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Death of a Salesman | Study Guide

Arthur Miller

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Act 1, Section 7

Professor Kristen Over of Northeastern Illinois University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Section 7 of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman.

Death of a Salesman | Act 1, Section 7 | Summary



In the present, the Loman family discusses Biff's prospects.

The whole family gathers in the house where the ongoing thread of the argument about Biff's choices and future is interwoven with optimism about the boys starting a sporting goods business. Willy fluctuates between harsh criticism of Biff and unrealistic praise. Willy is rude to Linda for almost anything she says, while Biff defends her, asking Willy not to yell at her.

Biff makes a plan to talk to a former boss about an investment. Willy agrees to talk to his boss, Howard, in the morning. The section ends with Biff taking the rubber tube out from behind the heater without his parents' knowing. This is the end of Act 1 and the end of that day.


The theme of the American Dream and Disillusionment and the elements of financial and reputational success continue to develop. Willy mocks his son's dream of living in the West and self-deceptively presents himself as a fine figure in business: "Call out the name Willy Loman and see what happens! Big shot!"

But even as he is praising himself, Willy's insecurities crop up. He is paranoid about being insulted. Willy cannot seem to make up his mind about how to judge his son Biff because he cannot make peace with his own choices. No sooner does Willy criticize Biff than he praises him as a great investment for a business: "There's fifty men in the City of New York who'd stake him."

As the family discusses the possibility of a Loman Brothers sporting goods business, Happy reveals the deep need they all have for a sense of family to trump business success, hoping that "it'd be the family again" and there could be "the old honor, and comradeship"—something the family lacks in all their antagonism and self-deception. This broken family is missing the basic foundation it needs to deal with the world beyond the walls of its house.

Biff again draws attention to the disrespect with which Willy treats Linda, defending her and asking Willy not to yell at her. Yet Linda defends Willy, revealing her level of self-deception. Her identity is wrapped up in Willy and in the hope of his success rather than in an accurate perception of herself.

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