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ACT SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Willy Loman, a traveling salesman for the Wagner Company, comes on stage carrying his suitcase, which is described as "his burden". Willy has suddenly come back home because he cannot keep his mind on driving. He tells Linda, his wife, that he was having strange dreams as he drove. She says that Willy needs a long rest. She also suggests that he talk to his manager about getting a transfer from the New England territory to someplace closer to New York. Willy, however, feels that he is vital to the New England territory.
Willy asks Linda about his sons, who are home for the first time in years. He is particularly concerned about Biff, his thirty-four year old son who cannot find a job and keep it. He cannot understand Biff's troubles since he is so attractive, a trait that is very important in Willy's mind.
Willy complains of being suffocated in the city, feeling "all boxed in." Linda suggests that they take a ride in the country on Sunday and open the windshield. Willy tells her that the windshields do not open on the new cars. He then thinks about his old 1928 Chevrolet.
The scene next shifts to the bedroom of Biff and Happy, the two sons of Willy, who discuss their father. Happy tells Biff that he is worried that Willy's driver's license may be taken away from him. Biff complains about Willy constantly mocking him. He feels that he cannot establish a rapport with his father. Happy tells him that Willy talks about Biff all the time.
Biff then begins to tell Happy about his life for the last fourteen years. He says he can never keep a job because when spring comes, he feels like moving on to another place. Biff remembers that he had once stolen a carton of basketballs from one of his coaches, Bill Oliver, and wonders whether Oliver still remembers him. Happy assures Biff that Oliver always thought highly of him because he was so well liked.
Happy tells Biff that he has most of the things he ever wanted--his own apartment, a car, and relationships with women; in spite of these things, he still feels lonely. Biff thinks his brother should be working outside in the open air and should settle down with a nice steady woman, one like their mother. Their conversation is interrupted by Willy, who is talking rather loudly to himself. Biff resents that his mother still tolerates Willy's behavior.
The scene next shifts to Willy, who is talking to himself and reflecting on a time in 1928 when he had come back from a trip. Young Biff and Happy come on the stage dressed as young boys, to indicate that Willy is thinking of the old days. The boys are excited about the punching bag that their father has bought for them. When Willy asks Biff about his new football, the boy tells him that he borrowed it from the locker room so he can practice. Happy remarks that Biff will get into trouble because he has stolen the football, but Willy thinks that the coach will probably congratulate him on his initiative. Willy tells the boys that he will have his own business some day and will not have to go on any more trips. Before then, he promises to take the boys with him on a trip up through New England.
Bernard, a friend of Biff, arrives. He reminds Biff that they are supposed to study, stating that the math teacher has threatened to flunk Biff. Willy, however, thinks that it is unnecessary for a boy who has made a mark in athletics to study. When Biff does not respond, Bernard leaves. Biff then tells his father that Bernard is liked but not well liked. Willy says that good marks in school do not ensure success in life. What really matters is being well liked and being personally attractive.
While Willy is conversing with young Biff and Happy, Linda enters the scene carrying a basket of wash. Willy tells her how great he was on the road and how much he has sold. Linda tells him how much debt they owe, and Willy realizes that they owe more than he has made. Later Willy says he is worried that people do not like him. Linda, who is mending some silk stockings, assures Willy that he is well liked. Willy worries whether he has lost his personal attractiveness, but Linda assures him that he is still a handsome man. The silk stockings trigger a flashback for Willy. Suddenly a woman appears in his thoughts. She is laughing while she gets dressed. She says that she picked Willy out because he is such a joker. As she leaves, she thanks Willy for the stockings he gave her.