Death of a Salesman Quotes - Arthur Miller

All quotes come from Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. He is the original author of all the quotes cited in this resource. The comments provided are my own. 

Page numbers refer to the Penguin Modern Classics edition of the play (Edition published in 2000)

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Willy Loman Pg 23

"He's liked, but he's not well liked." - Willy Loman, pg 23

He is obsessed with being well-liked - his hamartia. He thinks that is the most important thing and that it will get him through life. This line is also repeated throughout the play. 

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Happy Pg 82

"Because you're not showing the old confidence, Biff." - Happy Loman, pg 82

Stuck in the past; the image of his father. 

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Willy Loman Pg 64

"You can't eat an orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit!" - Willy Loman, pg 64

He attempts a metaphor but it doesn't make sense - emphasises Willy's confusion and lack of awareness. He is always one step behind. 

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Willy Loman Pg 64

"I averaged a hundred and seventy four dollars a week in the year of 1928!" - Willy Loman, pg 64 

He is stuck in the past, like a typical tragic hero. Desperately trying to keep himself going by thinking of his past achievements. The specificity of the figures furthers this - he is obsessed. 

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Willy and Howard Pg 65

Willy: "They're working on a very big deal."
Howard: "This is no time for false pride, Willy." 

Willy's hamartia returning. He convinces himself that everything will be ok if he is "well-liked", but this only further reveals his delusion. 

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Linda Pg 44

"I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he is a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person." - Linda, pg 44

This shows the extent to which Linda will defend Willy, despite his flaws, delusions, etc. It also reveals that she knows what is happening to him and understands to a relatively full extent the problems which he faces - "a terrible thing is happening to him". "Attention must be paid" is impersonal and in the passive voice - Linda almost never talks about herself in the play. Shows the extent to which she gives herself to him and dedicates herself to him. 

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Linda Requiem

"We're free and clear. [Sobbing more fully, released] We're free. [BIFF comes slowly toward her.] We're free...we're free..." - Linda, pg 112 (Requiem)

Despite her grieving, Willy's death still FREES Linda. She no longer feels tied to her home or her love. She uses the pronoun we despite rarely using personal pronouns throughout the play, demonstrating that she is alone and she can do things now for herself. She understands Willy's tragedy. 

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Charley Pg 77

"Willy, nobody's worth nothin' dead. [After a slight pause.] Did you hear what I said?" - Charley, Pg 77 

This foreshadows Willy's death at the end of the play, and also depicts what may happen afterwards. Willy is deluded and thinks that the money for the insurance will help out the family but really they are stuck in the perpetual cycle of the American consumerist society so it is unlikely that anything will change. His death will be worth nothing

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Ben Pg 37

"When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. [he laughs.] And by G-d I was rich." - Ben, pg 37 

Ben is the representation of the conventional American Dream, and cruelly tries to tempt Willy despite the fact it is obviously out of Willy's reach because of his delusional state. He makes it sound easy to achieve everything you want. Through this comment, he also epitomises the increasing consumer culture in America at the time this play is set. 

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Willy and Linda Pg 30-31

LINDA ... is now mending a pair of her silk stockings. 

Willy: "I won't have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!" - Willy and Linda, pg 30-31 

Stockings are a representation of Willy's past infedility and the discomfort he feels with himself. He appears to be tormented by delusions, especially with The Woman's laugh. Did he have an affair to satisfy his need for validation? He doesn't seem to be lustful; he is insecure to such an extent. 

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Biff and Happy Pg 17

Biff: "Sure, maybe we could buy a ranch. Raise cattle, use our muscles. Men built like we are should be working out in the open." 
Happy: [avidly]: "The Loman brothers, heh?"
Biff: [with vast affection]: "Sure, we'd be known all over the counties!" 
- Biff and Happy, pg 17 

Like their father, they seem to have a false representation of the American Dream. Miller is critical of the values that America seemed to instil in its citizens at this time; took advantage of characters like Biff who don't know what they are doing. Willy has a strong definition of "success" and that is to be "well-liked" and have a good secure job, which is why he is ashamed of Biff. However, he buys into this false idea of the American Dream as much as his sons. Linda seems to be the only one in the family who is immune. 

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Willy Loman Pg 96

"Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground." - Willy Loman, pg 96 

By the end of the play, Willy is realising once again his lack of stability. He has a desperation to make something of himself but doesn't have the mental capacity to do it. He feels hysterical at this point. 

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Willy Loman Pg 99

"Ben, a man has got to add up to something." - Willy Loman Pg 99 

Here, Willy is referencing his insurance money he would get if he killed himself. He considers adding up to something to be money - representing the consumerist society. Lost interest in values of personality, appears to only see the value of money as to what a man is and how successful he is. 

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Willy Loman Pg 85

"You know why he remembered you, don't you? Because you impressed him in those days." - Willy Loman, pg 85

Deluded. He is so desperate to believe that his son is making something of himself. He doesn't understand Biff's habit of stealing. This habit also goes to represent the consumerist society and the importance of goods - he is remembered for the goods he takes but Willy is desperate to believe that it is the worth of his personality for which he is recognised. Differing views between Willy and society - again shows he is behind the times (sadly!). 

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Willy Loman Pg 103

"Willy: Well, this is the way you're going. Good-bye.
[Biff looks at him a moment, then turns sharply and goes to the stairs.]
Willy [stops him with]: May you rot in hell if you leave this house!" - Pg. 103

Yet again, Willy is inconsistent and erratic with his thoughts. This must be frustrating for his family. 

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Happy Pg 91

"No, that's not my father. He's just a guy." - Happy, pg 91

This is the ultimate betrayal from Happy to his father, just as his father has betrayed the family with his actions regarding "The Woman". Demonstrates a lack of emotion towards his father, reflecting how he grew up and Willy's earlier favouring of Biff over Happy. 

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Linda Pg 45

"What goes through a man's mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent? Why shouldn't he talk to himself? Why? When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend to me that it's his pay?" - Linda pg 45

Using the generic "a man" shows how this situation applies to many people in the 1930s - Willy is not alone. A subtle criticism of America's consumerist society and failing economy. 
Linda tries to justify Willy's actions - she is the only person who consistently does this, and never tries to make him change his ways. She does not feel ashamed. 
She knows he is going to Charley every week - shows how perceptive she is, and in contrast, Willy's lack of perception. This makes us think - does she know about the affair? Is she putting that to one side as well, because of how much she gives herself to him? Or is she blissfully ignorant, and only giving herself to him because she doesn't know? 

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Linda Pg 43

"Biff, a man is not a bird, to come and go with the springtime." - Linda pg 43

This quote echoes Willy's "you can't eat an orange" quote (pg 64), except it makes sense because it is from Linda. Highlights starkly the similarity and difference between them; what brought them together in the first place, and what is pushing them apart. 

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Willy Loman pg 68

"That's the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!" - Willy pg 68

Willy has just identified the basis of his own delusion and the fundamental flaw in his own thought; he is wrong. He keeps this belief throughout his life, and it is ultimately what brings about his own demise. 

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Willy and Bernard pg 73

"Bernard: When he was supposed to graduate, and the math teacher flunked him -
Willy: Oh, that son-of-a-***** ruined his life.
Bernard: Did you tell him not to go to summer school?
Willy: Me? I begged him to go. I ordered him to go."
Bernard: Then why wouldn't he go?
Willy: [...] That question has been trailing me like a ghost for the last fifteen years." - pg 73 

Willy knows the reason Biff didn't go is because he discovered his affair. He constantly puts the blame on others to hide his own mistakes; he can't face up to them. Even his comment about the maths teacher demonstrates how he blames others before anything else; he appears so nervous of criticism or of being found out. 

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Play Pretext

The front page reads:

"Certain private conversations in two acts and a requiem." 

Certain - we are not gaining a full picture into the lives of the characters. We are gaining a snapshot, and this implies Arthur Miller has made conscious decisions about what he wants his audience to know, and when. 

Private - emphasises its nature as a domestic tragedy. As an audience, we are almost eavesdropping. Makes us think that this could be anyone we know, all occurring behind closed doors (which is emphasised by the built-up and claustrophobic nature of the set). Willy is very average - a representation of all American salesmen. This is not the story of a nobleman fallen from grace (as Aristotelean tragedy dictates); part of the tragedy is that it is so normal. It is just bringing it to our attention. 

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