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Death of a Salesman - Act 2
Terms in this set (13)
Why is Willy's mood upbeat at the start of Act Two? What does he expect to happen?
Willy has been duped by his reliance on an idealistic and unrealistic American Dream. Having been "caught up" by his sons plans to open a sporting good store, he begins Act II full of hope and energy. He imagines that Biff will get the loan from Oliver; that he, Willy, will get the transfer to a non-traveling job when he asks for it; that the boys will open their sporting store and become a huge success. When Linda tells him that the boys have said they want to take him to dinner, Willy imagines Biff announcing that he has received the loan while Willy himself announces that he has a new job.
Why does Willy tell Howard about Dave Singleman? Describe the dramatic effect when Howard listens to the voices of his family while Willy tries to talk business. Why does Howard tell Willy to drop off his samples and forbid him to go to Boston? Why is this such a blow to Willy?
This of course is a highly significant scene as it comes as Willy gets fired by the company that he has worked for for so long. Willy refers to Dave Singleman as he is a deeply important figure for Willy, and inspired him to become a salesman in the first place. Dave Singleman, to Willy, captures the essence of being a travelling salesman. He workes until the age of 84 successfully earning his living as a salesman and was immensely popular. Note how Willy was struck by meeting Dave Singleman:
And when I saw that, I realised that selling was the greatest career a man could want. 'Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?
Not only does Dave Singleman therefore represent the reason why Willy went into his particular profession, but he also represents the way in which being a travelling salesman has changed. Back then, Willy tells Howard, it was all about "personality," with the opportunity to "bring friendship to bear." Now, as the efficient, slick and ruthless way with which Howard treats Willy amply demonstrates, it is "all cut and dried." Again we have another example of Willy being unable to accept the reality of the present and looking back to a brighter and better past.
What is Willy's philosophy? How does Biff as a football hero embody his father's dreams? Why does Charley say Willy hasn't grown up?
Willy wants to lead the American dream. He thinks he will merely fall into it without hard work. Mere perseverance chasing the dream rather than working at something is his motto. Biff idealizes his dad but like his dad is not a star. He is good at football but not that good. An injury destroys any dream of football. Willy has not grown up because he still has childish illusions about being rich and living the American dream.
What is Willy's impression of Bernard when he sees him in his father's office? Why does Willy exaggerate Biff's importance? Why does Bernard ask what happened after the game at Ebbets Field?
Willy goes to Charley's office to borrow money meets Bernard, Charley offers him a job and Willy is again furious at the 'insult'. Willy sees Biff's admission as a sign that Biff likes him and decides to leave him the money he will be 'magnificent'. Willy is amazed to see that Bernard has done so well for himself. He is surprised to know that Bernard is a lawyer, that he has a case pending in D.C., and that he knows people who own their own tennis court in their houses. When Willy tries to embellish Biff in front of Bernard, he finds no other choice but to, sort of, give up. Hence, in an act of complete humbleness, Willy asks Bernard
Willy: What- what's the secret?
Bernard: What secret, Willy?
Willy: How- how did you? Why didn't he ever catch on?
Here is when the most important conversation in the play occurs. Both, Willy and Bernard agree that, after that one Ebbet's Field game, Biff ends up flunking Math, and ruining his chances for college, unless he goes to Summer school. It is then when Biff starts his deep disconnect with the rest of the world. Bernard tells Willy that, after Biff flunked Math in High School, Biff was more than willing to go to Summer school and re-do the class. However, right after Biff visits Willy in New England, everything in Biff's life changes. Willy is shocked to hear this revelation.
This is when we find out exactly what happened that day: Biff had gone to New England to vent with his father the fact that he flunked Math, only to realize that his Dad was there with a mistress. The image of "The Willy Loman" that had fed his ego is now, officially, dead. In turn, Biff's own self-perception dies with it as well. After all, he is just a creation of his father's own missing ego. Hence, the encounter with Willy and the mistress is the triggering event that ruins and changes Biff's life, for good.
Why won't Willy work for Charley? Why is Willy able to ask Charley for money? How is Charley's view of what a salesman needs different from Willy's view?
Willy won't work for Charley as he stubbornly believes that he is better than him: despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Charley explains to Willy that "The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell." Willy, by contrast, thinks that being popular brings value. Charley tells him that it is the wealth that people are impressed with , not the person. He notes that the industrialist J P Morgan was only popular "with his pockets on."
In the restaurant, how does Happy reflect Willy's values? Why does Miller have the girls come in?
Willy has a secret that he seems to have kept from himself for a very long time. Or at least it's a secret that he hasn't taken out and looked at very often in the years since he kicked Biff out of the house. Willy was having an affair with a woman up in Boston, and Biff discovered it when he went to the hotel to get his father to help him with his math teacher who had flunked him. This discovery was a singular turning point in the relationship between Willy and Biff and a major turning point in Biff's life as well.
The two women Happy arranges for in Frank's Chop House that last night of Willy's life are a foreshadowing and a deadly trigger for Willy's memory of that night long ago (but oh, so present) in Boston.
And what values of Willy's does Happy exhibit in the restaurant? Happy, like Willy, is a salesman, and he snows the first woman into believing that he sells Champagne and that his brother Biff is a big football star. He's con man, a joker, and a womanizer just like his old man. Nothing serious, I suppose, but more than serious enough for that particular evening.
And don't forget, Biff runs out of the restaurant, and Happy, along with the two women, follows him, leaving Willy, with his past and his regrets, alone on the bathroom floor. Happy, who Willy always favored less than Biff, pays his father back with his own thoughtless disregard.
How does Biff's realization that his life is a lie underline the theme of the play? Why does Biff take Bill Oliver's fountain pen? Why can't he tell his father what happened with Bill Oliver? Why do Biff and Happy leave Willy at the restaurant?
Biff takes the pen because it is something biff will never have. The pen in itself is a metaphor for he American dream- a dream that was attained by his father but never fully fulfilled, meaning that people are never really satisfied with what they have, they always want more.
They leave his father at the restaurant because they are embarrassed by him.
Biff cannot tell his father because he realizes that he wants more from his life he wants a better life a life that his father struggled all his life for.
Why did Biff go to Boston? What does he discover when he sees the Woman? Why is it that Biff never went to summer school? Why can't he believe in his father?
Biff went to Boston to catch up with his beloved father before his college visit. When he finds his father with another woman, he realizes that Willy is truly a fake, and does not have the great qualities which Biff had formerly believed his father held.
Biff does not attend the summer school as he has given up on success - for himself and his family. His father's moral weakness reminds Biff of his own shortcomings - his proclivity to steal, for instance - and that his father's encouragement and faith in the family to succeed had no real foundation.
Why does Linda tell the boys, "Get out of here, both of you, and don't come back!"?
Oblivious to Willy's deep suffering, Biff and Happy earlier abandoned their father at Frank's Chop house where they were all having dinner together.What Linda doesn't know is that without his sons, especially Biff, Willy has nothing. And with his sons, especially Biff, Willy has to face the lies that make up his life. So Willy just can't go on. There is no solution; she can't kick Biff out, and there's no way he can stay. Her husband is hopelessly doomed.
Why does willy keep planting seeds where they've never grown before? Why does Willy think Biff will be impressed with his funeral? Why does Ben say that Biff will call Willy a fool?
Willy does not wish to give up on his hopes for a future and some kind of memory of himself or his existence after death. This is why he plants the seeds. He hopes that his funeral will be well attended, and that this will impress Biff. Biff sees that there are much more important qualities than popularity, which is why he will see this final act as foolish.
Why doesn't Willy want to see Linda? Why does he think Biff is spiting him? Why does Biff show him the rubber hose?
Willy is embarrassed at the enormity of his thoughtless actions, and he realizes their impact in Act II. He is unable to secure an easier position with Howard and Bernard confirms his suspicions that Biff 'gave up on life' after seeing him with the woman in Boston. After his breakdown in the restaurant and being abandoned by his sons, he is confronted with his own failure.
Biff is desperate to bring his father to the realization that greatness is not in the destiny of any of the Loman's. He shows Willy the pipe to reinforce his fallibility, and confronts his father and his brother to see their own flaws. Willy does not want to accept that his sons are as doomed as he is, and believes Biff is spiting him.
Why does Biff confront Willy and Happy?
Biff, Will & Happy are in Death of a Salesman. Biff explains to Happy that he didn't get the money, and Happy encourages his brother to lie to Willy. Willy arrives. Biff tries to tell Willy that he didn't get the money and that he stole a fountain pen from Bill. However, Happy is at the same time lying to Willy that Bill warmly welcomed Biff. Willy apparently accepts Happy's version. Biff later confronts Willy about his suicide attempt. Willy takes this as an indication that Biff loves him and celebrates by committing suicide to give his family his life insurance.
What does Biff do that elates Willy? How does Happy try to attract Willy's attention? How does Ben influence Willy at this point?
During the climax of the play back at home after the scene at Frank's Chop House, Biff confronts Willy about his epiphany. Biff realizes that the perceptions he had held for his entire life (that Willy instilled into him) up till this point were false. Willy essentially says that Biff is only saying this to spite him, Biff then begins to cry for his father's delusional and forgone state. At this point, Willy replies "isn't that remarkable? Biff- He likes me!"
Happy, being the more burdensome and less loved son tries to attract attention to both of his parents attention by saying "I've lost weight" and "I'm getting married, Mom. I wanted to tell you." He's either just brushed off, or ignored completely. During the requiem, he vows to pursue his father's life as to not have Willy's death be in vain, being another example of his attempt to gain reassurance and love from a very unloving family.
At the end, Ben changes from the only one whom had deterred Willy from killing himself, into approving and convincing him that it is the only way to leave his legacy for Biff.
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