At the beginning of Act 2, there is a good deal of optimism. Why are willy and linda optimistic? Why do they need an advance on willy's pay?
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Willy and Linda are optimistic because the boys are working together in their dream of starting a business, Willy is also talking about buying a place in the country, something he dreams of.
The advance from Willy's paycheck is needed to pay an insurance premium.
LINDA: And Willy, don’t forget to ask for a little advance, because we’ve got the insurance premium. It’s the grace period now.
WILLY: That’s a hundred... ?
LINDA: A hundred and eight, sixty-eight. Because we’re a little short again.
Death of a Salesman