Death of a Salesman Act 2, Part 2
Willy comes into Wagner's office in an almost timid way while Wagner is threading a wire-recording machine. Willy keeps trying to talk to Wagner, but Wagner interrupts him time after time to show him the miracles of the recording machine and play back the voices of his son and daughter as they whistle songs and recite state capitals into the machine. When Willy finally finds a way to lead the conversation about the recording machine into a discussion of how he no longer wants to be on the road, Wagner realizes that Willy is supposed to be in Boston that day. He asks if Willy "didn't crack up again" Act 2, Part 2, pg. 59 because that's happened several times before. Willy, ignoring the question, asks for a New York job, reminding Wagner that he told Willy at Christmas that he'd look for a local space for him. Wagner can't help him. Willy pushes harder, bringing up Wagner's father at every opportunity, as if claiming some great friendship with the man will guilt Wagner into finding a place for him. Willy gets angry as Wagner keeps refusing him, and Willy tries to explain to Wagner why he chose to be a salesman. Wagner hardly listens as Willy tells a story about Dave Singleman, the 84-year-old salesman who traveled from city to city making his sales from his hotel room because so many people knew and liked him. Buyers and salesman from all over New England attended his funeral, and that was Willy's aspiration when he went into sales. That's why he didn't go to Alaska with his brother, Ben. He stuck with sales because,
"[i]n those days there was personality in it . . . There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it's all cut and dried, and there's no chance for bringing friendship to bear -- or personality . . . They don't know [Willy] any more." Act 2, Part 2, pg. 61
He asks Wagner again to find him a salaried position in New York, but Wagner can't do it. Willy explodes, yelling at Wagner that he's put thirty-four years into the company and now he can't even pay his insurance. Willy insists that "[y]ou can't eat the orange and throw the peel away -- a man is not a piece of fruit!" Act 2, Part 2, pg. 61-2 After the outburst and a final refusal, Wagner leaves Willy in the office to pull himself together, and Willy realizes that he has just snapped. In his efforts to recover from the emotional tumult, he bumps the recorder machine and it comes on spouting the recorded voice of Wagner's son listing the state capitals. The noise scares Willy and he calls out to Wagner who comes in and unplugs the machine. Willy, wilted in defeat, tells Wagner that he'll go to Boston tomorrow. Wagner, however, tells him that he doesn't want Willy representing the company anymore. He fires Willy and tells him to let his sons, his fine boys, take care of him for a while so he can get some rest. Wagner leaves the office again pushing the recording machine off stage left. Willy stares into space and Ben's music begins playing again as Ben enters from the right.