Charley has appeared in the doorway. He is a large man, slow of speech, laconic, immovable. In all he says, despite what he says, there is pity, and now, trepidation. He has a robe over pajamas, slippers on his feet. He enters the kitchen.
CHARLEY: Everything all right?
The stage directions describe Charley at his first onstage appearance. From the visual details, the audience can infer that he is a neighbor who is on close terms with the Loman family. The directions challenge the actor to portray a character who is both sympathetic to and afraid for his friend. Charley’s first words reveal that he is checking up on Willy.
Now listen, Willy, I know you don’t like me, and nobody can say I’m in love with you, but I’ll give you a job because—just for the hell of it, put it that way. Now what do you say?
Charley offers Willy a job after Willy asks him for yet another loan. Charley is offering Willy a lifeline, but his attitude is arrogant. Charley is so successful that he can give jobs away on a whim. While Charley’s motivations are unclear, his offer to help Willy speaks to their long friendship, a basic sense of decency, and perhaps respect for Linda.
[CHARLEY:] You been jealous of me all your life, you damned fool! Here, pay your insurance! He puts the money in Willy’s hand.
WILLY: I’m keeping strict accounts.
Charley is berating Willy, angry that Willy has turned down his job offer. Nevertheless, he gives Willy the loan Willy asked for. For years, Charley has been Willy’s more successful rival. Now he is Willy’s best financial hope. Willy, knowing he may never be able to repay Charley, pretends the money is a loan to save his own pride. While pride can be viewed as an admirable trait, we see Willy’s pride as a partial reason for his downfall.
Nobody dast blame this man. You don’t understand. Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start now smiling back—that’s an earthquake. And then you get spots on your hat, and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.
Charley, standing with Linda, Biff, and Happy at Willy’s gravesite, addresses Biff in a monologue that functions as a eulogy for Willy. Charley’s viewpoint is wise and forgiving. His words show his deep empathy with Willy’s dreams. Charley’s speech both summarizes Willy’s life and raises it to a heroic level.