Death of a Salesman Quotes

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 in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.

– Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman, Act 1. In one of the play’s most famous speeches, Linda makes this impassioned appeal for the ordinary human being to be respected and afforded their dignity. Accepting her husband’s weaknesses, she strongly defends him to her two sons after Biff calls him crazy and says he has no character. Her soliloquy admonishes and pleads with them not to abandon him. It is her cry of insistance on the dignity of the weak, those cast aside by the system, and not just the strong. The life and death of the little man is of as much importance as that of the great man, she believes. The message of her speech is that every human being matters and no one is disposable. This includes an insignificant person like Willy, betrayed and abandoned by a capitalist system that has no further use for him. Miller uses pathos throughout the play but here it is heightened as Linda, who is devoted to Willy, asks for respect to be shown to her flawed husband. During this key moment we hear in Linda’s voice the rage of Miller as he questions the morality of a society that uses people as tools for profit and then discards them. Employing a graphic simile, Linda pleads with Biff to reconcile with his father and not abandon him so that he dies "like an old dog." Linda appears to accept the inevitability of Willy’s imminent death, which is foreshadowed here. The passage shows her deep devotion to Willy.

BIFF: Those ungrateful bastards!
LINDA: Are they any worse than his sons? When he brought them business, when he was young, they were glad to see him. But now his old friends, the old buyers that loved him so and always found some order to hand him in a pinch – they’re all dead, retired. He used to be able to make six, seven calls a day in Boston. Now he takes his valises out of the car and puts them back and takes them out again and he’s exhausted. Instead of walking he talks now. He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him any more, no one welcomes him. And what goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent? Why shouldn’t he talk to himself? Why? When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend to me that it’s his pay? How long can that go on? How long? You see what I’m sitting here and waiting for? And you tell me he has no character? The man who never worked a day but for your benefit? When does he get the medal for that? Is this his reward – to turn around at the age of sixty-three and find his sons, who he loved better than his life, one a philandering bum…

– Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman, Act 1. Linda delivers a long, powerful monologue to her sons in defense of Willy. It comes in response to Biff blasting his father’s employers as "ungrateful bastards" for placing him on straight commission "like a beginner, an unknown," as Linda puts it. She is aware of her husband’s failures and self-deceptions, the downward spiral in his career and mental health, his borrowing money from Charley to make ends meet. But nevertheless she is devoted to Willy and her family. Linda may display a meek nature throughout the play, but this emotional speech highlights her strength of character. She defends her husband as a hard worker and good father who sacrificed to provide for his two sons. She upbraids Biff and Happy for their neglectful behavior towards their father and not recognizing his true worth.