Hopp til innhold

  1. Home
  2. Engelskspråklig litteratur og kulturChevronRight
  3. Literature after 1900ChevronRight
  4. Death of a Salesman - Act 1ChevronRight
SharedResourceDelte ressurser

Kildemateriale

Death of a Salesman - Act 1

Act 1 - Scene 1

Act 1 - Scene 1

Willy comes home from a sales trip and is exhausted and confused. He starts talking about the car and how he nearly had an accident. Then he realises that he is talking about the old Chevy he had fourteen years ago. Linda tells him that the boys are home.

Several of the leading motifs are introduced here; Willy’s assertion that he is “vital in New England”, and the debt motif. Willy also goes to the window and states that he feels “boxed in” in this neighbourhood. The guiding motif of being well-liked is also brought up. In addition, we are introduced to Willy’s illusions and his confused mind. The near accident with the car foreshadows the way Willy commits suicide at the end of the play.

Act 1 - Scene 2

Act 1 - Scene 2

We are introduced to Biff and Happy talking in their old room. From their conversation we learn that Biff is restless and unable to hold on to a job and that Happy is lonely in spite of his seemingly material success and luck with women. Biff is worried about his father’s driving. Down below they can hear Willy talking to himself and they express worries about his mental health.

Both Biff and Happy are obviously influenced by their father’s dreams and ambitions; they discuss future plans and that they are ready for something big as the Loman Brothers. The boys’ characteristics are revealed; the selfish Happy who craves attention, and Biff, who has a stealing problem but dreams about making it big someday.

Act 1 - Scene 3

Act 1 - Scene 3

Willy is in the kitchen alone talking to himself, and now we are back in 1928, and his young sons enter. Biff shows his father a football he has “borrowed” from the locker room in the gym. Happy says that it will get him into trouble, but his father supports Biff for his initiative. Willy promises to take the boys along on a trip in the New England states.

Willy constantly comes back to this year because it was the last year before the break with Biff. The stealing motif comes up, but Willy thinks Biff will get away with stealing the ball because he has such a “personal attractiveness”. Willy wants to take the boys along on a sales trip to show them how well liked he is. He mentions his neighbour, Charley, who is liked, but not well liked.

Act 1 - Scene 4

Act 1 - Scene 4

Bernard, Charley’s son, enters to remind Biff that he has to study or the math teacher will flunk him. But they just laugh at him and Willy states that good marks in school will not help you later in life. And besides, Biff has got scholarship offers because he is such a good athlete. After Bernard exits Biff says that Bernard is liked, but not well liked, just like Willy had said about Bernard’s father.

Bernard is introduced as Biff’s antithesis, and as expected, he is the one who achieves success later in life, whereas Biff turns out to be a complete failure. Willy’s philosophy about personal attractiveness (“Be liked and you will never want.”) is his tragic nemesis, because in reality he is not able to sell himself at all. The truth is that he is just a small man with big dreams and illusions.

Act 1 - Scene 5

Act 1 - Scene 5

We are still in 1928. Linda enters and Willy starts talking about how great his last trip was and how much he sold. Linda starts to figure out the commission, but when she adds up all their debts, they realise that they owe more than what he has made. Linda takes out some silk stockings and starts to mend them. Then a woman’s laughter is heard and she appears in Willy’s mind, and Willy says to Linda that he gets so lonesome on the road. As the woman leaves, she thanks Willy for the stockings.

Again Willy is bragging and lying about his success, and he contradicts himself all the time. When he tells Linda, seriously, that he feels people laughing at him behind his back, she tells him that he is handsome and funny. In other words she supports his illusions by covering up for the reality, which is that Willy is a poor salesman. The silk stocking motif comes up, and the woman laughing is a foreshadowing of the affair Willy had with a prostitute in a Boston hotel, and which led to the break with Biff.

Act 1 - Scene 6

Act 1 - Scene 6

Willy tells Linda that he will make it up to her, and she replies that there is nothing to make up. Then Willy sees that she is mending her stockings, and he gets angry and grabs the stockings from her and throws them in the garbage. Then Bernard enters and tells Willy that he can’t give Biff the answers on the test. Willy gets angry first, but then says that it is all right, because he does not want Biff to be a worm like Bernard.

Willy is feeling guilty about the affair in Boston, even though as they speak it has not even happened yet, which clearly shows how Willy’s confused mind is playing tricks on him. The argument with Bernard gives Willy a chance to defend his son against the criticism both from Bernard and Linda.

Act 1 - Scene 7

Act 1 - Scene 7

Back in 1942, and Willy is in the kitchen talking to himself again. He mentions his brother Ben who went to Alaska (even though he set out for Africa). Happy enters and says that he is going to retire his dad. Charley from next door comes in and Happy leaves. Willy and Charley play cards, but the conversation is tense and aggressive. As they talk Ben appears in Willy’s mind, and the situation becomes a bit comical since Willy is talking to both Ben and Charley at the same time. Ben is (as always) in a hurry. Willy insults Charley and the card game is over, and Charley leaves.

Ben is Willy’s ideal, “who walked into the jungle at 21 and came out rich”, the jungle meaning the “jungle of life”. Willy insults Charley because he represents everything Willy opposes, which is why Willy cannot accept his offer of a job. However,as we will see later, Charley knows that Willy is in trouble, and is only trying to help him. Note that every time Ben enters Willy is reminded that time is running out on him.

Act 1 - Scene 8

Act 1 - Scene 8

Ben and Willy continue their conversation and the time shifts to 1928. Then young Biff and Happy enter. Ben explains his success formula, and in a mock fight Ben suddenly trips Biff and says: “Never fight fair with a stranger, you’ll never get out of the jungle that way.” Biff and Happy are off to steal some lumber at a building site, and Willy boasts to Ben about how fearless his sons are. Charley enters and comments that the jails are full of fearless people, and Ben adds – “the stock exchange also.” Ben leaves because he has a boat to catch.

According to Ben’s brutal philosophy one must be prepared to use dirty tricks to get out of the jungle – that is to achieve success in life. The stealing motif comes up again. The tragic irony is that Willy supports the petty crime, but later we will understand that Biff “stole himself out of every job he held,” which is why he never became the success his father dreamed he would be.

Act 1 - Scene 9

Act 1 - Scene 9

Linda enters while Willy is still talking to the imaginary Ben. He complains about being boxed in, and leaves (in his slippers). Biff enters and in the following dialogue Linda reproaches Biff for the state of his father. Then she reveals some facts about Willy that take Biff aback. She tells him that Willy is back on straight commission, and since he is a lousy salesman his wages do not add up to much, so he borrows 50 dollars from Charley every week pretending it is his salary. Furthermore she says that Willy is suicidal; last week he had what seemed like a deliberate car crash, and she has found a rubber hose attached to the gas pipe in the basement. She then says that Biff and Happy should respect their father more, and that his life is in their hands.

This scene represents a climax in Act One. Linda acts the caring wife and her lines are representative of Miller’s agenda: “Attention, attention should finally be paid to such a person”. It is important to note that this information comes to Biff and not Happy. Biff calls his father a fake, and it is obvious that there is something between him and his father that his mother does not know about and that somehow justifies Biff’s disrespect. The traffic scene is another reminder of how Willy kills himself at the end of the play.

Act 1 - Scene 10

Act 1 - Scene 10

Willy comes back in, and the atmosphere is tense. Happy enters and tells Willy that Biff is going to see his old baseball coach Bill Oliver to get support for a prospective business deal. Willy gets all excited, and comes up with all kinds of advice about how to make the meeting a success. Linda joins in but is aggressively yelled at by Willy, which Biff resents.

There is clearly a strong conflict between Biff and his father, and as Linda tries to interfere she is yelled at by Willy – which indicates Willy’s sense of guilt towards her. Willy’s advice is both contradictory and reveals his unrealistic ideals of personal attractiveness.

Act 1 - Scene 11

Act 1 - Scene 11

They are going to bed, and the boys pop in to say good night. Willy gives some more advice for the meeting with Oliver the next day, and says that Biff has greatness in him. Happy tells them that he is getting married. Afterwards Biff goes down to the basement and removes the rubber hose.

Happy craves attention and his “I’m getting married” is in line with his recurring “I’m losing weight” in previous scenes. It seems that Biff actually believes in his own greatness due to his father’s support. But Willy is still reminiscing about the old times when Biff was a winner on the pitch and popular with the girls.

Læringsressurser

Literature after 1900

Hva er kjernestoff og tilleggsstoff?
SubjectEmne

Fagstoff

SubjectEmne

Oppgaver og aktiviteter

SubjectEmne

Kildemateriale

  • SharedResourceDelte ressurser

    There Will Come Soft Rains

    Tilleggsstoff
    AdditionalTilleggstoff