Death of a Salesman

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Ben Loman Character Analysis

Willy's adventurous brother, who has just died in Africa when the play begins. At moments of great stress or doubt, Willy converses with Ben's ghost. Ben is the embodiment of the most old-fashioned aspect of the American Dream, the idea that a man can set out into the wilderness by himself and come back wealthy. Willy regrets not following Ben's path and testing himself against rugged natural settings. Yet he barely knew Ben, and Ben showed contempt for him on his few visits to Willy's home.

Ben Loman Quotes in Death of a Salesman

The Death of a Salesman quotes below are all either spoken by Ben Loman or refer to Ben Loman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The American Dream Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Death of a Salesman published in 2011.
Act 1 Quotes
The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he's rich! The world is an oyster, but you don't crack it open on a mattress!
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker), Ben Loman
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Willy discusses his jealousy for his brother Ben's fortune. Ben came from nothing, but discovered a diamond mine in Africa and got rich. When Willy tells Happy this, Happy wonders how Ben did it. Willy replies with this quote. He tells Happy that dreams are acquired through perseverance, but also great luck. This moment once again plays on the idealized versus realized "American Dream." Adventuring to Africa and making a fortune overnight is Willy's idea of what the American dream should be. But Willy actually lives Arthur Miller's reality of the American dream: a blue-collar, middle-class working man who feels aimless and hasn't achieved any sense of fulfillment or happiness for all his striving. 

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Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never get out of the jungle that way.
Related Characters: Ben Loman (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Alone in his kitchen, Willy daydreams about his brother Ben. On stage, Ben will appear through the walls of the house, and Ben then discusses Willy and his father. He describes his father to Willy, Linda, Biff and Happy. Ben then play fights with Biff and pulls out an umbrella and nearly hits him in the eye. He tells Biff this piece of advice.

Willy has constantly lived in the shadow of his brother Ben, who made a fortune virtually overnight. Willy has had to work his entire life and thus has a skewed sense of what the real American Dream is. He sees it as wealth and monetary success, because of the success of his brother (which was actually based entirely on luck). Furthermore, like Biff and Happy, Willy looks up to his brother. Yet this moment reveals Ben as a cruel person—who knows how many people he has hurt or taken advantage of in order to achieve his "success." Once again, Willy has a warped sense of what is important in life. 

Act 2 Quotes
The jungle is dark but full of diamonds, Willy.
Related Characters: Ben Loman (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

After what seems to have been a revelatory moment with his family, Willy sinks back into his delusions, hearing the voice of his dead brother Ben telling him that "The jungle is dark but full of diamonds." Unbeknownst to his family, Willy turns and listens to this voice. In his delusional state, Ben tells Willy that with money, Biff will be magnificent one day. Ben urges Willy to not give up on his dreams, and to instead return to the "jungle." In a moment alone, Willy agrees. He chooses to abandon his family for the ultimate search of wealth; his life insurance policy. That night, he takes his car and kills himself. His American Dream has been realized, and he has at last reached the dark "jungle" of both death and money.

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Ben Loman Character Timeline in Death of a Salesman

The timeline below shows where the character Ben Loman appears in Death of a Salesman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
...go to bed. Willy wonders aloud why he didn't go to Alaska with his brother Ben, who started with nothing and made it rich by discovering a diamond mine in Africa. (full context)
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
In a kind of daydream, Willy's rugged, dignified older brother Ben appears onstage. Willy tells Charley that Ben died only a few weeks ago, in Africa.... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Now alone, Willy remembers a time when Ben visited the house. In the memory, the two of them discuss their family history with... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Willy calls Biff and Happy into the room and asks Ben to tell them about their grandfather. Ben describes "a very great and a very wild-hearted... (full context)
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Willy boasts that his sons are also rugged. To test his claim, Ben begins to mock-wrestle with Biff, and then trips the boy and threatens him by hovering... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...his sons steal any more from the construction site nearby. Willy, still trying to impress Ben, brags that his sons are fearless characters. Charley counters that the jails are full of... (full context)
Act 2
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Howard leaves, and Willy slips into a memory in which Ben is offering him an opportunity to come to Alaska to manage a tract of timberland.... (full context)
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
In the garden, Willy is talking with Ben, and mentions the $20,000 dollar life insurance policy his family will be entitled to when... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...goes upstairs. Linda follows soon after. Willy promises to also come upstairs soon. Alone, now, Ben appears to him, and Willy assures Ben that Biff will be magnificent one day, once... (full context)