Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior–she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end.
The stage directions that come before Linda Loman’s first appearance emphasize how complex her character is and explain why the role is so challenging for actors. Linda represses her own personality and opinions by admiring and supporting her husband despite all his faults. Linda’s intense loyalty to Willy, even at the expense of herself and her sons, is a strong emotional force throughout the play.
I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.
In one of the key speeches of the play, Linda tries to persuade her son Biff to reconcile with his father and show Willy more respect. Linda’s words reveal that she sees through her husband’s self-deceptions and does not really believe them. Linda’s use of the word character is a clue to the author’s purpose of centering a classic tragedy around an ordinary human being.
How can I insult him that way? I don’t know what to do. I live from day to day, boys. I tell you, I know every thought in his mind. It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell you he put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him. She is bent over in the chair, weeping, her face in her hands. Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands!
Linda shares with her sons Biff and Happy her fears that their father Willy is contemplating suicide. Her plea reveals a great deal about Linda’s character. While she presumes to know everything in Willy’s mind, she is afraid of her husband and does not dare confront him. Her words disclose that she is emotionally manipulative, trying to shift all the blame for Willy’s problems onto her sons, so that she herself can avoid confrontation and responsibility.
And have a nice time with Dad. He may have big news too! . . . That’s right, a New York job. And be sweet to him tonight, dear. Be loving to him. Because he’s only a little boat looking for a harbor.
Linda is talking on the phone to her son Biff, who is waiting for a job interview. When she tells Biff about his father’s big news, Linda demonstrates that she shares Willy’s tendency toward false optimism. She clearly believes Willy will get the job that she urged him to ask for, and she persists in believing that Biff can be sweet and loving toward Willy, if only she can get Biff to pity his father.
Get out of here, both of you, and don’t come back! I don’t want you tormenting him any more! Go on, now, get your things together! To Biff: You can sleep in his apartment. She starts to pick up the flowers and stops herself. Pick up this stuff. I’m not your maid any more. Pick it up, you bum, you!
Linda is reproaching her sons, who have returned home after abandoning their father in a restaurant the night before. Her attempts at peacemaking have been forgotten, as has her usually cheerful temperament. She is hurt and angry, not only at Biff and Happy’s current behavior but at their lifetime of taking her for granted. Her outrage is justified, but it is notable that she never directs such anger at Willy.
Why did you do it? I search and search and I search, and I can’t understand it, Willy. I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there’ll be nobody home. A sob rises in her throat. We’re free and clear. Sobbing more fully, released: We’re free. Biff comes slowly toward her. We’re free . . . We’re free . . .
While sitting at Willy’s gravesite, Linda talks to Willy, trying to make sense of his suicide. Her words reveal how completely she has shared her husband’s dreams and clung to the assumption that owning a home meant freedom. After Biff comes toward her, Linda’s last words take on an additional implication, that Linda and her sons are now free from Willy. The words “We’re free” are the last words spoken in the play.