LINDA (calling after Willy): But in your slippers, Willy!
(Willy is almost gone when Biff, in his pajamas, comes down the stairs and enters the kitchen.) BIFF: What is he doing out there?
BIFF: God Almighty. Mom, how long has he been doing this?
LINDA: Don’t, he’ll hear you.
BIFF: What the hell is the matter with him?
LINDA: It’ll pass by morning.
BIFF: Shouldn’t we do anything?
LINDA: Oh, my dear, you should do a lot of things, but there’s nothing to do, so go to sleep.
(Happy comes down the stair and sits on the steps.) HAPPY: I never heard him so loud, Mom.
LINDA: Well, come around more often; you’ll hear him. (She sits down at the table and mends the lining of Willy’s jacket.)
BIFF: Why didn’t you ever write me about this, Mom?
LINDA: How would I write to you? For over three months you had no address.
BIFF: I was on the move. But you know I thought of you all the time. You know that, don’t you, pal?
LINDA: I know, dear, I know. But he likes to have a letter. Just to know that there’s still a possibility for better things.
BIFF: He’s not like this all the time, is he?
LINDA: It’s when you come home he’s always the worst.
BIFF: When I come home?
LINDA: When you write you’re coming, he’s all smiles, and talks about the future, and — he’s just wonderful. And then the closer you seem to come, the more shaky he gets, and then, by the time you get here, he’s arguing, and he seems angry at you. I think it’s just that maybe he can’t bring himself to — to open up to you. Why are you so hateful to each other? Why is that?
BIFF (evasively): I’m not hateful, Mom.
LINDA: But you no sooner come in the door than you’re fighting!
BIFF: I don’t know why. I mean to change. I’m tryin’, Mom, you understand?
LINDA: Are you home to stay now?
BIFF: I don’t know. I want to look around, see what’s doin’.
LINDA: Biff, you can’t look around all your life, can you?
BIFF: I just can’t take hold, Mom. I can’t take hold of some kind of a life.
LINDA: Biff, a man is not a bird, to come and go with the springtime.
BIFF: Your hair... (He touches her hair.) Your hair got so gray.
BIFF: Dye it again, will ya? I don’t want my pal looking old. (He smiles.)
LINDA: You’re such a boy! You think you can go away for a year and... You’ve got to get it into your head now that one day you’ll knock on this door and there’ll be strange people here...
BIFF: What are you talking about? You’re not even sixty, Mom.
LINDA: But what about your father?
BIFF (lamely): Well, I meant him too.
HAPPY: He admires Pop.
LINDA: Biff, dear, if you don’t have any feeling for him, then you can’t have any feeling for me.
BIFF: Sure I can, Mom.
LINDA: No. You can’t just come to see me, because I love him. (With a threat, but only a threat, of tears.) He’s the dearest man in the world to me, and I won’t have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue. You’ve got to make up your mind now, darling, there’s no leeway any more. Either he’s your father and you pay him that respect, or else you’re not to come here. I know he’s not easy to get along with — nobody knows that better than me — but...
WILLY (from the left, with a laugh): Hey, hey, Biffo!
BIFF (starting to go out after Willy): What the hell is the matter with him? (Happy stops him.)
LINDA: Don’t — don’t go near him!
BIFF: Stop making excuses for him! He always, always wiped the floor with you. Never had an ounce of respect for you.
HAPPY: He’s always had respect for...
BIFF: What the hell do you know about it? HAPPY (surlily): Just don’t call him crazy!
BIFF: He’s got no character — Charley wouldn’t do this. Not in his own house — spewing out that vomit from his mind.
HAPPY: Charley never had to cope with what he’s got to.
BIFF: People are worse off than Willy Loman. Believe me, I’ve seen them!
LINDA: Then make Charley your father, Biff. You can’t do that, can you? I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person. You called him crazy...
BIFF: I didn’t mean...
LINDA: No, a lot of people think he’s lost his — balance. But you don’t have to be very smart to know what his trouble is. The man is exhausted.
LINDA: A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. He works for a company thirty-six years this March, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away.
HAPPY (indignantly): I didn’t know that, Mom.
LINDA: You never asked, my dear! Now that you get your spending money someplace else you don’t trouble your mind with him.
HAPPY: But I gave you money last...
LINDA: Christmas time, fifty dollars! To fix the hot water it cost ninety-seven fifty! For five weeks he’s been on straight commission, like a beginner, an unknown!
BIFF: Those ungrateful bastards!
LINDA: Are they any worse than his sons? When he brought them business, when he was young, they were glad to see him. But now his old friends, the old buyers that loved him so and always found some order to hand him in a pinch — they’re all dead, retired. He used to be able to make six, seven calls a day in Boston. Now he takes his valises out of the car and puts them back and takes them out again and he’s exhausted. Instead of walking he talks now. He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him any more, no one welcomes him. And what goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent? Why shouldn’t he talk to himself? Why? When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend to me that it’s his pay? How long can that go on? How long? You see what I’m sitting here and waiting for? And you tell me he has no character? The man who never worked a day but for your benefit? When does he get the medal for that? Is this his reward — to turn around at the age of sixty-three and find his sons, who he loved better than his life, one a philandering bum...
LINDA: That’s all you are, my baby! (To Biff.) And you! What happened to the love you had for him? You were such pals! How you used to talk to him on the phone every night! How lonely he was till he could come home to you!
BIFF: All right, Mom. I’ll live here in my room, and I’ll get a job.
I’ll keep away from him, that’s all.
LINDA: No, Biff. You can’t stay here and fight all the time.
BIFF: He threw me out of this house, remember that.
LINDA: Why did he do that? I never knew why.
BIFF: Because I know he’s a fake and he doesn’t like anybody around who knows!
LINDA: Why a fake? In what way? What do you mean?
BIFF: Just don’t lay it all at my feet. It’s between me and him — that’s all I have to say. I’ll chip in from now on. He’ll settle for half my pay check. He’ll be all right. I’m going to bed. (He starts for the stairs.)
LINDA: He won’t be all right.
BIFF (turning on the stairs, furiously): I hate this city and I’ll stay here. Now what do you want?
LINDA: He’s dying, Biff.
(Happy turns quickly to her, shocked.) BIFF (after a pause): Why is he dying?
LINDA: He’s been trying to kill himself.
BIFF (with great horror): How?
LINDA: I live from day to day.
BIFF: What’re you talking about?
LINDA: Remember I wrote you that he smashed up the car again? In February?
LINDA: The insurance inspector came. He said that they have evidence. That all these accidents in the last year — weren’t — weren’t — accidents.
LINDA: Well, it seems she was walking down the road and saw his car. She says that he wasn’t driving fast at all, and that he didn’t skid. She says he came to that little bridge, and then deliberately smashed into the railing, and it was only the shallowness of the water that saved him.
BIFF: Oh, no, he probably just fell asleep again.
LINDA: I don’t think he fell asleep.
BIFF: Why not?
LINDA: Last month... (With great difficulty.) Oh, boys, it’s so hard to say a thing like this! He’s just a big stupid man to you, but I tell you there’s more good in him than in many other people. (She chokes, wipes her eyes.) I was looking for a fuse. The lights blew out, and I went down the cellar. And behind the fuse box — it happened to fall out — was a length of rubber pipe — just short.
HAPPY: No kidding!
LINDA: There’s a little attachment on the end of it. I knew right away. And sure enough, on the bottom of the water heater there’s a new little nipple on the gas pipe.
HAPPY (angrily): That — jerk.
BIFF: Did you have it taken off?
LINDA: I’m — I’m ashamed to. How can I mention it to him? Every day I go down and take away that little rubber pipe. But, when he comes home, I put it back where it was. How can I insult him that way? I don’t know what to do. I live from day to day, boys. I tell you, I know every thought in his mind. It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell you he put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him. (She is bent over in the chair, weeping, her face in her hands.) Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands!
HAPPY (to Biff): How do you like that damned fool!
BIFF (kissing her): All right, pal, all right. It’s all settled now. I’ve been remiss. I know that, Mom. But now I’ll stay, and I swear to you, I’ll apply myself. (Kneeling in front of her, in a fever of self-reproach.) It’s just — you see, Mom, I don’t fit in business. Not that I won’t try. I’ll try, and I’ll make good.
HAPPY: Sure you will. The trouble with you in business was you never tried to please people.
BIFF: I know, I...
HAPPY: Like when you worked for Harrison’s. Bob Harrison said you were tops, and then you go and do some damn fool thing like whistling whole songs in the elevator like a comedian.
BIFF (against Happy): So what? I like to whistle sometimes.
HAPPY: You don’t raise a guy to a responsible job who whistles in the elevator!
LINDA: Well, don’t argue about it now.
HAPPY: Like when you’d go off and swim in the middle of the day instead of taking the line around.
BIFF (his resentment rising): Well, don’t you run off? You take off sometimes, don’t you? On a nice summer day?
HAPPY: Yeah, but I cover myself!
HAPPY: If I’m going to take a fade the boss can call any number where I’m supposed to be and they’ll swear to him that I just left. I’ll tell you something that I hate so say, Biff, but in the business world some of them think you’re crazy.
BIFF (angered): Screw the business world!
HAPPY: All right, screw it! Great, but cover yourself!
LINDA: Hap, Hap.
BIFF: I don’t care what they think! They’ve laughed at Dad for years, and you know why? Because we don’t belong in this nuthouse of a city! We should be mixing cement on some open plain or — or carpenters. A carpenter is allowed to whistle! (Willy walks in from the entrance of the house, at left.)
WILLY: Even your grandfather was better than a carpenter. (Pause. They watch him.) You never grew up. Bernard does not whistle in the elevator, I assure you.
BIFF (as though to laugh Willy out of it): Yeah, but you do, Pop.
WILLY: I never in my life whistled in an elevator! And who in the business world thinks I’m crazy?
BIFF: I didn’t mean it like that, Pop. Now don’t make a whole thing out of it, will ya?
WILLY: Go back to the West! Be a carpenter, a cowboy, enjoy yourself!
LINDA: Willy, he was just saying...
WILLY: I heard what he said!
HAPPY (trying to quiet Willy): Hey, Pop, come on now...
WILLY (continuing over Happy’s line): They laugh at me, heh? Go to Filene’s, go to the Hub, go to Slattery’s, Boston. Call out the name Willy Loman and see what happens! Big shot!
BIFF: All right, Pop.
BIFF: All right!
WILLY: Why do you always insult me?
BIFF: I didn’t say a word. (To Linda.) Did I say a word?
LINDA: He didn’t say anything, Willy.
WILLY (going to the doorway of the living room): All right, good night, good night.
LINDA: Willy, dear, he just decided...
WILLY (to Biff): If you get tired hanging around tomorrow, paint the ceiling I put up in the living room.
BIFF: I’m leaving early tomorrow.
HAPPY: He’s going to see Bill Oliver, Pop.
WILLY (interestedly): Oliver? For what?
BIFF (with reserve, but trying, trying): He always said he’d stake me. I’d like to go into business, so maybe I can take him up on it.
LINDA: Isn’t that wonderful?
WILLY: Don’t interrupt. What’s wonderful about it? There’s fifty men in the City of New York who’d stake him. (To Biff.) Sporting goods?
BIFF: I guess so. I know something about it and...
WILLY: He knows something about it! You know sporting goods better than Spalding, for God’s sake! How much is he giving you?
BIFF: I don’t know, I didn’t even see him yet, but...
WILLY: Then what’re you talkin’ about?
BIFF (getting angry): Well, all I said was I’m gonna see him, that’s all!
WILLY (turning away): Ah, you’re counting your chickens again.
BIFF (starting left for the stairs.): Oh, Jesus, I’m going to sleep!
WILLY (calling after him): Don’t curse in this house!
BIFF (turning): Since when did you get so clean?
HAPPY (trying to stop them): Wait a...
WILLY: Don’t use that language to me! I won’t have it!
HAPPY (grabbing Biff, shouts): Wait a minute! I got an idea. I got a feasible idea. Come here, Biff, let’s talk this over now, let’s talk some sense here. When I was down in Florida last time, I thought of a great idea to sell sporting goods. It just came back to me. You and I, Biff — we have a line, the Loman Line. We train a couple of weeks, and put on a couple of exhibitions, see?
WILLY: That’s an idea!
HAPPY: Wait! We form two basketball teams, see? Two waterpolo teams. We play each other. It’s a million dollars’ worth of publicity. Two brothers, see? The Loman Brothers. Displays in the Royal Palms — all the hotels. And banners over the ring and the basketball court: »Loman Brothers«. Baby, we could sell sporting goods!
WILLY: That is a one-million-dollar idea!
BIFF: I’m in great shape as far as that’s concerned.
HAPPY: And the beauty of it is, Biff, it wouldn’t be like a business. We’d be out playin’ ball again...
BIFF (enthused): Yeah, that’s...
HAPPY: And you wouldn’t get fed up with it, Biff. It’d be the family again. There’d be the old honor, and comradeship, and if you wanted to go off for a swim or somethin’ — well, you’d do it! Without some smart cooky gettin’ up ahead of you!
WILLY: Lick the world! You guys together could absolutely lick the civilized world.
BIFF: I’ll see Oliver tomorrow. Hap, if we could work that out...
LINDA: Maybe things are beginning to...
WILLY (wildly enthused, to Linda): Stop interrupting! (To Biff.) But don’t wear sport jacket and slacks when you see Oliver.
WILLY (to Linda): Will you stop! (To Biff.) Walk in very serious. You are not applying for a boy’s job. Money is to pass. Be quiet, fine, and serious. Everybody likes a kidder, but nobody lends him money.
HAPPY: I’ll try to get some myself, Biff. I’m sure I can.
WILLY: I see great things for you kids, I think your troubles are over. But remember, start big and you’ll end big. Ask for fifteen. How much you gonna ask for?
BIFF: Gee, I don’t know...
WILLY: And don’t say »Gee«. »Gee« is a boy’s word. A man walking in for fifteen thousand dollars does not say »Gee!«
BIFF: Ten, I think, would be top though.
WILLY: Don’t be so modest. You always started too low. Walk in with a big laugh. Don’t look worried. Start off with a couple of your good stones to lighten things up. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it — because personality always wins the day.
LINDA: Oliver always thought the highest of him...
WILLY: Will you let me talk?
BIFF: Don’t yell at her, Pop, will ya?
WILLY (angrily): I was talking, wasn’t I?
BIFF: I don’t like you yelling at her all the time, and I’m tellin’ you, that’s all.
WILLY: What’re you, takin’ over this house?
WILLY (turning to her): Don’t take his side all the time, goddammit!
BIFF (furiously): Stop yelling at her!
WILLY (suddenly pulling on his cheek, beaten down, guilt ridden): Give my best to Bill Oliver — he may remember me. (He exits through the living room doorway.)
LINDA (her voice subdued): What’d you have to start that for? (Biff turns away.) You see how sweet he was as soon as you talked hopefully? (She goes over to Biff.) Come up and say good night to him. Don’t let him go to bed that way.
HAPPY: Come on, Biff, let’s buck him up.
LINDA: Please, dear. Just say good night. It takes so little to make him happy. Come. (She goes through the living room doorway, calling upstairs from within the living room.) Your pajamas are hanging in the bathroom, Willy!
HAPPY (looking toward where Linda went out): What a woman! They broke the mold when they made her. You know that, Biff?
BIFF: He’s off salary. My God, working on commission!
HAPPY: Well, let’s face it: he’s no hot-shot selling man. Except that sometimes, you have to admit, he’s a sweet personality.
BIFF (deciding): Lend me ten bucks, will ya? I want to buy some new ties.
HAPPY: I’ll take you to a place I know. Beautiful stuff. Wear one of my striped shirts tomorrow.
BIFF: She got gray. Mom got awful old. Gee, I’m gonna go in to Oliver tomorrow and knock him for a...
HAPPY: Come on up. Tell that to Dad. Let’s give him a whirl. Come on.
BIFF (steamed up): You know, with ten thousand bucks, boy!
HAPPY (as they go into the living room): That’s the talk, Biff, that’s the first time I’ve heard the old confidence out of you! (From within the living room, fading off.) You’re gonna live with me, kid, and any babe you want just say the word... (The last lines are hardly heard. They are mounting the stairs to their parents’ bedroom.)
LINDA (entering her bedroom and addressing Willy, who is in the bathroom. She is straightening the bed for him): Can you do
anything about the shower? It drips.
WILLY (from the bathroom): All of a sudden everything falls to pieces. Goddam plumbing, oughta be sued, those people. I hardly finished putting it in and the thing... (His words rumble off.)
LINDA: I’m just wondering if Oliver will remember him. You think he might?
WILLY (coming out of the bathroom in his pajamas): Remember him? What’s the matter with you, you crazy? If he’d’ve stayed with Oliver he’d be on top by now! Wait’ll Oliver gets a look at him. You don’t know the average caliber any more. The average young man today — (he is getting into bed) — is got a caliber of zero. Greatest thing in the world for him was to bum around.
(Biff and Happy enter the bedroom. Slight pause.) WILLY (stops short, looking at Biff): Glad to hear it, boy.
HAPPY: He wanted to say good night to you, sport.
WILLY (to Biff): Yeah. Knock him dead, boy. What’d you want to tell me?
WILLY (unable to resist): And if anything falls off the desk while you’re talking to him — like a package or something — don’t you pick it up. They have office boys for that.
LINDA: I’ll make a big breakfast...
WILLY: Will you let me finish? (To Biff.) Tell him you were in the business in the West. Not farm work.
BIFF: All right, Dad.
LINDA: I think everything...
WILLY (going right through her speech): And don’t undersell yourself. No less than fifteen thousand dollars.
BIFF (unable to bear him): Okay. Good night, Mom. (He starts moving.)
WILLY: Because you got a greatness in you, Biff, remember that. You got all kinds a greatness... (He lies back, exhausted. Biff walks out.)
LINDA (calling after Biff): Sleep well, darling!
HAPPY: I’m gonna get married, Mom. I wanted to tell you.
LINDA: Go to sleep, dear.
HAPPY (going): I just wanted to tell you.
WILLY: Keep up the good work. (Happy exits.) God... remember that Ebbets Field game? The championship of the city?
LINDA: Just rest. Should I sing to you?
WILLY: Yeah. Sing to me. (Linda hums a soft lullaby.) When that team came out — he was the tallest, remember?
LINDA: Oh, yes. And in gold.
(Biff enters the darkened kitchen, takes a cigarette, and leaves the house. He comes downstage into a golden pool of light. He smokes, staring at the night.)
WILLY: Like a young god. Hercules — something like that. And the sun, the sun all around him. Remember how he waved to me? Right up from the field, with the representatives of three colleges standing by? And the buyers I brought, and the cheers when he came out — Loman, Loman, Loman! God Almighty, he’ll be great yet. A star like that, magnificent, can never really fade away!
(The light on Willy is fading. The gas heater begins to glow through the kitchen wall, near the stairs, a blue flame beneath red coils.) LINDA (timidly): Willy dear, what has he got against you?
WILLY: I’m so tired. Don’t talk any more.
(Biff slowly returns to the kitchen. He stops, stares toward the heater.) LINDA: Will you ask Howard to let you work in New York?
WILLY: First thing in the morning. Everything’ll be all right.
(Biff reaches behind the heater and draws out a length of rubber tubing. He is horrified and turns his head toward Willy’s room, still dimly lit, from which the strains of Linda’s desperate but monotonous humming rise.) WILLY (staring through the window into the moonlight): Gee, look at the moon moving between the buildings!
(Biff wraps the tubing around his hand and quickly goes up the stairs.)
Music is heard, gay and bright. The curtain rises as the music fades away. Willy, in shirt sleeves, is sitting at the kitchen table, sipping coffee, his hat in his lap. Linda is filling his cup when she can.