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20100311-930 Miller day 2 (Group 1)

Page history last edited by jjernig@... 10 years, 8 months ago


Our second day of discussing Death of a Salesman began with the question, why did Willy kill himself?  We discussed several reasons: guilt; life insurance policy; Biff’s disappointment; Willy cannot lie anymore; to spite Biff; or perhaps hoping Biff will turn his life around without Willy.


The requiem was also a major part of the day’s discussion.  Two views of Willy are presented, one by Biff and one by Charley.  Biff realizes that he and his father both had the wrong dreams.  They were actually very similar in the fact that they both liked working with their hands and creating things with their hands.  They both thought they knew who they were—salesmen.  Biff also realizes that they are both liars.  They convince themselves that they are special and what they do is important and they convince their family as well.  In reality, Biff only worked in the mailroom and Willy was not as close to his clients.  Charley sees Willy as a good salesman trying to live the American dream. 


The class also briefly discussed Linda’s role in Willy’s suicide.  She enabled him his entire life; she lies to him and makes him think he is happy.  She also prevented him from going to Alaska, which resulted in him changing dreams.


We eventually agreed that Willy was actually selling the American dream.  He sold the idea to himself and tried to sell it to his son.  The story of Dave Singleman living the dream convinced Willy to be a salesman, but Willy never realized that Dave was completely alone and he actually died alone, while working.  When Willy failed to sell the dream to his son, he felt like a failure.  How could he be a salesman if he could not even sell an idea to his son?


Word Count: 299



"WILLY:  No, wait! Linda, he's got a proposition for me in Alaska.    

LINDA: But you've got-- [to Ben] He's got a beautiful job here.... Don't say those things to him! Enough to be happy right here, right now. [to Willy, while Ben laughs] Why mus everybody conquer the world? You're well liked, and the boys love you, and someday..." (2365)

This passage is an example of how Linda enabled Willy.  This is a flashback Willy experiences while talking to Howard.  Linda prevents Willy from going to Alaska and doing something he wholehearted wants to do because she, like Irene, was stability for herself and her sons.  She leads Willy on to believe that everything is already perfect, so there is no need in change.  She convinces him that his job is leading to a potential partnership/member of the firm.  Willy is able to convince himself that this is true and when it never happens, Willy takes a blow.  


"WILLY: I was fired, and I'm looking for a little good news to tell your mother, because the woman has waited and the woman has suffered.  The gist of it is that I haven't got a story left in my head, Biff.  So don't give me a lecture about facts and aspects." (2376)

Willy has run out of "stories"--in other words, lies.  Willy has spent his life putting a positive spin on things or outright lying to himself and his family to smooth things over.  Throughout his life it has worked.  However, now, Willy is old and tired.  The lack of "stories" may have contributed to his suicide because he feels useless and taht his wife deserves something good for a change.


"WILLY: Because he thinks I'm nothing, see, and so he spites me.  But the funeral-- [straightening up] Ben, that funeral will be massive! They'll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the oldtimers with the strange license plates-that boy will be thunder-struck, Ben, because he never realized-I am known!" (2385)

This passage is an example of Willy possibly committing suicide to spite Biff.  Willy wants to prove that he is well known and well liked, therefore successful, to his son.  He believes that a well-attended funeral would do the trick.


Key Terms


Requiem: a piece of music written for a Catholic mass held for the dead

This is important because Miller is conscious of music throughout the play.


Comments (2)

Stephanie Firth said

at 10:45 pm on Mar 21, 2010

Hey guys, went ahead and did the workload (I felt back because I forgot last time!!). When you change and add just watch the word count and the number of passages. I put up the limit already, so if you have a better one, just take one down.

Brian Croxall said

at 4:21 pm on Mar 23, 2010

This is a very good set of notes for the second day of Miller's play. Your summary covers what I saw as the main points of the day: Willy's death, Charley and Biff's interpretation of it, Linda's role in Willy's demise, and the idea of the American dream. You didn't have much on Charley's interpretation, on the necessity for salesmen to have stories, but there is only so much one can do when faced with word counts.

I think your passages could have been just a touch more fleshed out. The third one, for example, could have pointed back to Dave Singleton's story; for the second, you could have discussed why Willy needs stories.

But we all know that I can always find more things you could have done. This is good work.

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