Death of a Salesman: Summary

Looking for a summary of Death of a Salesman? This article by Custom-Writing.org experts contains everything you might need: a plot infographic, a short summary, and detailed descriptions of the events in the play act by act.

❗  What Is the Summary of Death of a Salesman?

It wouldn’t take long to explain what the summary of Death of a Salesman is. In the play, Arthur Miller introduces the memories and thoughts of Willy Loman, an aging salesman, during the last days of his life. It seems like the American Dream and denial are the main themes of the play.

Death of a Salesman plot infographic describes the key play's events.

🎬 Death of a Salesman: Act 1

Act 1 opens with the setting of Willy Loman‘s home in Brooklyn. He comes back after an unsuccessful sales trip, feeling drained totally. Linda, his wife, wants his boss to let him work in New York so that Willy can be closer to home. He promises to talk to Howard Wagner, the owner of the company, the next day. 

The couple discusses their sons, who are visiting them at the moment. Willy complains about the older one, Biff. He is not happy about his son’s accomplishments in life. As the father goes downstairs to have a snack and mumbles something, his sons recall their childhood and talk about their experiences.

Biff admits that he somewhat lost the direction of his life. He tried and failed to be what his dad wanted him to be. 

It’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer… To suffer fifty weeks a year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still – that’s how you build a future.

Death of a Salesman,
act 1

Biff feels more inspired at his current position on the farm. However, he tells Happy that he thinks like wasting his life.

Happy is not proud of his accomplishments at a department store, either. Taking bribes and sleeping with bosses’ girls makes him feel guilty.

Then Biff decides to talk to his former employer, Bill Oliver, and ask for some money to lend and open a ranch. Happy is sure it will work out because everybody likes Biff.

Further, in Act 1 of Death of a Salesman, Willy finds himself daydreaming. His young sons appear on the scene. As they are washing his car, Willy reveals that he is going to build a business soon that will be bigger and more successful than the neighbor’s one. Bernard, the neighbor’s son, appears to call for Biff since they should study for the upcoming math test. According to Willy, that boy might be smart but is not much liked.

Linda sends the boys to help with chores and listens to her husband’s bragging about his overly successful sales trip. Later on, he confesses that it wasn’t so great, and he fails at his job. Willy is afraid he can’t make enough money to cover all their payments.

Then the plot of Death of a Salesman points into the direction of another daydream. Willy now hears his mistress laughing, and they start flirting. The Woman thanks him for the stockings that were a gift from him.

You kill me. And thanks for the stockings. I love a lot of stockings. Well, good night.

Death of a Salesman,
act 1

The scene goes back to his first dream in the kitchen. Ironically, Linda is trying to fix her stockings, and Willy angrily orders her to throw them away. 

I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!

Death of a Salesman,
act 1

Bernard is looking for Biff again. Linda reminds her husband about the ball that their older son stole and his unacceptable behavior with the girls in the neighborhood. The laugh of the Woman that Willy hears makes him explode at his wife and Bernard.

Back to the present, Loman is still muttering to himself. Willy recalls another major failure of his life when he didn’t go with his brother, Ben, to Alaska. The latter eventually hit the jackpot by finding the diamond mine. The neighbor, Charley, comes along and offers Willy a job. But in Loman’s eyes, it is an insult, and inevitably he rejects it.

Imagination plays tricks with Willy’s character once again, and he pictures Ben entering the house. The brothers talk about the plans on going to Alaska.

You’ve a new continent at your doorstep, William. Get out of these cities, they’re full of talk and time payments and courts of law. Screw on your fists and you can fight for a fortune up there.

Death of a Salesman,
act 1

Charley is confused because no one else can see Willy’s imaginary interlocutor except for him. Willy yells at the neighbor for asking questions and continues with the dream after Charley leaves.

Meanwhile, in reality, Linda and the two sons discuss Willy’s condition. She mentions that he tried to end his life.

I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.

Death of a Salesman,
act 1

Happy tells Biff off for his failures in the business world, and they start a fight with Willy. However, finally, the family calms down as soon as the new idea drops. Happy suggests that he and Biff start their own business in sporting goods. After some more minor arguing, they all go to bed.

🚘 Death of a Salesman: Act 2

Act 2 of Death of a Salesman begins with Willy indulging in the delicious breakfast his wife cooked for him. Even though he gets angry about expenses again, he is excited about the dinner as his sons are taking him out. 

The story switches to Howard’s office, where Willy tries to ask about relocating him to New York. Wagner plays with the recorder, which he is supposed to use for work. He makes Willy listen to the recordings of his family members. 

Willy finally gets a chance to ask about a position in New York. Howard replies that there are no openings. Then, Loman tells him how he got inspired to work as a salesman, but there is no respect and support in business anymore. 

In those days there was personality in it, Howard. There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear —or personality. You see what I mean? They don’t know me any more.

Death of a Salesman,
act 2

His boss doesn’t agree to relocate him under any conditions. When Willy loses it, Howard asks him to take some days off. The salesman is too proud to agree, and Wagner ends their conversation with letting Willy go.

Ben appears once more, offering Loman to join him in Alaska, but Linda reminds her husband about his responsibility as a salesman and a father. Then the chain of memories about Biff rush through.

We find out that Willy had some expectations regarding his older son’s future, and you are welcome to read more about it in the analysis in the next sections of the guide. Biff used to be a successful football player and well-liked by everyone.

Like a young god. Hercules—something like that. And the sun, the sun all around him. Remember how he waved to me? Right up from the field, with the representatives of three colleges standing by? And the buyers I brought, and the cheers when he came out—Loman, Loman, Loman! God Almighty, he’ll be great yet. A star like that, magnificent, can never really fade away!

Death of a Salesman,
act 2

Willy asks Bernard how Biff turned out to be a loser. As Charley comes to pick up Bernard, Willy begs his only friend to lend him some more money rejecting the job offer once again. Charley angrily gives him money and leaves the stage.

Biff and Happy are waiting for Willy at Frank’s Chop House and chatting with a call girl. The older brother complains about his failure to loan money from an old friend for their business idea. As Willy arrives, Biff informs them about the failure. Willy seems to be unable to listen to his son’s news, and it makes the latter angry.

I was fired, and I’m looking for a little good news to tell your mother, because the woman has waited and the woman has suffered. The gist of it is that I haven’t got a story left in my head, Biff. So don’t give me a lecture about facts and aspects. I am not interested. Now what’ve you got to say to me?

Death of a Salesman,
act 2

All three of them start arguing, and the young Bernard runs onto the stage. Willy and his sons step aside, giving some space to the new scene. Bernard tells Linda that her older son failed math, and the focus shifts back to the restaurant.

It’s almost like Willy hears some other voices and can’t tell the difference between his imagination and reality. Trying to calm him down, Biff drops a few words about good news on their business plans. Willy gets interested again and throws more questions on Biff.

The situation aggravates, and Biff hits his father. When the call girl enters with her friend, Willy leaves for the bathroom. After a short argument, Biff leaves, and Happy follows him accompanied by the ladies.

The summary of Death of a Salesman switches back to Willy’s memories once again. This time, he is with the Woman, dressing and flirting. However, Willy must hide his mistress in the bathroom since Biff comes in. His son tells him that he failed math and hears the Woman. Biff storms out, getting too angry at his lying father.

You fake! You phony little fake! You fake!

Death of a Salesman,
act 2

Back to the present, Willy decides to go to the seed store. In Loman’s house, Linda scolds her sons to leave Willy in the restaurant. Biff goes to look for his father and finds him out in the garden planting seeds.

Biff wants to say goodbye to Willy and asks him to go inside the house. On the way there, Loman gets furious about his son’s failure again, and they start yelling at each other. Soon enough, Biff starts weeping, and it calms his father down.

As everybody goes to bed, Willy stays up talking to Ben again. They discuss that Biff can be well off with twenty thousand dollars of the insurance money

The jungle is dark but full of diamonds, Willy.

Death of a Salesman,
act 2

Then Linda tries to find her husband but only hears Willy’s car driving away.

⚰️ Death of a Salesman: Requiem

In the Death of a Salesman’s requiem, there are the remaining members of Loman’s family. Linda is reasonably confused about why the only ones who visited Willy’s funeral were Charley and Bernard. She can’t understand why none of his coworkers showed up.

Moreover, Linda wonders about his suicide because their family is very close to paying off all the debts. Biff says that he remembers his father enjoying working on the house more than attending to his salesman duties. According to Biff, Willy didn’t know himself.

He had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong.

Death of a Salesman,
Requiem

In his eulogy, Charley defenses Willy, saying that dreaming is the only thing that keeps the salesman alive. Even though the salesmen don’t have any tangible tools, the smile and optimism is their tool.

Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.

Death of a Salesman,
Requiem

But Biff keeps saying that Willy didn’t know himself, and it makes Happy angry. He refuses to fight his brother but promises to stay in the city and become the best businessman. Biff is not impressed and looks at him without any hope as he plans to leave Brooklyn behind.

Linda asks for some privacy to say goodbye to her husband. When she is alone, she confesses to Willy that it doesn’t feel like he passed away. A poor woman struggles emotionally to accept it and can’t even cry for the moment. She says that it feels like Willy is away for another sales trip.

Then Linda says that she paid the last bit on the house, and they are finally “free.” She sobs as there the house will be empty now.

Why did you do it? I search and search and I search, and I can’t understand it, Willy. I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there’ll be nobody home. We’re free and clear. We’re free… We’re free…

Death of a Salesman,
Requiem

Biff comes to support Linda and walks her out. The last scene is the surroundings of Loman’s house in focus, accompanied by flute music.

We hope that the above summary of Death of a Salesman is useful. If you’re looking for exciting essay ideas on the story, please read this article

🔗 References

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