Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman Summary and Analysis of II.3

Act Two (Loman Home, Past):

Howard exits and Ben enters, carrying his valise and umbrella. Willy asks him if he has secured the Alaska deal. The younger version of Linda enters, and she tells Ben that Willy has a great job in New York. She tells him not to go to Alaska. She wonders why everybody must conquer the world, and tells Willy that he's well-liked, and that Old Man Wagner promised that Willy would be a member of the firm someday. Young Biff enters with Young Happy. Willy insists that it is "who you know" that counts, but Ben leaves. Young Bernard arrives, and begs Biff to let him carry his helmet, but Happy wants to carry it. Willy prepares to escort them to the championship game. Willy tells Charley that he cannot go to Biff's baseball game because there is no room in the car. Willy is insulted when he thinks that Charley forgot about the game. Willy prepares to fight Charley.


Miller once again shifts the setting of the play to an earlier date in order to contrast Willy's present experiences with those of his idealized past. The reappearance of Ben is symbolic of the dreams Willy Loman has sacrificed for a more secure - and more mundane - existence. This segment gives some indication that Linda has, in some respects, limited her husband by forcing him to take a more stable path. She claims that not every man has to conquer the world, perhaps assuming that Willy Loman is not a man capable of doing so.

However, Miller reemphasizes Willy's belief in personal connections as the critical factor in business. By this point in the play, Willy's claim that it is "who you know" that counts has been thoroughly disproved, for Willy was fired by a man whom he has known since his birth.

Bernard and Charley's reappearance in this segment foreshadow their later roles in the play. This segment reestablishes the contentious relationship between Charley and Willy, who is shocked to think that Charley may not be in total awe of Biff's athletic achievements. It also reiterates the way in which Bernard remained in Charley's shadow. The dynamic among the characters has obviously shifted, and Miller's insertion of a flashback at this point foreshadows a later development of the dynamic between the Lomans, Bernard, and Charley.