• Willy is lost in his memories. Suddenly, the memories of his sons’ childhood come alive. Young Biff and Happy wash and wax their father’s car after he has just returned from a sales trip.
  • Biff informs Willy that he “borrowed” a football from the locker room to practice. Willy laughs knowingly.
  • Happy tries to get his father’s attention, but Willy’s preference for Biff is obvious.
  • Willy whispers that he will soon open a bigger business than his successful neighbour Uncle Charley because Charley is not as “well liked” as he is.
  • Charley’s son, Bernard, arrives to beg Biff to study math with him. Biff is close to failing math, which would prevent him from graduating.
  • Willy orders Biff to study.
  • Biff distracts him by showing him that he printed the insignia of the University of Virginia on his sneakers, impressing Willy. Bernard states that the sneakers do not mean Biff will graduate.
  • After Bernard leaves, Willy asks if Bernard is liked. The boys reply that he is liked but not “well liked.”
  • Willy tells them that Bernard may make good grades, but Happy and Biff will be more successful in business because they are “well liked.”
  • Still in his daydream of 15 years ago, Willy brags to Linda that he made $1,200 in sales that week.  Linda quickly figures his commission at over $200.
  • Willy then hedges his estimation. Under questioning, he admits that he grossed only $200. The $70 commission is barely adequate to cover the family’s expenses.
  • In a rare moment of lucidity and self-criticism, Willy moans that he cannot move ahead because people do not seem to like him.
  • Linda tells him that he is successful enough. Willy complains that he talks and jokes too much. He explains that Charley earns respect because he is a man of few words.
  • His jealousy of his neighbour becomes painfully clear. Willy thinks people laugh at him for being too fat; he once punched a man for joking about his “walrus” physique.
  • As Linda assures him that he is the handsomest man ever, Willy replies that she is his best friend in the world.
  • Just as he tells her that he misses her terribly when he is on the road, The Woman’s laughter sounds from the darkness.
  • The Woman is Willy’s mistress and a secretary for one of his buyers.
  • In Willy’s daydream, they sit in a hotel room. She tells him that she picked him because he is so funny and sweet. Willy loves the praise.
  • She thanks Willy for giving her stockings and promises to put him right through to the buyers when she sees him next.
  • The Woman fades into the darkness as Willy returns to his conversation with Linda in the present.
  • He notices Linda mending stockings and angrily demands that she throw them out—he is too proud to let his wife wear an old pair (Biff later discovers that Willy has been buying new stockings for The Woman instead of for Linda).
  • Bernard returns to the Loman house to beg Biff to study math. Willy orders him to give Biff the answers. Bernard replies that he cannot do so during a state exam.
  • Bernard insists that Biff return the football. Linda comments that some mothers fear that Biff is “too rough” with their daughters.
  • Willy, enraged by the unglamorous truth of his son’s behaviour, plunges into a state of distraction and shouts at them to shut up. Bernard leaves the house, and Linda leaves the room, holding back tears.

Vocabulary

chamois: a cloth used to rub or buff (p. 28)

approbation: approval; commendation (p. 28)

Gene Tunney: was the world heavyweight
boxing champion from 1926-1928 who defeated Jack Dempsey twice, first in 1926 and then in 1927 (p. 29)

incipient: beginning to exist or appear; in an initial stage: an incipient cold (p. 30)

anemic: lacking power, vigour, vitality,
or colourfulness; listless; weak (p. 32)

adonises: a very handsome young man (p. 33)

scrim: a piece of fabric used as a drop, border, or the like, for creating the illusion of a solid wall or backdrop under certain lighting conditions or creating a semitransparent curtain when lit from behind (p. 37)

stockings: a close-fitting covering for the foot and part of the leg, usually knitted, of wool, cotton, nylon, silk, or similar material (p. 39)

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