Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman Summary and Analysis of II.8

Act Two (Loman Home, Present Day):

Happy and Biff return home to find their mother there. Happy gives her flowers, and tells Linda that he and Biff met two girls. Linda knocks the flowers to the floor at Biff's feet. She asks whether they care if their father lives or dies. She says that they wouldn't even abandon a stranger at the restaurant as they did their father. Linda asks Happy if he had to go to his "lousy rotten whores" tonight, but Happy insists that all they did was follow Biff around trying to cheer him up. Linda throws them out, calling them a pair of animals. Linda says that Willy didn't have to say anything to her because he was so humiliated that he nearly limped when he entered the house. Biff insists that he talk to Willy, but Linda refuses to let him.

They hear a noise outside; it is Willy planting his seeds in the garden. They find Willy outside, carrying a flashlight, a hoe and a handful of seed packets. Willy imagines that he talks to Ben about his own funeral. He says that people will come from miles around, because he is well-known and well-liked, but Ben says he is a coward. Biff tells Willy that he is not coming back anymore and that he has no appointment with Oliver. Willy does not believe Biff, and tells him that he cut down his life for spite. Willy refuses to take the blame for Biff's failure. Biff takes the rubber tube out of his pocket and puts it on the table. Biff asks if it is supposed to make him feel sorry for his father. Biff tells his father that the reason they couldn't find him for months was because he was in jail for stealing a suit, and that he has stolen something at every good job since high school. Biff says that he is a dime a dozen, and so is Willy, but Willy insists that neither of them are unimportant.

Crying, Biff asks Willy to give up his phony dream. Willy is amazed to realize that Biff likes him. Linda says that he loves him. Willy can't believe Biff cries for him. Happy tells Linda that he will get married and change everything. Everybody goes to sleep but Willy, who remains in the kitchen talking to Ben. He imagines what wonderful things Biff could accomplish with $20,000 insurance money. Linda calls from her bedroom for Willy to come to bed, but Willy runs out of the house and speeds away in his car. Biff and Happy don jackets, while Linda walks out in mourning clothes and places flowers down on Willy's grave.


The final sequence of the second act parallels the end of the first act in structure and emotional resolution. Linda once again acts as the conscience and voice of reason in the household, berating Biff and Happy for their lack of concern for their father. Biff and Happy, in turn, resolve to do improve themselves: Happy decides to settle down, while Biff breaks down emotionally and cries for his father. Biff admits that he was unavailable for months not because he did not care to contact his parents, but rather because he was in jail. This contradicts earlier indications that he did not care for his parents.

The final confrontation between Biff and Willy seems aligned along different concerns for each man. While Biff focuses on Willy's false dreams for himself and for his sons, Willy seems concerned only with what his sons think of him. Willy still retains a belief that Biff and Happy are important people capable of great success, while Biff takes the more realistic view that they are common people incapable of achieving their unrealistic dreams. This returns to the theme of Willy's boundless aspirations, which guarantee that he will never be satisfied with any degree of success in his real life. It is this inability to fully achieve success that drives Willy Loman to suicide.

Willy Loman's suicide can be interpreted as a noble sacrifice, driven by the belief that Biff may go into business with the insurance money he gained from his death. Paradoxically, Willy's suicide may be related to his reconciliation with his elder son; having realized how much Biff cares for him and convinced that Biff does not behave out of spite, Willy can now sacrifice himself for his son.