Death of a Salesman | Study Guide

Arthur Miller

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Course Hero, "Death of a Salesman Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed November 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Death-of-a-Salesman/.

Death of a Salesman | Act 1, Section 6 | Summary

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Summary

In the present, Linda, Biff, and Happy discuss Willy's state of mind.

With Willy out of the house on a walk, Linda and her sons discuss Willy's fragile state of mind. Linda chastises both of her sons for their treatment of Willy and pleads with them to show him more respect and to come around more often. Biff defends himself and tells Linda that Willy has always treated her with disrespect, but Linda will not face that truth. Linda explains to her sons that Willy is not earning salary, is taking loans from Charley, and has tried to kill himself a number of times. In addition to car accidents, Linda discovers a length of pipe in the basement, presumably for a suicide by gas.

Feeling guilty, Biff agrees that it is best for him to try to find a job in the city to help support his parents. Quickly, however, Biff and Happy get into an argument regarding the definition of success.

Analysis

Linda's approach to Willy is unique among the other characters in the play. She is loyal and loving to Willy: "I won't have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue." Yet she suffers from her own form of self-deception. She is never able to say to Willy what he needs to hear about his own ambition and need to be liked. Additionally, she lets Willy treat her with disrespect and does not stand up for herself.

In some ways, Biff's inner conflict parallels his father's. He loves to be outdoors, but he feels the need to be successful in the eyes of the world, as well. He is more devoted to his own need to find a sense of success than he is to his family. He lives with an ongoing inner tension between the desire to be an outdoorsman and the desire to earn a name for himself in the business world.

Happy attributes Biff's lack of success in business in the past to an inner failing: "you never tried to please people." Here, Happy reinforces the ongoing theme of a good reputation as a key element in the American Dream.

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