Death of a Salesman

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Stockings Symbol Analysis

Stockings Symbol Icon
During his affair with The Woman, Willy gives her the intimate gift of stockings. Biff's outburst at discovering Willy with The Woman—"You gave her Mama's stockings!"—fixes the stockings in Willy's mind as a symbol of his betrayal. He has let his wife down emotionally, and he is siphoning the family's already strained financial resources toward his ego-stroking affair.

Stockings Quotes in Death of a Salesman

The Death of a Salesman quotes below all refer to the symbol of Stockings. 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 2 Quotes
She's nothing to me, Biff. I was lonely, I was terribly lonely.

You - you gave her Mama's stockings!
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker), Biff Loman (speaker), Linda Loman, The Woman
Related Symbols: Stockings
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
While Biff tries to confess about his meeting with Bill Oliver to his father, Willy sinks into another memory. He goes back to the day he found out Biff flunked math. After failing his course, Biff took a train to visit Willy in Boston, and he found him with another woman in his hotel room. Willy tried to hide his mistress in the bathroom, but eventually she comes out, asking Willy for her stockings that he promised her: Linda's stockings. Biff is heartbroken at his father's infidelity. Once again, the stockings are used as a symbol of betrayal. They are the image that Biff and Willy carry with them, a emblem of that night. After that moment, Biff tells Willy that he won't be retaking math or going to college. Throughout the play Willy has been blaming mathas the reason why Biff hasn't been successful, when in reality it was this shattering moment of disillusionment. The man that Biff had always looked up to is now a fraud. This forever warps Biff's idea of the "American Dream"; something he once defined as the dream of his father's. He now sees that it is all a sham, and is left directionless in life.
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Stockings Symbol Timeline in Death of a Salesman

The timeline below shows where the symbol Stockings 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
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...him out from all the salesmen. He is extremely flattered. She thanks him for the stockings he has given her as a gift, and promises that when he returns she will... (full context)
Act 2
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...Chop House, a steak restaurant in Manhattan. Willy is elated, but just then notices a stocking in Linda's hand. He tells her not to mend stockings, at least not while he's... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...so she had to take a shower in his. The Woman demands a box of stockings before she leaves. Biff begins to cry. Willy makes a host of excuses before admitting... (full context)