Death of a Salesman By Arthur Miller Summary and Analysis Act II: Scene 12

Summary

Scene 12 begins in the backyard. Willy is measuring the dimensions of the garden and talking to himself. Ben enters and discusses Willy's plan to commit suicide. Ben cautions Willy that the insurance company might refuse to pay the life insurance policy. Willy imagines Biff's reaction to a grand funeral. Willy wants Biff to realize that his father was "known" and respected throughout New England. Ben warns him that Biff will consider him a coward.

Analysis

Willy openly discusses his plan to commit suicide in Scene 12. It is only natural that he confers with Ben because Ben will not reveal Willy's intentions, and he represents success. This is Willy's last opportunity to earn a substantial amount of money and acquire the respect of his older brother. In addition, Willy wants to make amends to Linda for betraying her. Leaving her financially stable will help alleviate the guilt that he bears, even though he still cannot admit his unfaithfulness. As a result, suicide serves as a means for Willy to deny his past, establish order and financial stability for his wife, and gain the respect of his idol.

Willy's only hesitation is his uncertainty regarding Biff. Ben warns Willy that Biff will resent him, but Willy wants to believe, and therefore chooses to believe, that Biff will respect him for sacrificing his life. He is certain that Biff will finally forgive him for being unfaithful to Linda. However, Willy does not stop to consider that Biff resents him not only for the affair, but also for his dishonesty. Ben points out that Biff would see committing suicide in order to collect a life insurance policy as just another form of dishonesty. Willy fails to acknowledge this and refuses to believe that Biff could react negatively to his suicide.

Willy's plan to commit suicide is ironic because Willy has been governed by his need for acceptance from an absent father. His plan will absent him from his own son and cause Biff to hate him.

Glossary

thunderstruck struck with amazement.

ruddiness a red or reddish color or complexion.

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