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Free Barron's Booknotes-Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller-Free Book Notes
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REQUIEM

As dark falls in the cemetery, Linda stares at the grave. She is wondering why nobody came to the funeral. (She is thinking of the hundreds of people who reportedly turned up for the funeral of Dave Singleman, Willy's hero.) She can't understand why Willy died now, just when all their bills are paid. "He only needed a little salary," she says, but Charley answers wisely, "No man only needs a little salary."

NOTE: What did Willy need? He needed love, respect, and triumph. He needed glamor and success and to be thought of as impressive.

Everyone in the play has a different verdict on Willy. "He had the wrong dreams," says Biff. "A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory," replies Charley. Hap adds, "It's the only dream you can have-to come out number-one man."

Is it? They all acknowledge "there's more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made." "He never knew who he was," claims Biff. But Happy, heir to the same dreams as his father, is determined to see that his father didn't die in vain. "I'm staying right in this city, and I'm gonna beat this racket!... He fought it out here, and this is where I'm gonna win it for him." Biff just shakes his head and says, "I know who I am."


Linda is heartbroken and bewildered. She doesn't understand why Willy killed himself. To the end she was in love with both sides of this paradoxical man: his dream and the suffering of his failures. She has worked to keep the family afloat with what little money he brought home, and finally they are paid up. "I can't understand it, Willy. I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there'll be nobody home. We're free and clear. We're free... We're free..."

NOTE:
The family are also free, finally, of Willy's dreams. How will this affect them now? His expectations are ingrained in their lives. They are free to find out who they are. When Biff says "I know who I am" he means, I'm nobody but myself. If Happy said the same thing, he would mean, I'm somebody. Linda is free to grow old and die, no longer having to care for her husband who never grew up. The house is free to begin to decay, lacking Willy's handyman skills. All are free to live and die, as all things must, leaving nothing behind them. Only the music of the flute plays on, while "the hard towers of the apartment buildings rise into sharp focus."

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