Act 2, Part 7 Notes from Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman Act 2, Part 7

Willy was yelling when the waiter came in and told him that the boys left with the girls they found. Willy, sad and dejected, offers the waiter some money, but the waiter puts it back in Willy's jacket pocket. Willy heads to a hardware store to get seeds for planting a garden. The light fades.

After a long pause, the sound of a flute plays softly as the light rises on the empty kitchen. Biff and Hap appear at the door of the house. Hap has roses for his mom, and he goes into the kitchen to find her, and then looks into the living room where she's sitting with Willy's jacket in her lap. Hap freezes in the doorway and as she walks toward him; he backs into the kitchen and seems afraid. He keeps backing to the right as she silently appears in the living room doorway and asks where they were. He says they met some girls and they got her some flowers, but she's so mad at the boys for deserting their father that she throws the roses at Biff's feet as he stands inside the kitchen doorway. Hap tries to play off her anger, but both she and Biff tell him to shut up. Linda orders the boys to leave and not come back. Biff, looking into the living room and his parents' bedroom, insists on talking to Willy before he goes. Hap, after being yelled at again, goes upstairs, and Biff and Linda are left in the kitchen. Linda won't tell Biff where his father is, but when Biff hears hammering outside, she tells him that Willy's making a garden, even though it's the middle of the night. Biff goes outside, and Linda follows him as the light fades on them and comes up on Willy in the center of the front of the stage. Willy has a flashlight, hoe, and some seed packets and is measuring off the distance with his foot as he reads the planting directions on the packets. Willy stops his measuring when Ben appears at right, moving towards him. He tells his brother that Linda has suffered so much and that a man's life has to add up to something, so he's come up with a plan to make his life worth a guaranteed $20,000. Ben warns Willy that the insurance company might not honor the policy and that what's he's thinking of is a cowardly thing to do. But Willy insists that being nothing the rest of his life would be worse than what he has in mind. Ben agrees. Willy thinks that his plan is perfect because Biff will realize that he was wrong about his dad.

"Ben, that funeral will be massive! They'll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old-timers 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." Act 2, Part 7, pg. 100

Ben warns that Biff might consider Willy a coward and a fool for what he's going to do, and that bothers Willy because he just wants to give Biff something without having Biff hate him.

While Willy is talking about his plan, Ben goes off upstage and disappears. Biff comes down from the left and Willy looks up at him in confusion. Biff reminds Willy that people can see him out in the yard rooting around in the dark to make a garden, but Willy doesn't care. He tells Biff to go away and leave him alone and Biff tells him that he's leaving for good and that it doesn't matter whose fault it is that he's a failure. Willy goes inside and Biff follows him to tell Linda that he's leaving. Biff says he won't write so that they don't have to think about him and they can start being happy again. Biff is ready to go, but Willy won't shake his hand. They start arguing again, Willy yells at him and Biff tries to explain what's happened and why he has to go. Biff wants to leave peaceably, but Willy won't let him. When Biff asks what Willy wants from him, Willy tells him that he wants Biff to know that he wasted his life because of spite. "Spite, spite, is the word of your undoing!" Act 2, Part 7, pg. 103 Willy tells Biff that he can't blame his failure on him, and Biff argues that he's not trying to. Willy keeps going on about it and Biff finally gets angry and the arguing is loud enough to bring Hap downstairs. Biff gets so mad that he pulls the rubber piping from his pocket and puts it in front of Willy, telling him that suicide won't make him a hero or win him any sympathy in Biff's eyes. Happy and Linda are shocked that Biff would do such a thing, but Biff won't let them take it off the table. Willy denies knowing what the rubber piping is for. Willy keeps insisting repeatedly that Biff is spiteful, and Biff, sick of lying and pretending to be who he isn't, wants to tell Willy who they really are because Biff thinks Willy doesn't know the truth. He says, "[w]e never told the truth for ten minutes in this house." Act 2, Part 7, pg. 104 Happy tries to argue with him, but Biff points out the lie that Happy is living, pretending that he's the assistant buyer when he's really only one of two assistants to the assistant buyer. Biff tells Willy that he didn't have an address for three months because he was in jail for stealing a suit. He tells Willy that stealing has cost him every decent job he's had since he got out of high school. Willy asks Biff if he's blaming him for that, and Biff says that Willy made him think he was such a big shot that he couldn't stand taking orders from anyone, so he couldn't hold down a job. But Biff figured everything out when he was running from Oliver's office. He thought:

"Why am I trying to become what I don't want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!" Act 2, Part 7, pg. 105

Topic Tracking: Dishonesty 16

Willy refuses Biff's assertion that they are simply common men. Biff starts toward Willy, furious and ready to fight, but Hap holds him off. Biff says that Willy was a guy who tried hard but failed like so many other guys have done, and that Biff himself is just an ordinary guy and that Willy has to realize that he's not special anymore. Willy calls him vengeful and spiteful again, and Biff breaks away from Happy. Willy starts up the stairs away from Biff, but Biff grabs him and yells that it's not anyone's fault that Biff is nothing, that's just the way it is. Then, exhausted from trying to explain and furious that Willy won't listen, Biff breaks down into sobs. He holds onto Willy and Willy fumbles for Biff's face. Crying but breaking away from Willy, Biff tells Linda that he'll leave in the morning and he goes upstairs to bed.

When Biff leaves the stage, Willy is suddenly happy because Biff cried and that means that he loves his dad. Willy says that Biff is going to be magnificent, and he hears Ben's voice say that Biff will be more magnificent when he has $20,000 to back him. Ben's music plays hauntingly in the background. Linda senses that Willy's mind has moved on to something dangerous and urges him to go to bed. Happy, still vying for attention, tells his parents that he's going to get married, but Linda dismisses him up to bed. Willy is listening to Ben as he urges Willy to go into the jungle and get a diamond. She tries to get Willy upstairs to bed, too, but he tells her that he wants to sit by himself for a few minutes to calm down, so she fearfully goes upstairs without him. Ben's voice keeps telling him to go into the jungle and get something that can be touched and held, something substantial. Linda, on her way up the stairs, tells Willy that this is the only way to do it, and although she's talking about Biff leaving, Willy agrees with her, but he's thinking about his plan for giving Biff something to make him magnificent.

Topic Tracking: Failure 10

Willy talks to Ben about how happy he is that Biff loves him. He believes Biff will worship him for what he's going to do for him. Ben keeps prompting Willy to act, while Linda calls to him from their bedroom. In the middle of Willy's excited babbling, Ben looks at his watch and urges Willy to hurry so they don't miss the boat and then disappears. Willy is talking football again as he looks toward the house, but when he turns around, he realizes that Ben is gone. Willy starts to panic as Linda calls to him from upstairs. He shushes her and moves his arms as if he's fighting off faces and voices that are swarming him. Faint, high music crescendos into a great intensity that stops him. Suddenly he rushes out of the house and around the corner. Linda calls out to him and hears no answer. Biff, still in his clothes, gets up off of his bed and Hap sits up. They're listening. Linda calls out again, very afraid. They hear the sound of a car starting and moving away at full speed. Biff runs to the top of the stairs and calls to Willy. The music crashes loudly and then trickles down to the sound of a single cello string. Biff returns to his room where he and Hap put on their jackets. Linda walks slowly out of her room. The music is a march now and the lighting suggests day. Charley and Bernard wait at the kitchen door, while Linda walks through the draped doorway to the living room in her funeral clothes. She takes Charley's arm and they all walk through the wall-line of the kitchen toward the audience. At the edge, Linda lays the flowers down, kneeling beside the grave.

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