Death Of a Salesman - summary of acts and quotes


Key Events Act 1:

  1. Willy gets home from his trip to New England and is instantly presented as being in a state of crisis, he is on the verge of a breakdown and tells Linda that he has “strange thoughts”. He also tells Linda that he couldn't “make it” which could be symbolic of Willys sense of failure as he hasn't been able to make it as a salesman
  2.  Linda tries to comfort Willy but she makes excuses for him saying “maybe it's your glasses” Linda passes the blame to make Willy feel better and suggests that he should ask Howard for a job in the office at New York but he doesn't want to give up as a travelling salesman and tells her that he's the “New England man” and that he's “vital” in New England. She understands that her husband is close to a mental breakdown so she treats him carefully to try and avoid direct confrontation
  3. Willy and Linda are talking about Biff who has returned home. The stage directions tell us that Willy becomes “worried and angered” when he talks about Biff and that they have a difficult relationship, this is due to Biff catching Willy having an affair with the woman. They talk about how Biff is “lost” despite Willy believing that Biff is charismatic and having “personal attractiveness”, this shows how Willy's views are deluded by the American Dream of being well liked. Willy also calls America “the greatest country” which shoes his unquestioning belief in the American Dream and thinks that anything is possible
  4. Happy and Biff talk about their father and reveal to each other their doubts and insecurities about life. They both seem to feel like they are wasting their lives
  5. Willy has his first memory scene and remembers Biff and Happy cleaning the “red Chevvy”. This memory is happy for Willy because it is when the boys still idolised him. They are both fighting for Willy’s attention, Biff always seems to win this and Happy often gets ignored by his father. Furthermore when it is revealed that Biff has stolen a ball he tells him that “Coach’ll probably congratulate” him, he teaches his sons the wrong lessons which they will take into adulthood and lead to Biff going to prison
  6. We are still in a flashback and see Willy and Linda calculating the bills they have to pay, this shows us how the family are struggling monetarily. Willy doesn't take this worry seriously and says that he’ll “knock ‘em dead next week” because he is “very well liked” there. He also seems to worry about the fact that people “don't seem to take to” him, this shows his doubts and insecurities
  7. Willy’s memories now begin to blend into each other and he starts to get angry at Linda who is “mending stockings”. Willy doesn't want her to mend the stockings as it wounds his pride because he


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