Death of a Salesman

by: Arthur Miller

Family

Quotes Family
[HAPPY:] Funny, Biff, y’know? Us sleeping in here again? The old beds. He pats his bed affectionately. All the talk that went across these two beds, huh? Our whole lives. BIFF: Yeah. Lotta dreams and plans.

Happy and Biff chat while visiting their parents in the house where they grew up. Happy’s words reveal a strong bond between the brothers and their good memories of their childhood years. The scene reminds the audience that Willy Loman has provided a home for his family and that his family has shared his dreams.

‘Cause I get so lonely—especially when business is bad and there’s nobody to talk to. I get the feeling that I’ll never sell anything again, that I won’t make a living for you, or a business, a business for the boys. He talks through The Woman’s subsiding laughter; The Woman primps at the mirror. There’s so much I want to make for—

Willy reflects on a conversation he had with his wife many years earlier. Even then, Linda’s role was to rebuild Willy’s ego after one of his disappointments. Willy’s words assure Linda that his goal is to work hard to provide for her and their boys. At the same time, the stage directions in italics hint that Willy is betraying his wife with The Woman. Willy believes in his role of being the family provider, and he uses his emotional rhetoric to cover his extramarital affair. His behavior will eventually tear his family apart.

Father was a very great and a very wild-hearted man. We would start in Boston, and he’d toss the whole family into the wagon, and then he’d drive the team right across the country; through Ohio, and Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and all the Western states. And we’d stop in the towns and sell the flutes that he’d made on the way. Great inventor, Father. With one gadget he made more in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime.

Willy’s older brother Ben appears in Willy’s mind’s eye, describing their father before he abandoned the family to go to Alaska. As recalled or imagined by Willy, Ben’s reminiscence depicts the idealized family life of an old-fashioned salesman. Ben’s claim about the money their father made is obviously an exaggeration or self-deception—by Ben, by Willy, or perhaps by both men.

There were a lot of nice days. When he’d come home from a trip, or on Sundays, making the stoop, finishing the cellar, putting on the new porch; when he built the extra bathroom; and put up the garage. You know something, Charley, there’s more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made.

While standing at his father’s gravesite, Biff talks to his father’s friend. Biff’s words reveal that in spite of all his differences with his father he has affectionate memories of their family life. Biff memorializes times when the whole family was together, and his father was working for them all. Biff’s speech also honors the work that Willy Loman put into their family home. The image of Willy Loman working on his house represents the unsung heroism of Willy’s struggle to build something lasting for his family.