Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is a play revolving around the themes of betrayal, desperation, failure, denial, and abandonment. It is a tragedy that shows the striking contrast between the Loman family’s dreams and the reality of their lives. The relationship between Willy and Linda constitutes an important part of the play, and is as discussed below.
Linda Loman is an extremely loyal and devoted wife to Willy, and is very protective towards Willy’s emotions and dreams. She seems to be the only person who truly understands him, and sees through his lies and falseness.
Linda is aware of Willy’s suicidal thoughts and thus lives in a constant state of fear and concern. Linda loves and prizes her husband more than anything in the world, and chooses to remain blind to his fickle nature, frequent tantrums, and lack of respect towards her.
“Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior- she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams, and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end.” [Pg.2]
Due to her protective nature towards Willy, she also goes along with Willy’s fantasies so as not to hurt his emotions. She is indirectly responsible for Willy’s confusion and his inability to distinguish between reality and his own imagination, although her intent is pure and not meant to cause harm to him.
Very often, when Willy confides in Linda and admits his failure, she actually tries to bring him back into the false world they live in. For instance, when Willy tells Linda that he is fat and foolish to look at, she disagrees and calls him the “handsomest man”. Linda also bears Willy’s cruel behavior with “infinite patience”. Linda feels very responsible towards Willy, and tries to instill the same sense of responsibility into her children. She says to Biff,” But he’s (Willy) a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him.
So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog.” [pg. 40] It is also worth noting that her behavior in front of Willy is different from her behavior with her children; she is actually a sensible, confident woman but in front of Willy she becomes submissive, accommodating.
Willy, on the other hand, seems to be too caught up in his chase for success to express any love for Linda. He is a grumpy old man, a failure who is in denial of his reality. He is confused, and seems to be striving for the wrong ideals, due to which he doesn’t quite appreciate the love and support he receives from his wife. He is harsh with Linda, and speaks to her rudely, especially in front of their children.
For instance, whenever Linda tries to speak, he immediately silences her, asking her to stop interrupting. Willy’s romantic affair with an anonymous woman hints that he is also disloyal, and the guilty conscience resulting from the affair later affects his relationship with his wife. He keeps hallucinating about the Woman, and his guilt and regret act as another reason for his suicidal thoughts.
Despite his little cruelties, he is also seen announcing his affection for Linda by saying,”You’re the best there is, Linda, you’re a pal, you know that? On the road- on the road I want to grab you sometimes and just kiss the life outa you.”[pg.24] Thus it can be inferred that even though Willy acknowledges Linda’s support, he is too caught up in his own world and his unreasonable need for social approval to reciprocate the love and care he receives.