Characters in Death of a Salesmen

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Willy Loman: He was a salesman who was the father of Biff and Happy, and husband to Linda. When Biff was in high school, he had an affair with an unnamed woman, changing the relationship between Biff and Willy. He seemed to have always been disappointed and angry with Biff during adulthood because he could never find a job. However, all throughout Biff and Happy’s childhood, it was obvious that Biff was the favorite. Willy and Biff always did father and son activities together.

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Also, Willy looked up to his brother, Ben, and always had flashbacks of him or had conversations with him in his head. In a way, Willy was almost jealous of his brother because he was able to live a life that he enjoyed living. Willy believed in the ideology that if you are well liked, you will be successful. He convinces himself to believe that he and his family are successful because he thinks that he was well liked, even though he really was not. In reality, he did not even do his job, resulting in him getting fired. Later in the book, Willy said that Charley was his only friend but would not accept his job offer because he was jealous of him but did not want to admit it. His goal of reaching the American Dream had made him obsessed with the idea of being successful. In the end, he killed himself so Biff would inherit the 25,000 dollars he saved up for his entire life in order to achieve the American Dream. Prior to that incident, he tried to kill himself multiple times by getting into other car crashes.

Linda Loman: She was the innocent wife of Willy, who showed concerns about her family. Linda loved Willy and did not want to upset him, along with wanting to resolve the conflict between her husband and Biff. She did not know that her husband has had an affair, so she always thought that there was tension just because Biff could not find a job. Since she and Willy were always having issues with money, her idea of freedom was being out of debt. When at Willy’s funeral, she kept on saying that they were free and that the house was all paid off.

Biff Loman: He is the older son of Willy and Linda, and is a letdown, as he cannot find a job. Back in the day, Biff was a store clerk for Bill Oliver and tries to get back into the business, so he proposed a deal to Oliver to get a job, but his idea was not accepted. In high school, he was an all-star football player, and he and his father were very close. He flunked math and did not graduate, completely changing the course of his life. After he found out his father was cheating on his mom, he began to disobey his dad, as he did not want to satisfy him. So, Biff and his father were always caught up in arguments every time he came home to visit. While he is not home, he sent letters to the family, but he stopped writing them, later clearing up that it was because he went to jail for stealing. His dad and brother could not accept their miserable reality, while Biff was able to see what was actually going on and accept it.

Happy Loman: He was the younger son of Willy and Linda, who was an attractive and a successful businessman. Ever since he was a kid, it was obvious that his father liked his older brother better, and he lived in Biff’s shadow his entire life. So, he was willing to lie to his dad and embellish himself to get his dad to like him. Happy only told his dad what he wanted to hear, and as a result, he began to inherit his father’s traits, like obsessing over the American Dream. Happy was actually just a nickname given by the ones around him. However, his name is ironic because Happy is not happy. He would always set unrealistic goals, and was lonely, although he was able to attract females.

Uncle Ben: He was the older brother of Willy and was very adventurous. Ben went to Africa and found money in diamonds there and became rich. He later moved to Alaska and died there. Every time he is brought up in the text, it is either in a flashback, or a made up conversation in Willy’s head. He was happy with what he chose to do with his life and Willy envied that, so he sought advice from his brother.

Bernard: He was neighbors with the Lowman’s ever since he was little. He grew up being friends with Biff and Happy. Bernard was always very studious and studied hard for his success. His hard work really paid off because he had grown up to be a very successful lawyer in the supreme court.

Charley: He was next door neighbor of the Lowman family and the father of Bernard. Willy occasionally borrowed money from him, and he even offered him a job. Willy was clearly jealous of his wealth but does not want to admit it to himself. Also, he did not flaunt about his son’s great successes, while Willy did. Charley seemed to show concern for his friend and was the only person, other than Bernard, outside of the family, that attend Willy’s funeral.

The Woman: She was Willy’s mistress in Boston who is very flirtatious. The reason why they did not give her a name was because she meant nothing to Willy and she was just there. Linda never found out about their affair.

Howard Wagner: He was Willy’s boss who fired him because he did not work. It shows how tough the business world was and that you cannot gain success from being “well-liked”.

Describe the settings in Death of a Salesman

How does the setting play a role in the story? Describe each of the main settings and how they impact the reader’s understanding of the text.

The Loman Household: It was a small house that was once surrounded by trees but has since turned into a more urban environment. It was just a typical middle-class house for middle-class people. It impacted the reader’s understanding of the text because it showed that they did not live a lavish life. Also, it shows that Willy did not want to keep up with the city life because, at one point, he talks about how life was when the apartment building next door were trees.

Boston: This setting represents Willy’s old job and a time where he was making money and was successful. It is impactful because Willy went there very often for work. This is also where Willy had an affair, altering the relationship between him and Biff forever.

Ebbets field: It was the peak of Biff’s life, even though it looked like his success was just starting. He played football there and was going to go to university with a scholarship for football. Willy was very supportive of Biff during this time, showing that he will only support if successful.

Identify two main themes in the novel and analyze them

Being well like is not the only crucial factor to be successful

Willy believes that people are successful if they are well liked. People work very hard to be well liked, but Willy just assumes that people like him naturally and this caused people to not like him because he did not work. While Willy was a personable guy, people did not really respect him. Howard fired him for that very reason.

Having too much pride is harmful

Willy was overly prideful and thought his family was very successful, even though they were not out of the ordinary. In addition, he was very obsessed with the idea of fulfilling the American Dream, so he set unrealistic goals for himself and looked at the work the way he wanted to.

Identify, analyze, and explain the importance of symbols and motifs in the text

A symbol is that when they had money, there were trees, and now that it is more urban, they are seeking for jobs and money.

Lowman’s name is a symbol because it says low-man, symbolizing that they are not unique, and not as successful as Willy claims.

Biff is symbolic of the men who could not find a job during the Great Depression and did not want to disappoint his family.

Oliver’s fountain pen that Biff stole symbolizes that Biff wanted to get success out of the meeting, but instead, he ended up with just a pen. The pen also symbolizes the success Biff wanted and at this point, he would do anything for success and shows what his life could have been if he put effort into his life.

Ben’s diamonds represents success, not only money wise, but his happiness as well. Even though Ben died, he died happily, while Willy did not die happily.

Make connections between Death of a Salesman and the historical era in which it took place.

Materialism and the American dream in the present time, during the 1940s The Great Depression

On page 126, Willy says that he was working like a coolie. Coolies worked very hard to get their job done.

Find three important quotes from the novel (include the page number and speaker) and analyze their importance to the overall message the story represents.

Charley: “Willy, when’re you gonna realize that them things don’t mean anything? You named him Howard, but you cannot sell that. The only thing you can sell. And the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.” (97)

Charley is confronting Willy’s philosophy that if you are well liked you can get anything. It shows how different their lives are and that Charley and his son are more successful that Willy and his sons because they actually worked for their success.

Biff: “Yes, sir! See, the reason he hates me, Pop- one day he was late for class so I got up at the blackboard and imitated him. I crossed my eyes and talked with a lithp.”

Willy: laughing “ You did? The kids like it?” (118)

Here, Willy is forgiving Biff for flunking math because he was well liked. It is also a moment when Biff sacrificed his future of being a salesman for being well-liked in the moment. This is what Willy believed in his whole life, even though he was not well liked as he makes himself seem.

Biff: “You fake! You phony little fake! You fake! ” (121)

This is when Biff and Willy’s relationship really ended because Willy was cheating on his wife, and Biff found out. From that point on, Biff did not want to do what his father told him to do because he did not want to satisfy him. It is also the reason why he did not go to summer school. For the rest of Biff’s life, his father’s affair has been on the back of his mind.

Identify the central conflict in Death of a Salesman and analyze it.

Money seems to play a big role in the Loman’s lives. They were struggling to find work and Willy refuses to admit that he has a problem. Their idea of freedom is having all their debt paid off.

The conflict between Willy and Biff is that Biff cannot find a job. Willy is blinded by the idea that being well-liked in general will get you places. We later learn that the true reason why there is tension between Biff and Willy is because of the affair Willy had.

Willy lives through his son, Biff. He put high expectations on him when he was younger, and now that he has grown up to be unsuccessful, it drives him crazy, so he does whatever he can to make his son successful. He kills himself in the end so that Biff can achieve the American Dream by inheriting his life savings.

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Characters In Death of a Salesmen. (2020, Oct 23). Retrieved from