Death of a Salesman Quotes

BEN: It’s called a cowardly thing, William.
WILLY: Why? Does it take more guts to stand here the rest of my life ringing up a zero?
BEN (yielding): That’s a point, William. (He moves, thinking, turns.) And twenty thousand – that is something one can feel with the hand, it is there.
WILLY (now assured, with rising power): Oh, Ben, that’s the whole beauty of it! I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand. Not like – like an appointment! This would not be another damned fool appointment, Ben, and it changes all the aspects. Because he thinks I’m nothing, see, and so he spites me. But the funeral – (Straightening up) Ben, that funeral will be massive! They’ll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the oldtimers with the strange license plates – that boy will be thunderstruck, Ben, because he never realized – I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey – I am known, Ben, and he’ll see it with his eyes once and for all.

– Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman, Act 2. Willy, talking to his hallucination of Ben, fantasizes that he will achieve the success in death that he failed to reach in life. He has fallen short of his American Dream of acquiring material success while alive. But he believes that the twenty thousand dollars life insurance money his family will receive after his suicide will make up for that. In a simile Willy compares this money to a diamond, diamonds being the symbol of wealth used throughout the play and associated with brother Ben. Willy deceives himself into believing that his funeral will be massive and attended by many of the people who knew and worked with him. His estranged son Biff will realize how wrong he was wrong about his dad by the size of the funeral, he believes. Willy’s words turn to be ironic, since nobody outside the family apart from two neighbors turns up for the funeral. Willy’s suicide is foreshadowed here.