Willy: … Did Biff say anything after I went this morning?
Linda: You shouldn’t have criticized him, Willy, especially after he just got off the train. You mustn’t lose your temper with him.
Willy: When the hell did I lose my temper? I simply asked him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?
Linda: But, dear, how could he make any money?
Willy, worried and angered: There’ s such an undercurrent in him. He became a moody man. Did he apologize when I left this morning?
Linda: He was crestfallen. Willy. You know how he admires you. I think if he finds himself, then you’ll both be happier and not fight any more.
Willy: How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!
Linda: He’s finding himself, Willy.
Willy: Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!
Willy: The trouble is he’s lazy, goddammit!
Linda: Willy, please!
Willy: biff is a lazy bum!
Linda: They are sleeping. Get something to eat. Go on down.
Willy: Why did he come home? I would like to know to know what brought him home.
Linda: I don’t know. I think he’s still lost, Willy. I think he’s very lost.
Willy: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such – personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There is one thing about Biff – he’s not lazy.
Willy, with pity and resolve. I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him (Miller 15-16).
First of all, let us explain the choice of the extract under analysis. This particular fragment was chosen, because we think that in the majority of literary works the first chapter or the first act, as it is in this case, plays the major role, as its task is to initiate the reader into action and to capture his/her attention at once in order to absorb the person into reading.
Besides, the text under analysis is the fragment of a dialogue that vividly describes one of the themes of the play: the relationship between the protagonist, Willy Loman, and his elder son, Biff Loman. Their description of their relationship contributes greatly to the main theme of the play: the ruin of American dream, the downfall of an ordinary man.
From the extract we get to know that Willy despises his son, because he did not manage to come up to the father’s expectations. Willy wanted Biff to become “a great man” and his son has disappointed him. This may be proved by the use of such words as: “a disgrace”, “lazy”, “lost”, “lazy bum” (Miller 16).
In fact, it can be seen that by means of showing contempt for his son, Willy indirectly admits his own failure to become a big man. He says that his son is “a farmhand”, but he himself is a salesman and this is by no means better. He has lost, his son has failed and this prepares the reader for the tragedy of the play.
The extract also conveys high emotional tension that may be proved by the choice of Willy’s words; he is frequently using vulgar language: “the hell”, “goddammit” (Miller 15). By Willy’s statement that his son is lazy and later contradiction to his own words we can get first suspicions about the protagonist’s mental instability.
Finally, from this dialogue we get to know that Willy’s first consideration is money. He is obsessed by American dream and he oppresses his whole family and ruins his own life and the future of his children. From the extract the reader comes to know that the relationship in the family is not healthy and he is inspired to get to know more about the Lomans.
Miller, Arthur. Death of Salesman. NY: Penguin Books, 1996.