Death of a Salesman Essential Quotes by Character: Willy Loman
by Arthur Miller

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Essential Quotes by Character: Willy Loman

Essential Passage 1: Act 1

BEN: [glancing at his watch]: I have an appointment in Ketchikan Tuesday week.

WILLY: No, Ben! Please tell about Dad. I want my boys to hear. I want them to know the kind of stock they spring from. All I remember is a man with a big beard, and I was in Mamma’s lap, sitting around a fire, and some kind of high music.

BEN: His flute. He played the flute.

WILLY: Sure, the flute, that’s right!

[New music is heard, a high, rollicking tune.]

BEN: Father was a very great and a very wild-hearted man. We would start in Boston, and he’d toss the whole family into the wagon, and then he’d drive the team right across the country; through Ohio, and Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and all the Western states. And we’d stop in the towns and sell the flutes that he’d made on the way. Great inventor, Father. With one gadget he made more in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime.

WILLY: That’s just the way I’m bringing them up, Ben—rugged, well liked, all-around.

Willy Loman is unable to sleep after returning from the road, having barely missed another accident. Deciding to forego his sales trip, he comes back home, despite the fact that money is tight. Both his boys are staying at the house, with Biff back from the West. Biff and Willy continually have arguments whenever he is home, and Linda, Willy’s wife, worries about Willy’s health. Willy, however, worries about his status as a salesman, as well as the lack of success his sons, especially Biff, seem to have in life. He remembers a conversation, perhaps never having really happened, with his brother, Ben. Ben had achieved phenomenal success as a young man, first in Alaska and then in Africa, selling diamonds. Willy asks Ben to tell him about the father he never knew. Ben relates the success that their father was—a great inventor, a great father, a great salesman. Willy, in admiration of both Ben and his father, states that this is how he wants to bring up his two boys (now both in their thirties).

Essential Passage 2: Act 1

BIFF [starting to go after WILLY]: What the hell is the matter with him? [HAPPY stops him.]

LINDA: Don’t—don’t go near him!

BIFF: Stop making excuses for him! He always, always wiped the floor with you. Never had an ounce of respect for you.

HAPPY: He’s always had respect for—

BIFF: What the hell do you know about it?

HAPPY [surlily]: Just don’t call him crazy!

BIFF: He’s got no character—Charley wouldn’t do this. Not in his own house—spewing out that vomit from his mind.

HAPPY: Charley never had to cope with what he’s got to.

BIFF: People are worse off than Willy Loman. Believe me, I’ve seen them!

LINDA: Then make Charley your father, Biff. You can’t do that, can you? I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person....

Willy, sleepless and talking to himself, has awakened his wife, Linda, as well as his sons, Biff and Happy. As usual with Biff at home, an argument has broken out. There is an undercurrent of disgust in Biff’s relationship with his father, and he cannot help its coming out. Linda, however, resents that Biff does not appreciate Willy the way she does. Linda loves and admires her husband, seeing things that her boys somehow miss. Yet Biff resents how Willy is treating Linda, knowing that Willy had an affair with a woman in Boston, something that Biff discovered at the end of his high school career. Since that time, Biff has lost all respect for his father and does not see how his mother can continue to support him. Linda, however, sees not what Willy can become, but what is happening to him, and she is afraid for her husband. She knows that Willy is fading...

(The entire section is 1,770 words.)