Death of a Salesman


Significant Quotations

Because it is a play, almost the entire plot in Death of a Salesman is driven by dialogue. As a result, there are a number of significant quotations throughout the play. The following quotations have been selected because they capture some of the essence of the messages conveyed in the play.

Quotation One: I'm the New England man. I'm vital in New England.

This quotation is Willy speaking, talking about why he is not asking for a transfer to New York. Later in the play, it is revealed that Willy once had a salary plus commission job, but his sales fell to a place where he could no longer command a salary. It becomes clear that he is in New England because those sales are not as critical to the company as the sales in New York. However, Willy has to feel important. Therefore, he tells himself that his skills in New England are needed, that they are vital.

Quotation Two: Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still- that’s how you build a future.

This quotation is Biff speaking about his experience in corporate America. Willy is a strong believer in the American Dream, committed to the idea that hard work will provide an eventual payoff with success and wealth. In contrast, Biff does not believe in the American Dream. He feels that it is a sham. He does not want to spend the majority of his life doing a job he hates and chasing wealth that he will not have the opportunity to enjoy.

Quotation Three: He’s liked, but he’s not well...

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