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Death of a Salesman | Study Guide

Arthur Miller

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Act 1, Section 4

Professor Kristen Over of Northeastern Illinois University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Section 4 of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman.

Death of a Salesman | Act 1, Section 4 | Summary



Willy's past affair is revealed, and the neighbor Charley offers Willy a job in the present.

Still in the past, Willy talks to the woman with whom he had an affair as a younger man and to whom he gave some new stockings. Gradually, the action changes to Willy talking to Linda, still in the past, about not mending stockings in front of him and Biff's need to study in light of his poor math grades.

Back in the present, Willy explains to Happy why he has returned early from his trip, and Charley, the next-door neighbor, shows up for a game of cards. During the game, Charley interjects a job offer for Willy, but Willy claims he does not need a job.


The first details of Willy's affair with The Woman are revealed. In addition to showing a new level of deceitfulness on Willy's part, it also shows his deep need to be liked. He is pleased when The Woman tells him that she picked him and that he is a wonderful man. Only a few lines later, Linda calls Willy "the handsomest man."

In the flashback, Willy gives the woman silk stockings, a luxurious and intimate gift at the time, even as his wife will repair her damaged ones. An offstage laugh from The Woman is heard again, continuing to haunt Willy and emphasize his deceit.

It is clear that Willy alternates between excessive praise of and excessive harshness toward Biff, never able to settle on a realistic view of his son or provide the guidance and leadership that Biff needs.

Willy is also unable to be truthful with his generous neighbor Charley, who is able to see through Willy's façade. Instead, Willy's pride makes him rude and disrespectful to someone he should view as a friend.

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