Commentary on the Climax of Death of a Salesman
- Pages: 4
- Word count: 920
- Category: Death of a Salesman
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At the start of this extract, Willy is planting seeds in his garden, and Biff goes to tell Willy he is leaving home and not coming back. The planting of seeds is significant, reflecting how Willy wants to pass something on, leave a legacy for something to grow after his death. This reflects Willy’s insurance money he wants to leave his son Biff. However, the audience knows these small fragile seeds will not grow and flourish in the Loman’s cramped and shadowed back garden, as the harsh outside world has squeezed all the possibility of life from it.
This is a similar situation with Willy’s life insurance; his attempts to commit suicide in his car have been realised, and the audience can see that the policy will not be honoured. Biff tells Willy he is leaving, and Willy desperately tries to cling onto his last shred of hope, asking Biff, “You’re not going to see Bill Oliver tomorrow? ” and saying “He put his arm around you”. This tells the audience how desperate Willy has got, trying to hold onto his last morsel of hope which would make his life worth living.
When Biff makes it clear to Willy that his chances with Bill Oliver are non-existent and that he is leaving for good, Willy goes into a fit of rage, insisting that it is Biffs’ spiting of him which has led to his son’s downfall: “Willy – Spite, spite is the word of your undoing! And when you’re down and out, remember what did it. When you’re rotting somewhere beside the railroad tracks, remember, and don’t you dare blame it on me! ” Willy continues to insult Biff, until Biff can take no more and confronts Willy about the rubber tube Willy put next to the gas line, enabling him to kill himself whenever he chooses.
Biff decides to tell Willy the stark reality of the Loman family’s situation, telling Willy who he is, and really wants to be, working outdoors in the open air, not wearing a suit and having a job in business, as Willy has tried to force his sons to do. “Biff – What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am. Why can’t I say that, Willy? ” When Biff tells Willy the truth of how they are valued in the outside world, “a dime a dozen”, Willy launches into an impassioned outburst, saying “I am not a dime a dozen!
I am Willy Loman and you are Biff Loman! “. This highlights how people feel have been lost in the harsh culture of business which surrounds them, the individual person has been lost, only profits matter. Biff makes a plea to his father, to accept him who he is and after he shouts “Pop I’m nothing! Can’t you understand that? “, his fury has been spent, and he cuddles Willy, crying, in a tremendous act of love, knowing there is nothing he can do to help his father’s dire mental state.
Willy now realises how much Biff loves him and has loved him, and his mind goes back to suicide, to help Biff by giving him money from his life insurance. Ben, from Willy’s mind, acts as the ruthless face of capitalism here, urging Willy to kill himself so Biff can get the hard cash he needs to get into business. He believes his own life, personality and vitality isn’t what matters, but how much money he is worth, and this relentless chasing of the false American Dream, where only money and the bottom line matters, leads to the breakdown of Willy’s mind, which causes him to take him own life.
In the Requiem, Charley, Biff, Happy and Linda are the only ones present at Willy’s funeral. Nobody cares about this man, the worker who makes no money, and he is squeezed out of the bottom of society, almost as the dreg. Biff seems to know the cause of Willy’s downfall, as he said “He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong. ” Happy seems to be oblivious as to what drove Willy to kill himself, saying “He had a good dream. It’s the only one you can have – to come out number one man. He fought it out her and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.
Despite the obvious signs that it had been in Willy’s blind pursuit of this that led to his destruction, Happy still feels that it is the only way to continue forward in life. Charley, on the other hand, realises what happened to Willy, and sees that it is not entirely Willy’s fault that he was rejected from society, as he says “Nobody dast blame this man. ” Linda cannot understand what drove Willy to kill himself, when they had nearly paid off the mortgage on their house and things were looking a little brighter financially for them “Linda – I can’t understand it.
At this time especially. First time in thirty-five years we were just about free and clear. He only needed a little salary. He was even finished with the dentist. ” The final monument of the play ends on a poignant note, with Linda kneeling at the front of the stage repeating “we’re free” over and over again, and the audience now realises what an important man this was, a caring husband and father, who was tragically pushed out of the bottom of society.