Act 2, Part 4 Notes from Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman Act 2, Part 4

Light rises on the right forefront of the stage where Bernard, all grown up, sits whistling to himself in the waiting room of Charley's office. Willy's voice precedes him as he comes into the office still yelling. Charley's secretary asks Bernard to handle Willy because it always upsets his father whenever Willy comes into the office. So when Willy walks in, still talking football, Bernard makes small talk with him. Bernard tells Willy he's got a case in Washington and he has stopped by his dad's office to say goodbye before he leaves. Willy notices the tennis racquets by Bernard's bag, and Bernard tells him that the friend he's staying with has his own courts. Bernard's wife just had their second son. Willy is impressed and feels compelled to lie about Biff's success. He tells Bernard that Biff was working out West when Bill Oliver called him in because he wanted Biff to work for him very badly. Bernard just changes the subject and asks Willy if he's still working for the same firm and Willy gets choked up. Then he asks Bernard to explain the secret of success. He wants Bernard to tell him why Biff is a failure, why it worked out that "his life ended after that Ebbets Field game" because "[f]rom the age of seventeen nothing good ever happened to him." Act 2, Part 4, pg. 71 Bernard answers that he never trained himself for anything. He points out that although Biff flunked math and didn't graduate, he could've taken summer school, but for some reason he just gave up. Bernard remembers that Biff went to see Willy in Boston after he found out he flunked math. He was going to take summer school, but after he came back from visiting Willy in Boston, he threw his University of Virginia sneakers into the furnace because he didn't want to go anymore. Bernard says, "I've often thought of how strange it was that I knew he'd given up his life." Act 2, Part 4, pg. 72 He asks Willy what happened in Boston, but Willy is defensive and argumentative. Charley comes out of his office before things get out of hand and tells Willy that Bernard is off to Washington to try a case before the Supreme Court. Willy is shocked, but happy for him. Bernard leaves the stage.

Topic Tracking: Dishonesty 13
Topic Tracking: Image 9

When Bernard leaves, Charley gives Willy $50, but Willy tells him that he needs more to make his insurance payment. Charley has offered him a job before, but Willy won't take it, and now Charley is offended that Willy will take his money, but he won't work for him. The men argue and Willy admits that he was fired today and is outraged that Wagner could fire him after Willy was so close to Wagner's father when he had been in charge. Willy claims he had even named Wagner; he'd named him Howard, and the man still fired him. Charley says:

"Willy, when're you gonna realize that them things don't mean anything. You named him Howard, but you can't sell that. The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you're a salesman, and you don't know that." Act 2, Part 4, pg. 75

Charley tells him that being well liked doesn't mean anything; it doesn't make you rich. A lot of successful people weren't well liked, but they were successful. Again he offers Willy a job, but Willy won't take it; Charley gives him the money for the insurance payment, and Willy says, "After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive." Act 2, Part 4, pg. 76 Charley gets a little worried, and then Willy apologizes for arguing with Bernard, assuring himself that one day he, Biff, and Hap will all be successful. Near tears, Willy says that Charley's the only friend he's got, and then he leaves. All the light blacks out before rowdy music plays and a red glow comes up behind the screen at right.

Topic Tracking: Image 10

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