Death of a Salesman Quotes

"I'm tired to the death. I couldn't make it. I just couldn't make it, Linda." (Willy Loman, Act One)

Willy is explaining to his wife the reason he could not make his sales calls that day. He is having trouble concentrating on his driving. He one minute is driving just fine and the next he is speeding and driving off the road. He is tired of traveling from New York to New England for his job. He is physically and emotionally spent, his mind especially is exhausted.

"That's why I thank Almighty God you're both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want." (Willy Loman, Act One)

Willy is in the midst of one of his hallucinations. He is speaking to his boys, but to him they are teenagers. In fact he is alone and speaking to no one, but he thinks his boys are with him. He is telling them how he lives his life. His belief is if a person is likeable and creates a persona which is indelible in a person's mind, then he will be successful. He has based his whole life on this belief. He thinks he is that person, which makes it so hard for him to accept the truth of his life, which is he is not that person and never has been. He also thinks his sons, especially Biff, are people who have those qualities of likeability and personal interest. He doesn't understand why Biff, as an adult, has such a hard time finding and keeping a successful job.

"Willian, when I walked into the jungle, I was seventeen. When I walked out I was twenty-one. And, by God, I was rich!" (Ben Loman, Act One)

Willy is having a conversation with his dead brother, Ben. He sees Ben and thinks he is standing in front of him. He wants to know if Ben feels he is teaching his boys, Biff and Happy, how to be men. In his mind the boys are teenagers and Ben is a younger man also. Ben talks to Willy about his time in Africa, working in the diamond mines. He talks of walking into the jungle and finding the diamonds, which make him a rich man. The jungle can mean a literal jungle or it can mean the jungle of the business world. The jungle of the business world, where a man has to hack his way to the top by being better than all the other employees and willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Willy takes his brothers words to mean he is teaching his boys right and they will be as successful as he hopes they will be.

"He's dying, Biff." (Linda Loman, Act One)

Biff has decided he will stay in New York and help out the family financially. He and his father are still arguing, but he is trying to help his mother cope with the financial and emotional burdens Willy's behavior forces her to endure. She suddenly tells Biff and Happy about Willy's suicide attempts. They are stunned to find out the car accidents Willy has been having are not accidents, but instead, suicide attempts. She tells them the witness of one of the accidents saw Willy drive purposefully into a bridge railing. She also talks about a short rubber hose she found in the basement, the hose would attach to the gas pipe leading into the water heater and her supposition is Willy has plans to use it to end his life. The boys now know the true extent of their father's despair.

"Funny, y'know? After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive." (Willy Loman, Act Two)

This is the moment Willy's idea of killing himself for the insurance money is actually communicated to someone. Before he kept it to himself, but now his friend Charley knows he is thinking about committing suicide. Charley tries to tell him his life is worth more than money, but Willy doesn't see any other way out of his financial difficulties. He feels that even though he has tried to do his job to the best of his ability, it just isn't enough. He has been demoted to commission wages at work and is having to borrow from Charley to sustain himself and Linda. Even though Charley offers him work, Willy will not give up on his idea of being the great salesman.

"I even believed myself that I'd been a salesman for him! And then he gave me one look and --- I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! We've been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk." (Biff Loman, Act Two)

After waiting all day to talk to his former boss, Bill Oliver, about getting a loan to start a business, Biff realizes he had been wrong about his relationship with Bill all along. He thought Bill would overlook the fact that Biff had stolen from him fifteen years ago. He thought he was a salesman for Bill, when the truth was he had been a shipping clerk. Bill would not give Biff a loan to start a business, because he didn't know Biff as anything other than, being the shipping clerk who was fired for stealing from the company. Biff and Willy had, in their minds, raised Biff's importance to Bill and the company. It is the moment in which Biff realizes his life has been predicated upon a lie, a fantasy of how important he was to Bill and how he should be the man in charge. Biff also sees his father for who he is, a man whose life is also based on the lie of him being a great salesman. The truth was he was an ordinary salesman, whose sales have been dropping in the past few years.

"Pop, I'm nothing! I'm nothing, Pop. Can't you understand that? There's no spite in it anymore. I'm just what I am, that's all." (Biff Loman, Act Two)

Biff is trying to break through to his father and tell him exactly who he is. He wants his father to accept his place in the world, but Willy has a hard time doing that. He wants his son to be a rich man, instead he will be a man who tries to earn enough money to get by. It is what Biff has been trying to tell his father for a while now, but Willy in his present state of mind is not capable of fully comprehending what his son is telling him.

"Isn't that---isn't that remarkable? Biff----he likes me!" (Willy Loman, Act Two)

After Biff breaks down in tears, while trying to tell his father he will never live up to Willy's dreams for him, Willy realizes he and his son are bonding. He is thrilled his son is confiding in him and is emotional enough to cry about it. He thinks this means his son finally likes him. This gives him a sense of peace and hope. He now is convinced more than ever in Biff's ability to become a successful person.

"Why did you do it? I search and search and I search, and I can't understand it, Willy." (Linda Loman, Requiem)

Linda is lost after Willy's death, so at his grave site she talks to him about her inability to cry for him. She keeps on waiting for him to come home from one of his business trips. She is at a loss as to why he would kill himself. She knows he was struggling in his last days and she was conscious of his desire to kill himself, but she thought that somehow he would come out of it and be alright. She cannot fathom why he would leave her to live the rest of her life alone. The house is finally paid off, as Willy wanted it to be, but now she has to live in it by herself.

Related Links:

Death of a Salesman Summary
Death of a Salesman Quiz
Death of a Salesman Act One Summary
Death of a Salesman Act Two - Requiem Summary
Death of a Salesman Important Characters
Literature Summaries
Arthur Miller Facts

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