Death of a Salesman Important Characters

Willy Loman

Willy Loman was a sixty-three year old man who was having trouble coping with the stresses of his life. He was a traveling salesman whose territory was the New England states, because he lived in New York City, he had to travel great distances to meet with his clients. He once was a top salesman, at least that was how he remembered it, but his sales dropped dramatically and he was demoted from being a salaried employee to a commission employee. He was forced by these circumstances to borrow money from his friend and neighbor, Charley, to pay his bills.

His son Biff came home, after working in the American West as a farmhand. He had never lived up to Willy's expectations of him and the two argued whenever they were together. Biff and his brother, Happy, saw the deterioration of their father first hand, because they were staying at their parents' house for a while.

Willy had started to have hallucinations and was talking out loud to people who were not there. He often talked to his brother Ben, who had passed away, he asked him for advice and approval. He was also often thrown back to earlier times, when his boys were teenagers and Biff was the sports star at his high school. These were the good times for Willy; the promise of a bright future for himself and his son. He was trying to cling to these times to get him though the reality of the present.

Willy had been having trouble driving, which had led to a series of accidents. Linda had been informed by the police as to the true nature of the accidents. They had a witness who saw Willy deliberately drive into the rail of a bridge. Willy had also rigged up a hose to the gas line in the house, which Linda thought he might use to kill himself. In the end Willy, after losing his job, accomplished Linda's fear, he killed himself in a car accident. He thought this would solve the family's financial problems, because he had a twenty-five thousand dollar insurance policy.

Linda Loman

Linda was Willy's wife, who loved him without reservation. She saw his deterioration and tried to help him as best as she could. She didn't know what to do to help him, so she gave him moral support and tried to make his life as easy as possible for him. She had hoped having her sons at home would be a boost to Willy's morale and relieve some of the stress he had been dealing with. Instead it caused more friction between Willy and Biff, which increased the amount of stress Willy had to cope with. She felt her husband was a man to be admired and loved, because he was at heart a good man. Willy also showed his love for her by making sure she had enough rest and she had all she needed to keep the household running. In the end after Willy's death, Linda did not know how to grieve her husband. She told him she could not cry for him, because to her it seemed like he was on a business trip. She was searching for answers as to why he took his life and left her alone in the world.

Biff Loman

Biff was thirty-four years old and still searching to find out what he wanted to do with his life. He had three college scholarships offered to him, but he failed math, which meant he would not graduate high school. He had a chance to make up the credits in summer school, but he would not attend summer school. He felt his life fell apart on the day he visited his father in Boston. He had gone to Boston, after finding out he was not going to graduate, for solace and advice from his father, instead he found Willy in a hotel room with another woman. He felt betrayed by his father and his opinion was all the moral principles he had been taught by Willy were a pack of lies, because of this the desire to try and make something out of himself deserted him. Biff also had a problem with stealing. He started stealing in high school and had even spent three months in jail for theft. He blamed his father for his inability to keep a job. Willy had always preached to his son that he was a leader, because of this Biff felt he should not have to take orders from anyone, instead he should be the one giving the orders.

Biff, after not receiving a meeting with his old boss, Bill Oliver, breaks into Bill's office and steals his fountain pen. He stole it not because he needed the pen, but because he wanted to take something from Bill as Bill took Biff's opportunity away from him. Biff thought Bill would loan him money to start a new business. As he is running away from the office, Biff has a revelation about himself; he and Willy had always thought Biff was a salesman for Bill, but in fact he was a shipping clerk. The truth was Biff had been fired by Bill for stealing from the company. Biff realizes Bill would never had given him any money, nor did he deserve a loan. He was, after all, a small time guy, who never made a decent day's wages in his life. He tries to tell Willy all of this, but at Happy's urging could not be honest with him until later that night. After Willy has killed himself Biff realizes his father never really knew who he was. Willy always saw himself as a big shot, when in fact he was just another cog in the wheel of life.

Happy Loman

Happy was Willy and Linda's youngest son. He was thirty-two years old at the time of his father's suicide. Happy spent his life in the shadow of his big brother, Biff. He tried to receive some attention from his father, which he did by losing weight in high school and later telling his father he was getting married. He told his dad about the impending marriage the day Willy committed suicide. Happy was never given the attention Biff was given. Happy tried to do all the right things, such as having a steady job, renting an apartment, and owning his own car. No matter what he did, it never was good enough for Willy. Happy also wanted to have a good time, which is why he arranged for him and Biff to have a date with the two women from the restaurant. They were supposed to be eating supper with their father, but they left him at the restaurant so they could go out with the women. Happy, even after Willy is gone, still sticks up for his dad when Biff tries to tell the truth about how Willy lived his life. He wanted to prove to the world his father's dream was a valid dream. He wanted to prove he could come out on top. He wanted to fulfill his father's dream in honor of Willy.


Charley was Willy's friend and neighbor. He tried to help Willy by giving him loans to help pay Willy's bills and he offered Willy a job with his business. Willy was stubborn and would not take the job, but he would take the money, with the promise he would pay it all back. Charley was there for Willy and his family till the end. He was one of the few people who attended Willy's funeral. He valued his friend, even if he did not always understand him.

Ben Loman

Willy's brother, Ben Loman, was only a hallucination to Willy. Ben was dead, but Willy saw him as a living breathing man, who would give Willy advice on how to live and die. Willy needed Ben to tell him how he made his money in Africa and he needed to learn about his father. Willy's father left for Alaska when Willy was about three years old and did not return. Ben was the one person in Willy's life whose approval meant everything to him. He would constantly ask Ben how to strike it rich and if Ben liked how Willy's boys turned out. In Willy's fantasy world, Ben was interacting with Biff and Happy when they were teenagers. This was because at this time the boys were, to Willy, most successful. It was Ben who gave Willy advice about his idea of committing suicide. He told Willy the insurance might not pay out and others might not look favorably on Willy, for killing himself. In the end Willy imagines Ben endorsing his idea and he acts on it.

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