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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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Act II, Part 6: Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What is Willy’s “proposition”?

2. What effect does Willy think his death will have on Linda and Biff?

3. Will the insurance company pay if it determines that Willy’s death is a suicide rather than an accident?

4. What is Biff’s solution to ending the conflict between him and his father?

5. What object does Biff show Willy?

6. Has Biff spited Willy?

7. Does Ben approve of Willy’s “proposition”?

8. What effect does Willy anticipate his death having on the continuing competition he imagines between Bernard and Biff?

9. By the end of the scene, is Willy still angry with Biff?

10. How does Willy kill himself? What does the audience see or hear that reveals Willy’s death?

1. His “proposition” refers to his plan to kill himself in order to leave Linda and Biff with $20,000 of insurance money.

2. He believes his suicide will benefit rather than hurt Linda and Biff. Willy believes his death will end Linda’s suffering because the insurance money will provide her with a comfortable life that Willy has not been able to give her. He thinks his death will also give Biff money with which to start a new life, causing Biff to “worship” Willy; furthermore, Willy thinks a well-attended funeral will impress Biff. Willy momentarily fears his suicide will cause Biff to consider him a coward, but then disregards this possibility.

3. No. The insurance company will not pay the $20,000 if it knows Willy purposely killed himself. However, Willy cannot believe – after many years of his hard work – that the company would actually deny his family the money; he is probably wrong.

4. He decides the best solution to their disagreements is for him simply to say good-bye and leave the family forever.

5. Biff shows Willy the rubber pipe that Willy considered using to commit suicide.

6. Biff says that spite has nothing to do with his frustration at Willy; he only wants to tell the truth about Willy’s “hot air.” However, we cannot disregard the way some of Biff’s actions (not attending summer school, for example) may have indeed been intended to anger Willy.

7. At first Ben does not give his approval, but eventually he does, calling Willy’s plan a “perfect proposition all around.”

8. Willy believes that the insurance money from his death will put Biff “ahead of Bernard again.” Willy still unnecessarily sees Biff and Bernard as competing for success. Willy’s jealousy of Bernard’s success fuels his desire to see Biff surpass Bernard.

9. No. When Biff says, “There’s no spite in it anymore” and then begins to cry, Willy sees that Biff likes him. Suddenly Willy’s confidence in Biff returns: “That boy – that boy is going to be magnificent.”

10. Willy kills himself by purposely crashing his car. The audience learns this by hearing the sounds of a car pulling away from the house. The crash of the loud music represents the car crashing. We know Willy has died when the slow music starts and we see Linda, Biff, Hap, Charley, and Bernard dressed somberly, standing by a grave.

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