Death of a Salesman By Arthur Miller Summary and Analysis Act I: Scene 7

Summary

Scene 7 resumes the conversation between Willy and Linda. Linda is unaware of the dialogue exchange from Scene 6, which effectively "interrupted" her discussion with Willy. She repeats her comment from Scene 5 that Willy is an attractive man. Willy, however, is aware of the Woman from Scene 6, and he responds to Linda's comment with a vague apology and a promise to "make it all up to you." Linda is ignorant of what Willy is talking about. Willy observes Linda darning her stockings, and he orders her to throw them away.

Bernard enters, frantically looking for Biff. Willy demands that Bernard give the test answers to Biff. Bernard reveals that he has already been helping Biff cheat, but he cannot help him on the Regents exam. Willy becomes angry at Biff and threatens to beat him. Linda reminds Willy that Biff stole the football, and she also informs him that he is not treating the girls properly. Bernard says Biff is driving without a license. Willy is growing more disturbed with each comment. The Woman from Scene 6 laughs and Willy screams "Shut up!" Bernard continues to criticize Biff until Willy orders him to leave. Linda defends Bernard, but Willy counters her, maintaining that Biff is fine. Linda leaves, and then Willy reverts back to his initial condemnation of Biff at the beginning of the scene.

Analysis

Willy's mental faculties are deteriorating in Scene 7. He is no longer capable of separating the present and the past. In Willy's mind all of the events are occurring at the same time, leaving him confused and bewildered. He does not know if he is in the past or the present, if he still has a chance to make things right with his family, or if he can still achieve success. He remembers the most important events relating to Linda and Biff, but he cannot separate them in his mind. He is in the present at the beginning of the scene, but the sight of Linda's stockings moves him back into the past to the moment of his interlude with the Woman.

Willy's guilt and agitation shift to anger as he focuses on Biff. Willy is already confused, but his anger increases when he learns of Biff's unacceptable behavior. It is not a coincidence that Willy focuses on his own failure — the affair — and on Biff's failure during this scene. Willy denies his own self-incrimination and instead directs all of his castigation upon Biff. Finally, Willy contradicts the majority of the scene when he defends Biff. Rather than admit his son is an imminent failure, Willy ignores the warning signs and praises him instead.

Glossary

liable subject to the possibility of; likely.

buckle down to apply oneself energetically; set to work with effort.

worm an abject, wretched, or contemptible person.

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