Death of a Salesman


Plot Summary

The play begins with Willy Loman, a traveling salesman, returning to his home in Brooklyn. His sales trip has been unsuccessful, and Willy is tired and dejected. Willy and his wife, Linda, have a conversation. Linda focuses on his work, trying to get Willy to talk to his boss about sales in New York so that he will not have to travel. Willy focuses more on their family; their oldest son, Biff, is visiting, and Willy is concerned that Biff is not doing anything with his life. Linda feels that Willy is being too critical of Biff. Willy heads into the kitchen for a snack, and he talks to himself while preparing and eating his snack.

Willy’s younger son, Happy, is also visiting Willy and Linda. Happy and Biff talk about their childhood, particularly their teenage years, and discuss their dad. They agree that he was hypercritical of Biff, setting unreasonable expectations for him and then getting disappointed when Biff did not achieve them. Both of them are unhappy about how their lives have turned out, and they talk about buying a ranch together. The emerging portrait is one of a family with four deeply unhappy members.

In the kitchen, Willy has a daydream that appears to be a flashback to an earlier time in his life. In the dream, a young Biff and Happy are washing his car. Biff is still a high school football star. The boys share a happy moment with their father. Willy tells the boys about his plans to open his own business. His neighbor, Charley, is a successful businessman, and Willy’s plan is to open a business that will be bigger than Charley’s. Charley’s son, Bernard, comes over looking for Biff. Bernard is there to tutor Biff, who has difficulty in math. Willy tells his sons that although Bernard is smart, he is not well-liked, and makes a point that being well-liked is important. Linda comes into the scene, and the boys depart. Willy tells her that his sales trip was very successful, but Linda soon gets him to admit that the sales trip was only somewhat successful. He reveals his concerns that he is not making enough...

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