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 18, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Death-of-a-Salesman/.

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Course Hero, "Death of a Salesman Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed November 18, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Death-of-a-Salesman/.

Death of a Salesman | Act 2, Section 5 | Summary

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Summary

In the present, the boys return to the house for Biff and Willy's final argument before Willy drives to his death.

Happy and Biff return to home to Linda, who is furious with them for leaving Willy. Meanwhile, a confused Willy is out in the backyard planting seeds. His brother Ben shows up, and Willy talks to him about how good Linda has been and how much she has suffered. Willy considers the proposition of killing himself for the $20,000 life insurance policy.

Biff tells his father that he plans to leave in the morning for the good of the family. Willy accuses Biff of leaving out of spite, and another argument ensues full of blame and rage. Biff, crying, goes upstairs. However, Biff's tears show Willy he is loved despite everything. Ben appears as a reminder of Willy's plan to get money for the family.

Willy sends Linda to bed, promising to be up soon. Instead, in his dreamlike state, Willy leaves with Ben and drives to his death. Act 2 ends with the sound of a car crashing and then the family gathered around Willy's grave several days later.

Analysis

Linda, who lives in her own world of self-deception, criticizes her sons for being with "your lousy rotten whores," as she defends her husband despite his own infidelity. She does not recognize the overlap between the past and present: the actions of the father are the actions of the sons.

In a last desperate attempt to regain a sense of himself as connected to nature, Willy plants seeds in the backyard, more confused over the distinctions between the past and the present than ever.

As Willy muses over his own funeral, he once again ruminates on the idea of having a good reputation and being known. He claims that his "funeral will be massive," with people coming from all over because "I am known!"

Biff's self-loathing is palpable; his mother cannot make him feel any worse than he already does. Yet he takes the bait again, arguing with his father a final time. The truth about the truth finally comes out: "We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house!" Nonetheless, new lies emerge regarding Happy's job title and Biff's jail time.

Biff says that neither he nor his father are leaders. Instead, they are workers who are so pumped up by the illusion of the American Dream that they cannot find any happiness in just doing their jobs. Before Willy dies, he ponders for a final time how he can still fulfill the American Dream for his family by getting them the money they need. He still believes that Biff's success will come through performance rather than self-fulfillment.

Willy ends his life by following his brother on "the boat" into the jungle, a natural rather than man-made environment.

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