Death of a Salesman By Arthur Miller Summary and Analysis Act II: Scene 6

Summary

Charley comes in the office as Bernard leaves. Charley tells Willy that Bernard will present a case before the Supreme Court. Charley gives Willy $50, but Willy asks for more because of his insurance payment. Charley offers Willy a job, but Willy refuses repeatedly. Charley is offended and becomes angry; however, he gives Willy the money. Willy reveals that Howard fired him. Once again Charley attempts to convince Willy to work for him, but Willy refuses and will not explain why. Willy remarks that an individual is "worth more dead than alive."

Analysis

Scene 6 represents Willy's last chance to put his life back together. Although Charley freely gives Willy the money that he needs, he offers Willy the opportunity to start his life over and end the charade he is living. In many ways, Charley's proposition can be paralleled to Ben's. Both men present Willy with a job that guarantees a measure of success, along with attractive benefits. Ben gave him the chance to work outdoors and possibly become rich, while Charley gives him the chance to earn a reasonable income without traveling.

Pride causes Willy to lose both of his chances. He turned down Ben's job because he wanted to prove to his brother that he could do just as well in Brooklyn. He turns Charley down because he has always been jealous of the fact that Charley owns his own business. In the past, Willy ridiculed Charley, just as he used to ridicule Bernard, so he feels that working for Charley now would be a humiliation. It is perfectly fine with Willy to borrow money from Charley secretly, but he does not want to be associated with Charley as an employer.

Charley confronts Willy with the truth about his job: Willy is a salesman, and a salesman is defined by what he can sell. Anything that cannot be sold is irrelevant and of no value. If the salesman cannot sell anything, then he is worthless. The fact that Charley can adequately describe Willy's job, as well as Willy's character, along with the fact that he genuinely wants to help him, forces Willy to acknowledge that Charley is his "only friend."

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