Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman Summary and Analysis of II.6

Act Two (Hotel Room, Past):

Willy follows the Woman as he buttons his shirt. Someone knocks on the door, but Willy says he is not expecting anybody. The Woman claims that Willy ruined her, and that whenever he comes to the office she will make sure that he goes right through to the buyers. The knocking persists, and Willy tells the Woman to stay in the bathroom while he opens the door. It is Biff, who tells Willy that he flunked math. Biff begs Willy to talk to Mr. Birnbaum, his teacher, to convince him to pass Biff.

Biff hears the woman laugh, and she enters from the bathroom. Willy tells Biff that the woman is staying in the next room, which is being painted, so he let her take a shower in his room. Willy throws the woman out, as she claims Willy promised to buy her a pair of stockings. Willy tries to explain that the woman is a buyer, but Biff starts to cry. Willy admits that he had a relationship with the woman, but claims that it means nothing to him, and that he was lonely.


Once again returning to the Loman family's past, Miller finally gives a full explanation for Biff's refusal to take a summer school course, the critical event that determined his chain of failures. It is Willy's infidelity that prompted the change in Biff, as he learned that his father was having an affair with the woman in Boston. Yet the revelation of this reason for Biff's bitterness is not the only example in this segment of how Willy has carelessly ruined the lives of those around him. Willy has ruined the reputation of the Woman, but can offer nothing to her in return. Despite the promises that he has made to her, he denies and discards her. This parallels Willy's earlier insistence that Linda should not mend stockings. Stockings serve as a symbol of what Willy can provide and as a measure of his success.