WALTER Mama – sometimes when I’m downtown and I pass them cool-quiet-looking restaurants where them white boys are sitting back and talking ‘bout things…sitting there turning deals worth millions of dollars…sometimes I see guys don’t look much older than me. (Act I, scene ii)
Walter desperately wants Mama to understand how emotionally distressing it is to be a poor black man in the 1950s. Seeing rich white men that appear to be the same age as him really intensifies his feelings of anger and hopelessness. Walter feels miles behind his peers. For Walter, having money is the only way to freedom, respect, and a place in the world.
WALTER I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy…Mama – look at me. (Act I, scene ii)
In an attempt to help Mama understand his point of view, Walter explains how his dreams are so numerous and unattainable, that he feels his mental health is deteriorating. Walter’s comment shows how having dreams could be dangerous for a poor black man in the 1950s.
WALTER Why? You want to know why? ‘Cause we all tied up in a race of people that don’t know how to do nothing but moan, pray and have babies! (Act II, scene ii)
Walter answers Ruth’s question about why he doesn’t stop talking about the liquor store plan and just do it. His characterization of black people’s response to poverty as complaining, hoping, and continuing the cycle reflects the helplessness he feels. These words reveal an ugly irony: Black men sometimes blame their own race for their struggles in times of desperation.
WALTER (Suddenly bounding across the floor to embrace her) ‘Cause sometimes it is hard to let the future begin! (Act II, scene iii)
Walter and Ruth hear a knock at the door. Walter believes that Willy is at the door, with good news about the liquor store plan. After Ruth asks him why he is hesitating to answer the door, Walter replies that sometimes it is scarier and more difficult to let the good things you’ve wanted happen, implying that there is a comfortable complacency in dreams. Walter’s statement also reveals how deeply he believes that money is the sole key to his future.
WALTER …There ain’t no causes – there ain’t nothing but taking in this world, and he who takes most is smartest – and it don’t make a damn bit of difference how.” (Act III, scene i)
Walter reasons that in a selfish world, only the takers succeed. At this point in the play, Walter has hit rock bottom. He has failed his family and, as a way to make things better, is considering taking Lindner’s money. “He who takes most is smartest” equates to the ends justifying the means. Believing this pragmatism is necessary for survival, Walter is trying to adapt to the unjust world he lives in.