To Linda’s considerable chagrin and bewilderment, Willy’s family, Charley, and Bernard are the only mourners who attend Willy’s funeral. She wonders where all his supposed business friends are and how he could have killed himself when they were so close to paying off all of their bills. Biff recalls that Willy seemed happier working on the house than he did as a salesman. He states that Willy had all the wrong dreams and that he didn’t know who he was in the way that Biff now knows who he is. Charley replies that a salesman has to dream or he is lost, and he explains the salesman’s undaunted optimism in the face of certain defeat as a function of his irrepressible dreams of selling himself. Happy becomes increasingly angry at Biff’s observations. He resolves to stay in the city and carry out his father’s dream by becoming a top businessman, convinced he can still “beat this racket.” Linda requests some privacy. She reports to Willy that she made the last payment on the house. She apologizes for her inability to cry, since it seems as if Willy is just “on another trip.” She begins to sob, repeating, “We’re free. . . .” Biff helps her up and all exit. The flute music is heard and the high-rise apartments surrounding the Loman house come into focus.
Charley’s speech about the nature of the salesman’s dreams is one of the most memorable passages in the play. His words serve as a kind of respectful eulogy that removes blame from Willy as an individual by explaining the grueling expectations and absurd demands of his profession. The odd, anachronistic, spiritual formality of his remarks (“Nobody dast blame this man”) echo the religious quality of Willy’s quest to sell himself. One can argue that, to a certain extent, Willy Loman is the postwar American equivalent of the medieval crusader, battling desperately for the survival of his own besieged faith.
Charley solemnly observes that a salesman’s life is a constant upward struggle to sell himself—he...