Book Notes Act 2, Part 5 Notes from Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman Act 2, Part 5

Happy and a waiter set up a table in the private part of Frank's Chop House, where he, Biff, and Willy are planning to meet for dinner. Hap tells the waiter that his brother, a big cattleman from out West, is in town, so bring out lobster and champagne. While Hap waits for Biff and Willy to arrive, a pretty woman walks in and Hap hits on her until Biff gets there. To get the girl interested in Biff, Hap tells her that Biff's the quarterback for the Giants and lies that he (Hap) went to West Point. Once he has her attention, he tells her to cancel her plans and find a friend so the four of them can go out together, and she goes to make some phone calls.

While she's gone, Biff explains that he waited six hours to see Oliver and then the man didn't even remember him. Biff realized while he waited for him that he'd never been a salesman for Oliver -- he'd been a shipping clerk. Meeting with Oliver made him realize that his whole life has been a lie; he, Willy, and Hap had made themselves seem more important than they ever really were. He tells Hap, "We've been talking in a dream for fifteen years." Act 2, Part 5, pg. 81 Biff was so mad at Oliver's dismissal and so upset about his realization that, without meaning to, he stole Oliver's gold fountain pen and ran away. He asks Hap to help him tell Willy what happened. Biff wants to explain that he's not a failure, just to spite Willy. It's not intentional -- he just can't help being a flop. Hap tells Biff to just lie and pretend that he's got a lunch meeting with Oliver tomorrow. After tomorrow, just pretend that Oliver is thinking it over for a few weeks, and then just let it fade away. Before they can discuss it further, Willy comes in.

Topic Tracking: Dishonesty 14

Biff, feeling guilty and nervous, grabs Willy's hand and begins to tell him what he's figured out today. His breathing is interrupting his speech and he's running on the fumes of several drinks as he tells Willy that he was never a salesman for Oliver, but only a shipping clerk. Willy tries to insist that Biff was "practically" Act 2, Part 5, pg. 83 a salesman, but Biff interrupts and insists that they look at the facts. Willy gets mad at Biff for lecturing him and tells the boys that he was fired today, so he's looking for some good news to give Linda. As the rapid-fire conversation continues, Biff tries to find out why Willy was fired, and Willy tries to find out what happened with Oliver, and Hap just tells Willy exactly what he wants to hear. In answer to Willy's questions, Biff tries to tell the truth, but Willy keeps interrupting. Biff gets frustrated and Willy gets angry because he thinks Biff didn't see Oliver, but he won't let Biff get more than a few words out before he interrupts him again. As Biff tries to explain what honestly happened at Oliver's office, Willy hears a single trumpet note and apart from the stage where Willy, Biff, and Hap sit, the house is painted with a green, leafy light. As Biff's voice fades, Young Bernard enters and knocks at the door of the Loman house where youthful Linda appears. Bernard tells her that Biff failed math and left for Boston to find his dad. The light on the house goes dark, and Biff's voice is audible again as Willy mentions math over and over. Biff and Hap are trying to figure out what he's talking about, when he explodes at Biff and tells him that he'd be set by now if he hadn't flunked math. Willy sees the gold pen in Biff's hand and realizes that he stole it from Oliver. He's missed the entire explanation of what happened with Oliver, and as Biff tries to explain the pen, Willy can hear the sound of an operator's voice ringing his hotel room. Willy keeps yelling at the operator that he's not in his room.

Topic Tracking: Failure 9

Biff and Hap have no idea what Willy's talking about, and Biff gets down on his knees in front of Willy promising that he'll make good, he'll be successful. Willy tells him that he's good for nothing and then Willy tries to stand up, but Biff holds him down in his chair. Biff and Hap don't know what's happening because Willy is talking crazy. Biff tries to soothe him by lying and telling him that Oliver will give him the money, but he's supposed to meet Oliver and his partner for lunch tomorrow to discuss it. Biff continues with the lie, telling Willy that he can't meet them at lunch tomorrow, though, because he stole the pen. Willy insists that Biff just tell Oliver the pen was an oversight, but Biff tells him that stealing the pen in combination with stealing the carton of basketballs when he worked for Oliver before would just be too much. He tells Willy he'll find the money somewhere else. As Willy yells at Biff for being a failure, he can hear the hotel's page calling to him and his mistress laughing. He tells Biff that he's a failure and orders Biff to go to the lunch appointment. Biff, trying to find some way out of it, opts for the truth a second time and tells Willy that he doesn't have an appointment. Willy hits him, and the girls come into the room as Hap is separating Willy and Biff. Willy's mistress says that there's someone at the door and then laughs again offstage left.

The girls sit down with them and Biff urges Willy to sit down, too. While the girls talk to Hap and Biff, Willy is about to sit down, when his mistress tells him to get up and answer the door, so he starts walking to stage right. When Biff asks where he's going, Willy says he's going to the washroom and exits stage left. While Willy's gone, the girls admit that they don't believe that Willy is Biff and Hap's dad, but Biff says, "You've just seen a prince walk by. A fine, troubled prince. A hard-working, unappreciated prince. A pal, you understand? A good companion. Always for his boys." Act 2, Part 5, pg. 90 Hap just ignores the situation with Willy, and starts planning where they're going to go after the restaurant. Biff gets mad at Hap for not helping Willy. Biff puts the rubber piping, Willy's suicide plan, on the table and tells Hap that if he cared at all for Willy, he wouldn't let something like that go on. Biff, almost in tears, runs out of the restaurant and Hap and the girls follow him, leaving Willy alone in the restroom. When one of the girls asks Hap if they're going to just leave their father, he says that Willy's not his dad, he's just some guy. They all leave the stage.

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