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Free Study Guide-Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller-Free Online Booknotes
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ACT II

Summary

When he gets up the next morning, Willy feels good because Biff has gone to see Oliver. He himself is filled with resolve, deciding to buy some seeds to plant in the backyard and to tell Howard that he needs a job in New York. As Willy is about to leave, Linda reminds him of the payments they owe; the car and the refrigerator both have repair bills. The last mortgage payment on the house also has to be paid. Linda finally reminds Willy that he is supposed to meet Biff and Happy for dinner. Linda is again mending stockings since she cannot afford new ones. When Willy notices it, he tells her to stop her mending. As Willy leaves, Linda telephones Biff and tells him how happy his father is this morning.

The next scene is in Howard's office. Howard is listening to a tape-recording made by his family. He tells Willy about the advantages of owning a tape-recorder. Willy changes the subject and reminds Howard that he has been promised a job in New York, reminding him that he has been with the firm many years. Willy also tells Howard about Dave Singleman, who was a well- loved salesman. When he died at eighty-four, people from all over the country came to his funeral. Willy obviously wants to be like Singleman.

Willy, confused by his illusions, tells Howard that he earned a hundred and seventy dollars a week in 1928, but Howard tells him that he has never made that much. At this Willy gets angry and loud; Howard responds by telling Willy to control himself and leaves the office. When Howard comes back, Willy volunteers to go back to Boston. Howard then tells Willy that he cannot represent the firm anymore and instructs him to bring back his sample cases. Before leaving the office again, Howard suggests that Willy get some help from his sons.

Left by himself, Ben appears to him in an illusion. Willy asks him the same questions about his success. This time Ben offers Willy a job in Alaska, but Linda reminds her husband that Wagner has promised him a partnership. Willy tells Ben that he is building something on his own because of his personality. Ben abruptly leaves as Willy tells him that he will conquer the world in New York. Willy next sees young Bernard rushing off to see a football game in which Biff is playing. Charley appears and wants to know where everyone is going. Willy is shocked to realize that his friend does not know that this is the day for Biff's great game. When Charley teases Willy about the game, Willy gets mad. Charley responds by asking, "When are you going to grow up?" This question infuriates Willy.


Back in the present, Willy next walks towards Charley's office in hopes of borrowing some money from his friend. When he arrives, he stands outside, talking to himself. Bernard comes out to see Willy. Willy notices that Bernard is carrying a tennis racket, on his way to play on some private courts. Willy is obviously impressed by Bernard's apparent success. He lies and tells Bernard that Biff is working on some big deal.

Bernard tries to question Willy about Biff. He wants to know what has happened to him recently. The last things that Bernard can remember are Biff's flunking math and going to Boston. He also remembers that he and Biff fought one another for a long time, for no apparent reason. Willy becomes very angry with Bernard and accuses him of trying to blame him for something. Charley comes in and sends Bernard off to the tennis courts. He tells Willy that Bernard is going to argue a case before the Supreme Court.

Willy asks Charley for some more money to pay his insurance. Charley again offers Willy a job, but Willy at first insists that he has a good job and is well liked. Charley tells Willy that being well liked is not important. He also asks his friend, "When the hell are you going to grow up?" Willy then confesses that he has lost his job, but he explains that he simply cannot work for Charley. Feeling sorry for Willy, Charley gives him the needed money. Appreciatively, Willy tells him that he is his only friend. As Willy leaves, he tells Charley that a man ends up worth more dead then alive.

Happy arrives at the restaurant. He orders a meal and begins flirting with a woman who has just walked in. When Biff arrives, Happy asks the woman to find another female to join them. When the woman leaves, Biff tells Happy that he had to wait all day to see Oliver, and then the man did not remember him. Biff now realizes that his whole life has been a ridiculous lie. Today he stole Oliver's pen, just as he has stolen his basketballs in the past. Biff tells Happy that he wants to tell Willy the truth, to make him see that his oldest son is a failure and a cheat. Happy suggests that Biff tell Willy something nice rather than the truth.

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