company.

9. Willy mentions Howard’s father in an attempt to make Howard realize that he deserves respect. Willy has worked for the company since before Howard’s birth, back when Howard’s father owned it. Those long years of loyal service, Willy contends, should be rewarded.

10. Howard suggests Willy’s sons could help support him financially, but Willy does not respond well to the idea.

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