insecure, self-deluded traveling salesman. Willy believes wholeheartedly
in the American Dream of easy success and wealth, but he never achieves
it. Nor do his sons fulfill his hope that they will succeed where
he has failed. When Willy’s illusions begin to fail under the pressing
realities of his life, his mental health begins to unravel. The
overwhelming tensions caused by this disparity, as well as those
caused by the societal imperatives that drive Willy, form the essential
conflict of Death of a Salesman
in-depth analysis of Willy Loman.
thirty-four-year-old elder son. Biff led a charmed life in high
school as a football star with scholarship prospects, good male
friends, and fawning female admirers. He failed math, however, and
did not have enough credits to graduate. Since then, his kleptomania
has gotten him fired from every job that he has held. Biff represents
Willy’s vulnerable, poetic, tragic side. He cannot ignore his instincts,
which tell him to abandon Willy’s paralyzing dreams and move out
West to work with his hands. He ultimately fails to reconcile his
life with Willy’s expectations of him.
in-depth analysis of Biff Loman.
loyal, loving wife. Linda suffers through Willy’s grandiose dreams
and self-delusions. Occasionally, she seems to be taken in by Willy’s
self-deluded hopes for future glory and success, but at other times,
she seems far more realistic and less fragile than her husband.
She has nurtured the family through all of Willy’s misguided attempts
at success, and her emotional strength and perseverance support
Willy until his collapse.
in-depth analysis of Linda Loman.
thirty-two-year-old younger son. Happy has lived in Biff’s shadow
all of his life, but he compensates by nurturing his relentless
sex drive and professional ambition. Happy represents Willy’s sense of
self-importance, ambition, and blind servitude to societal expectations.
Although he works as an assistant to an assistant buyer in a department
store, Happy presents himself as supremely important. Additionally,
he practices bad business ethics and sleeps with the girlfriends
of his superiors.
in-depth analysis of Happy Loman.
next-door neighbor. Charley owns a successful business and his son,
Bernard, is a wealthy, important lawyer. Willy is jealous of Charley’s
success. Charley gives Willy money to pay his bills, and Willy reveals
at one point, choking back tears, that Charley is his only friend.
in-depth analysis of Charley.
is Charley’s son and an important, successful lawyer. Although Willy
used to mock Bernard for studying hard, Bernard always loved Willy’s
sons dearly and regarded Biff as a hero. Bernard’s success is difficult
for Willy to accept because his own sons’ lives do not measure up.
wealthy older brother. Ben has recently died and appears only in
Willy’s “daydreams.” Willy regards Ben as a symbol of the success
that he so desperately craves for himself and his sons.
mistress when Happy and Biff were in high school. The Woman’s attention
and admiration boost Willy’s fragile ego. When Biff catches Willy
in his hotel room with The Woman, he loses faith in his father,
and his dream of passing math and going to college dies.
boss. Howard inherited the company from his father, whom Willy regarded
as “a masterful man” and “a prince.” Though much younger than Willy,
Howard treats Willy with condescension and eventually fires him,
despite Willy’s wounded assertions that he named Howard at his birth.
waiter at Frank’s Chop House. Stanley and Happy seem to be friends,
or at least acquaintances, and they banter about and ogle Miss Forsythe
together before Biff and Willy arrive at the restaurant.
Miss Forsythe and Letta
- Two young women whom Happy and Biff meet at Frank’s
Chop House. It seems likely that Miss Forsythe and Letta are prostitutes,
judging from Happy’s repeated comments about their moral character
and the fact that they are “on call.”