Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman Summary and Analysis of Act I.5

Act I (Loman Home, Past):

Willy is back in the kitchen with Linda, who reassures him that he is a handsome man. Linda mends her stocking, but Willy tells her that he does not want her to do such menial tasks. Willy returns to the porch, where he tells Bernard to give Biff the answers to the Regents exam. Bernard says that he normally gives Biff the answers, but Regents is a State exam and he could be arrested. Bernard says that Biff is driving the car without a license and will flunk math. Willy also hears the woman's voice (from the hotel room), and screams for it to shut up. Willy explodes at Linda, saying that there's nothing the matter with Biff. He asks her if she wants Biff to be a worm like Bernard. Linda, almost in tears, exits into the living room.


This segment of the chapter, also a flashback, returns to the Loman household, which is the setting for most of the play. Miller contrasts Willy's life on the road in which he behaves like a callous womanizer with his behavior as a husband at home. A great deal of Willy's dedication to Linda stems from his own sense of pride; he does not want her to mend stockings because it shows that he cannot provide her with the financial resources to buy new stockings. Miller further establishes the contrast between Biff and Bernard; Bernard is more concerned with Biff's studies than either Biff or Willy, while Biff is reckless and abusive.

Willy Loman deals with each of these problems through denial. He tells Linda that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Biff, particularly in comparison to Bernard. However, Willy feels the strain of his indiscretions, as is shown when he hears the voice of the woman with whom he has had an affair. The problems that Willy has during his later years are to a great extent self-inflicted, the product of long-standing guilt for his actions.