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

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Act I, Part 2: Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. How old are Biff and Hap during their conversation in the bedroom? Does that conversation take place in the past or the present?

2. What was Biff’s latest job? What kind of job or career can he not bear?

3. Why doesn’t Hap accept Biff’s invitation to go West to start a farm?

4. In what kind of unethical behavior has Hap engaged?

5. What plan does Biff tell Hap about as the brothers fall back asleep? Why is Biff somewhat nervous about the plan?

6. How does the audience know that a flashback occurs?

7. Is Willy bashful or shy about his ability as a salesman?

8. How are Biff and Hap different from Bernard?

9. According to Willy, what makes someone successful?

10. How might the flashback affect what you think of the Biff and Hap in the present?

1. The conversation takes place in the present, when Biff is 34 and Hap is 32.

2. Biff’s latest job was as a farmhand in Texas. He cannot bear the drudgery and slow advancement involved with jobs such as a salesman and a shipping clerk.

3. Hap refuses to go because he wants to “show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade.”

4. He has slept with the girlfriends of his bosses and has accepted bribes.

5. Biff tells Hap he intends to ask for a loan from Bill Oliver; Biff is slightly nervous, though, because he once stole a carton of basketballs from Oliver.

6. Miller indicates that a flashback is occurring by having the surrounding apartment buildings disappear, green leaves appear, and cheerful music begin to play. We know for certain that we are in the past when Biff and Hap appear as teenagers rather than adults.

7. No. Willy tells his sons at length how popular and successful he is as a salesman.

8. Biff and Hap are athletic and outgoing, while Bernard is studious, earnest, and worried. Willy thinks Bernard is “anemic” and unmasculine.

9. According to Willy, the athletic and outgoing character of his sons, rather than the timidity of Bernard, will make a person “well liked” and thus successful. In Willy’s eyes, “the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead.”

10. Because the flashback shows Biff and Hap during a happy period of their lives, the audience may tend to feel sorry for the problems they endure in the present. On the other hand, the flashback suggests the way Biff and Hap’s dissatisfaction with their lives in the present may derive in part from the beliefs Willy instilled in them as children.

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Act I, Part 1: Questions and Answers


Act I, Part 3: Questions and Answers