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Death of a Salesman, ActⅡ
To Be or Not to Be: Success vs. Failure
Presenters: Apple, Didier, Helen, Jane
Lori, Mandy, Steven, Vicky
Outline





I. Plot Summary and Foreshadowing of Death
II. Success vs. Failure (plus women)
A. the arena of work (職場)
B. the arena of love (歡場)
C. household (家庭)
III. [Comparison and Contrast]
1. Chart for the major characters concerned in Act 2
2. The Brothers: Biff and Happy
3. Ben and Charley
4. Bernard and Biff
5. Willy and Charley
6. Willy and Happy
7. Linda (the housewife) and the mistress
IV. Symbols and the Functions of Flashbacks
V. Issues (Critical Topics) and Conclusion (Q & A)
I. Plot Summary

On the same day, the father, Willy, and the son, Biff,
are both refused. The scenes are interrelated with the present
and Willy's memories in the past.
1. Willy asks Howard to let him work in New York, but Howard keeps
showing off his recorder. Willy ends up with getting fired.
•
Then he falls into his dreams, going back to the day when Ben
offers him a proposition in Alaska. Then again, he goes back
further to the day when young Biff has a football game.
2. Having met Howard, Willy sees grown-up Bernard, who is thought
to be more successful than Biff. Then Willy sees Charley, who
offers him a job, but Willy would borrow Charley's money rather
than work for him. Bernard and Charley both give their advice
and sympathy toward Willy.
I. Plot Summary
3. The son, Biff, waits for Bill Oliver all day long but
gets only one minute to talk.
4. In the restaurant, where the father and the two
sons are supposed to have dinner, they argue
about the facts.
* Willy appears more and more unusual, recalling
the day when young Biff flunks math and bumps
into him with the woman in Boston.
* Willy imagines Ben is talking to him.
 Willy dies in a car crash (machine) near his home.
The collapse of the characters’ dreams!
Foreshadowing of Death:
1. In the first scene, we can see that Linda is
worried about Willy, who may kill himself
with the rubber pipe.
2. When Biff is arguing with Happy, then we
know that Biff is also worried about the
same thing, but Happy is not.
 With Howard, Willy mentions old Dave’s
funeral. (1234)
 With Charley, Willy says “worth more dead
than alive.” (1243)
 Buying seeds to plant, to leave something.
(1255)
Ⅱ. Success vs. Failure (plus women)
Chart for all the characters concerned
The father;
the salesman
The collapse of the characters’
dreams
Biff
The son
Aspects of Willy
Happy
The son
Aspects of Willy
Ben
Willy’s big
brother
Closer to real life and the
image of Willy’s father
Charley
The friend
Successful businessman
Bernard
Charley’s son;
Biff’s friend
Accomplished son
Linda
The mother;
Willy’s Wife
Desperate housewife, suffered
Willy
Like father, like sons:
Two Aspects of Willy
Biff
Happy
Willy’s spiritual needs
Willy’s materialism and
sexuality (pp 1244-45; 1251)
To be successful
To be happy
Young Biff: Grand
Young Happy: Proud of him
(pp 1237-38)
Lying to comfort Willy
Lying to make believe
“Willy had the wrong dreams.”
“He had a good dream.”
(1264)
Cf. Concern for Willy: “Help
him!”(1252)
Irony: “that’s not my father.”
(1252)
Defeated; facing the music
Stubborn; inherit the dreams
Willy/Biff vs. Charley/Bernard




Unsuccessful
(1242)
Athletic (1238)
More friendly,
gregarious, and
well-liked
(according to
Willy) (1210)
Believe personality
is important to
success (1234,
1242)




Successful (1242,
1240)
Less athletic, more
clumsy (1237)
More serious, lack of
personality, and not
well-liked (according
to Willy) (1210)
Believe more concrete
factors are more
important (1242)
Willy/Biff vs. Charley/Bernard



Talk more; better
skilled in talking
(1212)
Always talk about
past experiences
(1233, 1235)
Do not always
follow rules (1219)





Clumsy in words
(1212)
More practical and
live for the future
(1241, 1242)
Law abiding (1219)
More helpful and
loyal to Willy and
Biff (1241, 1243,
1253)
More thoughtful
(1241)
Roles of Charley & Bernard



Represents success
that Willy can’t
achieve (1242)
Represents reality
and tries to bring
Willy to reality
(1242, 1243)
Despite anger, still
helps Willy for he
is Willy’s only
friend (1242, 1243)



Represents what
Willy wants Biff to
become (1239,
1241)
Knows the turning
point of Willy/Biff
relationship (1241)
Shows that Willy’s
way of educating
Biff is not
successful (1242)
Bernard and Biff
Biff Loman (1)


was a star football player in high school,
and there were 3 major universities would
offer him scholarships.
He failed math in his senior year and was
not allowed to graduate. caught Willy being
unfaithful to Linda
So → changed Biff's view of his father and
everything that Biff believed in.
Biff Loman (2)



finally sees the truth and realizes that he is
just a "dime a dozen" but not a “ great
leader of men.”
He tells this to Willy who is outraged. Willy
shouts, "I am not a dime a dozen! I am
Willy Loman and you are Biff Loman!"
Biff realizes the illusions that Willy lived
on. Biff is destined to no greatness, but he
no longer has to struggle to understand what
he wants to do with his life.
(cited from: http://www.homeworkonline.com/doas/character_biff.asp)
Bernard


Bernard is Charlie's son who was a
childhood friends of Biff. Bernard always
studied very hard and eventually became a
successful lawyer.
He always admires Biff.
( ex: p.1241- Because I’d thought so well of
biff, even through he’d always take
advantage of me. I love him, Willy,
y’know?)
Quotes form Biff






"Pop, I'm a dime a dozen and so are you.”
"To suffer fifty weeks a year for the sake of a
two-week vacation."
"We never told the truth in the house for ten
minutes."
"We never told the truth in the house for ten
minutes."
"I looked up and I saw they sky ... and I
realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has
been."
"He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong."
Quote form Biff (2)

I saw the things that I love in this world.
The work and the food and the time to sit
and smoke. And I looked at the pen and I
thought, what the hell am I grabbing this
for? Why am I trying to become what I
don’t want to be . . . when all I want is out
there, waiting for me the minute I say I
know who I am.
- textbook p.1261
Willy and Biff have different
explanations for Biff’s failure to
succeed in the business world.
How are their explanations
different?
Willy’s character (1)

to see himself very high
"Willy: ... Someday I’ll have my own
business, and I’ll never have to leave home
any more.
Happy: Like Uncle Charley, heh?
Willy: Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because
Charley is not---liked. He's liked, but he's
not---well liked" (P.1209)
Willy’s character (2)


Good at woodworking
 “Willy: A man who can’t handle tools is
not a man.” (P. 1216)
Don’t good at selling
 Charley thinks Willy doesn’t suit to be a
salesman (P. 1242)
Willy’s character (3)


to keep up appearance
Willy rejected Charley’s offer or even
looked down it as a goddam job
He has a job but without salary
Willy doesn’t want to work but he want to
have money
Willy’s character (4)

“Charley: Willy, when are you going to
grow up?” (P. 1238 & 1242)
 Willy doesn’t want to change

He is pessimistic
 “…and the years, you end up worth more
dead than alive.” (P. 1243)
Charley’s character (1)

Don’t care of anything
"ignorant" person in Willy's mind [about
the vitamins] (P. 1215)
 more realistic
 “My salvation is that I never took any
interest in anything.” (P.1242)
 “… things don’t mean anything…”
(P. 1242)
Charley’s character (2)


Love shooting casino
 P. 1215 & 1239
Don’t want to be a loser (Proud)
 “Knock a homer, Biff, knock a homer!”
(P. 1240)
 “Knock’em dead, Bernard!” (P. 1241)
Manner on Son
Willy
 Sons are his all
(especially Biff)
 “This is the
greatest day of my
life.”
(Ebbets Field in
P.1240)

Worried about
Biff’s work
Charley
 Don’t take too
much time on
Bernard
 (P. 1241)
Willy vs. Charley



Characters affect their work/business a lot
Willy doesn’t suit to be a salesman/
businessman
Care more ≠ success
Willy vs. Happy (work)
Willy and Happy
Similarity
1.Create the illusion of success.
Willy’s philosophy---Happy’s
2.Both failures
Difference
Willy: finally gets to the reality
Happy: can’t see the reality
->Willy Loman did not die in vain," he
says, "…He had a good dream, the only
dream a man can have - to come out
number one man. He fought it out here,
and this where I'm gonna win it for
him."
Willy vs. happy (love)
Willy & Happy
Similarity
1. Deny their positions and exaggerate
details in order to aggrandize themselves.
2. Sexual interludes are the defining
moments of both of their lives
Difference
Willy: revolves around his attempt to
forget his affair with the Woman. (hide)
Happy: revolves around an active pursuit
of affairs with many women. (show off)
<http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/Li
tNote/id-73,pageNum-85.html>
Willy vs. happy( household)
Willy & Happy
Willy>Happy
Neglects
Always treats Happy as a “second
son”
Happy>Willy
Always tries to be noticed by
showing off
->"I'm losin' weight pop, you
notice?"
->"I'm going to get married, just
you wait and see,"
<http://www.homeworkonline.com/doas/index.asp>
Linda (the housewife) and the mistress
Linda Loman (1)
– the heart and soul of the Loman household
trying to share in Willy’s ideals
 loyal and supportive
 suffering and enduring
 Willy’s link to reality

Linda Loman (2)




struggling to come to terms with the city,
her husband, and her sons
a peace-maker in the family
a role of observing
inability
The woman
– Willy’s mistress of Boston



making Will feel as though he were the
salesman
separating Willy from his family life
Will’s concern for Linda is genuine but his need for
success overcomes his feelings of loyalty
Linda and the Woman



The woman makes Willy form a sense
of success of being a salesman
Linda offers Willy a family where the love can
tolerate all his fault
the stockings
The woman receives the new stockings;
Linda mends the stockings
III. Symbols and
the Functions of Flashbacks
success
Insurance
(1230)
Refrigerator
(1230)
Recorder
(1232;1235)
work
family
failure
Shaving lotion
(1229;Act 1)
seeds(1229)
Ebbets Field
(1238;1240)
Tennis Rackets
(1237;1241)
Stockings
(1254;1255)
Flashbacks


Flashbacks in Act 2
a. asking for confirmation/advice from Ben when
Howard
refused to give him job in N.Y.(1235~1239)
b. recalling the discovery of his betrayal to Linda
(1249~1255)
c. seeking for confirmation again; sign of
committing
suicide(1258)
d. Ben’s asking him to go find the
diamonds(1262~1263)
Functions
a. psychological development
b. escape from cruel reality
c. seeking for confirmation and answers from Ben
IV. Issues (Critical Topics)
and Conclusion (Q & A)
Please Give an Example of
Dream vs. Reality
in Capitalistic Society
Willy as an Example
Superficiality over hard work
 Faced with capitalistic burdens -insurance
premium, mortgage payment, etc
(p. 1230)
 Incident with Howard (p.1233)
 Dave Singleman (p. 1234)
 Biff messes up the deal with Oliver (p.1246)
 Happy a womanizer (p. 1245)

Does Willy still remain a firm believer in
appearance over hard work by the end of Act II?
WELL……………….
ALMOST!







-Questioned Bernard as to “why didn’t he
(Biff) ever catch on?” (p.1240)
-Willy’s affair (p. 1252)
-Responsible for Biff’s failure- lost faith in
Willy.
-Charley: “The only thing you got in this world
is what you can sell.”
Willy: “I’ve always tried to think otherwise…I
always felt that if a man was impressive, and
well-liked, that nothing…” (p. 1242)
Last flashback with Ben (p. 1262)
Suicide as means to get quick money
References







<http://education.yahoo.com/homework_help/cliffsnotes/death
_of_a_salesman/>
< http://www.bellmore-merrick.k12.ny.us/death.html>
< http://www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/titles/salesman>
< http://www.homework-online.com/doas/index.asp>
< http://www.novelguide.com/deathofasalesman/index.html>
< http://www.revision-notes.co.uk/revision/16.html>
<http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/salesman/>
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