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Free Study Guide-Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller-Free Online Booknotes
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Linda Loman

Linda Loman, Willy's faithful wife, is the most sympathetic character in the play. Downtrodden and leading a seemingly miserable existence, Linda still truly loves her husband in spite of all his faults and always stands by him. Although she spends her life cooking, cleaning, trying to make ends meet, and bolstering Willy's sense of self-importance, she never complains about the way she lives. Instead, she complains about how shabbily her sons, Happy and Biff, treat their father. She even tells Biff that he cannot come home again unless he learns to get along better with Willy.

Linda's weakness is that she does not have the imagination to understand Willy's dreams of success. When Willy has the opportunity to go off to Alaska and make it big with Ben, it is Linda who holds him back by reminding him of his great future with the Wagner firm. She also repeatedly lies to Willy, leading him to believe that he adequately provides for her and the family. She also tells him that he is popular and well liked by everyone.

Linda's role in the play is not a complex one. She is simply the traditional and concerned wife and mother, who struggles to make ends meet and keep her family, particularly Willy, happy. She also serves to feed and enhance Willy's illusions about himself. The Requiem of the play gives a pathetic final picture of Linda. She stays behind at Willy's grave after everyone has left, for she wants to say a final good-bye. She proudly tells Willy that she has made the last mortgage payment on the house; she also sadly tells him that there is now no one to live there with her.

Biff Loman

Biff is the older of Willy's two sons. He is an attractive man, even though he is a failure in life. In high school, Biff was a star football player, winning several scholarships. Unfortunately, he was unable to continue his education because he failed math, even though Bernard tried to make him study and helped him to cheat on the exam. He also began stealing in high school and was never reprimanded for it. In fact, when he steals balls from the locker room, Willy excuses the behavior by saying that the coach would probably be proud of Biff's initiative for wanting to practice at home.


Early in the play, Biff proves that he has assumed all of Willy's values and has not developed any of his own. Biff has learned from his father that to be well liked and attractive are the most important ingredients for success. Biff even echoes small bits of Willy's view of life when he says that Bernard "is liked but not well liked." Biff himself feels that since he is handsome, he will be well liked and successful; he waits for grand things to come his way, but they never do. Instead, he loses one job after another, because of his compulsive stealing.

During the play, Biff slowly begins to accept that both he and his father are failures in life. The disillusionment begins when he is still a teenager. When Biff goes to Boston to find Willy and tell him that he has failed math, he makes an awful discovery about his father. He finds him in a hotel room with a strange woman and feels Willy is betraying his mother, both sexually and financially. He calls Willy a liar and a fake. In spite of these accusations, Biff still lives by Willy's philosophies. Since he has no skills and little education, Biff tries to get by on being handsome and well liked; however, he is a miserable failure, who resorts to stealing to get what he wants.

Late in the play, Biff comes to some realistic understanding of his place in life. He knows that he is a "nothing," in spite of Willy's praises of him and dreams for him. Biff tries to make his father see that he is "no good. I am a dime a dozen, Pop, and so are you." He begs for Willy to communicate with him and accept him for who he is. Although Willy is forced by Biff to see some of his own failures, he never accepts that Biff will turn out the same way. In fact, Willy commits suicide so that Biff can receive his life insurance of twenty thousand dollars and make something of himself. At the end of the play, Biff seems to be developing a strength of his own. He has faced and accepted the truth about himself and his father. Now that he acknowledges his problems, there is hope that he can reach his potential. If this play offers any hope, it is through the character of Biff. There is a chance that he can be rehabilitated and lead a normal life, away from the shadow of Willy.

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