Death of a Salesman

Willy Loman Character Analysis

The salesman of the title, and the husband of Linda. We never learn what he sells, but he has thoroughly bought into a version of the American Dream in which charisma and luck count for more than diligence or wisdom. All his life, he represents himself to his family as being constantly on the verge of huge success, while privately wondering why he has not risen to the heights that he believes he is capable of reaching. Eventually, this schism between his dreams and reality results in mental collapse, in which he relives significant moments from his past without learning the lessons of that past. He invests all his hope in his sons and is disappointed in the way they have turned out, not realizing that his shallow dream of success has influenced both Biff's disillusionment and Happy's shallowness. His death represents a final transformation of himself into a commodity—a life insurance policy—for the benefit of his family, whose love he failed to fully recognize while he was still with them.

Willy Loman Quotes in Death of a Salesman

The Death of a Salesman quotes below are all either spoken by Willy Loman or refer to Willy 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Death of a Salesman published in 2011.
Act 1 Quotes
I have such thoughts, I have such strange thoughts.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there's nobody to live in it.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people. And when I bring you fellas up, there'll be open sesame for all of us, 'cause one thing, boys: I have friends.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker), Biff Loman, Happy Loman
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

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Linda: Willy, darling, you're the handsomest man in the world—

Willy: Oh, no, Linda.

Linda: To me you are. The handsomest.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker), Linda Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Gotta break your neck to see a star in this yard.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

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I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper... 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.
Related Characters: Linda Loman (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker), Biff Loman
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2 Quotes
Willy: Your father came to me the day you were born and asked me what I thought of the name of Howard, may he rest in peace.

Howard: I appreciate that, Willy, but there just is no spot here for you.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker), Howard Wagner (speaker)
Page Number: 59-60
Explanation and Analysis:

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Do you know? when he died - and by the way he died the death of a salesman, in his green velvet slippers in the smoker of the New York, New Haven and Hartford, going into Boston - when he died, hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral. Things were sad on a lotta trains for months after that.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

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The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you're a salesman, and you don't know that.
Related Characters: Charley (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

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Funny, y'know? After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

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But it'll go on forever!

Dad is never so happy as when he's looking forward to something!
Related Characters: Biff Loman (speaker), Happy Loman (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:
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I've got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Related Symbols: Seeds
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

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Will you let me go, for Christ's sake? Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens?
Related Characters: Biff Loman (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

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

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Requiem Quotes
There were a lot of nice days. When he'd come home from a trip; or on Sundays, making the stoop; finishing the cellar; putting on the new porch... You know something, Charley, there's more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made.
Related Characters: Biff Loman (speaker), Willy Loman, Charley
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

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He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine... A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.
Related Characters: Charley (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

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I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there'll be nobody home.
Related Characters: Linda Loman (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

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Willy Loman Character Timeline in Death of a Salesman

The timeline below shows where the character Willy 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
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
The curtain rises on Willy Loman's house in Brooklyn. The house, with its small backyard, looks fragile next to the... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Willy Loman returns home from a sales trip, carrying two suitcases of merchandise. He is exhausted,... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Willy tries to avoid talking about the reason for his early return. When Linda presses him,... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...argument between them: she wants him to work in New York, closer to home. But Willy responds that he is a vital salesman in the New England area. He points out... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
The conversation turns to Willy and Linda's grown sons, Happy and Biff, who are upstairs sleeping after a double date.... (full context)
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Linda convinces Willy to go downstairs to the kitchen so that he won't wake the boys. Happy and... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Recalling his argument with Willy, Biff says that he doesn't know what he is supposed to want. He has tried... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...encouraging, and reminds Biff that he is well liked. The boys are embarrassed to hear Willy downstairs talking to himself, and try to go to sleep. (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Willy is lost in a memory, which is acted out onstage. He is remembering a time... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...come over to study math with him. Biff is close to flunking the subject, and Willy orders Biff to study, but is quickly distracted and impressed by the University of Virginia... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
A younger version of Linda enters. She asks Willy how much he sold on his trip. At first, he claims he made $1,200. Linda... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Sobered by the tiny amount that he has earned, Willy now worries to Linda that people don't seem to like him, which is stopping him... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
As Willy says these words to Linda, The Woman's laughter is heard from the darkness of another... (full context)
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Willy returns to his conversation with Linda, who is mending her stockings. Willy becomes upset, and... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Willy's memories build to a crescendo. Bernard runs through, begging Biff to study for the upcoming... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Happy comes downstairs, distracting Willy from his memories. Happy tries to convince Willy to come upstairs and go to bed.... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Charley, who has heard the voices in Willy's house, comes over from next door to see if Willy is all right. The two... (full context)
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Willy asks Charley what he thinks of the new ceiling Willy has put up. Charley shows... (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... (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... (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... (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... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
A younger Charley enters and warns Willy not to let his sons steal any more from the construction site nearby. Willy, still... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Willy wanders out into the back yard, still talking to the ghosts from his past. He... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Linda, who has heard Willy talking to himself, comes to the door to the backyard and asks him to come... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
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Willy leaves to go on a walk, though he is in his slippers. Biff and Happy... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
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Biff angrily responds that Willy never respected her. Linda counters that Willy may not be a great man, but he... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
...new nipple on the gas pipe of the water heater, which she thinks means that Willy had tried to asphyxiate himself. Biff decides that though he hates the business world, it... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
When Willy enters, having overheard his family arguing about him, Biff tries to joke, saying that Willy... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
To diffuse Willy's anger, Happy announces that Biff is going to ask his old boss Bill Oliver to... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Excited by the sporting goods idea, which they call the "Florida idea," Willy gives advice to Biff regarding the interview. He tells Biff that he should walk into... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
In bed that night, Linda asks Willy what Biff has against him, and reminds him to ask Howard Wagner for a sales... (full context)
Act 2
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
When Willy wakes the next morning, Biff and Happy have already gone, and Linda tells Willy that... (full context)
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Before Willy leaves, Linda tells him that the boys want to take him to a fancy dinner... (full context)
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Right after Willy leaves, Linda answers a phone call from Biff. She tells him what she thinks is... (full context)
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Willy arrives at Howard Wagner's office, and timidly enters. Howard is playing with a wire recorder... (full context)
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When Howard gets around to asking why Willy isn't in Boston, Willy explains that he doesn't want to travel anymore. He asks Howard... (full context)
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Willy tells a story of a salesman who inspired him, Dave Singleman. Dave sold until he... (full context)
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Willy continues to mention Howard's father and lowers his salary requirement, but Howard is uninterested. He... (full context)
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Howard comes back in and unplugs the tape recorder. He tells Willy that he is no longer welcome to represent the company in Boston. Referring to Willy,... (full context)
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Howard leaves, and Willy slips into a memory in which Ben is offering him an opportunity to come to... (full context)
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...carrying that. Biff allows Bernard to carry his shoulder pads. Charley enters and jokes with Willy about the game, trying to deflate Willy's excessive expectations about the game. Willy becomes angry... (full context)
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...room outside Charley's office. Charley's secretary, Jenny, comes in to ask Bernard to deal with Willy, who has come to see Charley but is still lost in his memory, arguing with... (full context)
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...and make up the class. But then Biff took a trip to Boston to see Willy, and when he returned he didn't go to summer school, burned his University of Virginia... (full context)
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...of his office and hands Bernard a goodbye gift, a bottle of bourbon. He tells Willy that Bernard is going to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Willy,... (full context)
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Bernard leaves, and Willy follows Charley into his office. Charley starts to count out the usual fifty dollars, but... (full context)
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Charley gives Willy the money to pay his life insurance premium. Willy muses that he has ended up... (full context)
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Biff tells Happy that he wants to confess all this to Willy, so that their father will know that Biff is not the man that Willy takes... (full context)
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Willy arrives. Biff begins, hesitantly, to tell him what happened. But before he can say much,... (full context)
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Trying to calm Willy down, Biff falls back on Happy's strategy and lies: he tells Willy that Oliver is... (full context)
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Miss Forsythe returns, now with a friend, Letta. Willy, in a daze, wanders off to the restroom. Biff berates Happy for not caring enough... (full context)
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Alone in the restroom, Willy relives the memory of being surprised by Biff while he was with The Woman in... (full context)
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Trying to get Biff out of the room, Willy pushes him toward the door and agrees to drive back immediately and speak to the... (full context)
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Willy emerges from his memory, still in the restroom, as Stanley shakes him. He tells Willy... (full context)
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Willy asks Stanley if he knows where he can find a store that sells carrot and... (full context)
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...but she angrily throws them to the floor. She asks Biff if he cares whether Willy lives or dies, and accuses Happy of spending all his time with "lousy rotten whores."... (full context)
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In the garden, Willy is talking with Ben, and mentions the $20,000 dollar life insurance policy his family will... (full context)
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Biff enters and takes the hoe out of Willy's hand. He tells Willy that he is leaving and won't be around to fight with... (full context)
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Biff puts the rubber hose in front of Willy, demanding that he answer to it. He tells Willy that he won't be a hero... (full context)
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...and "the work and the food and the time to sit and smoke." He tells Willy that he just wants to know himself, and for Willy to know himself. He says... (full context)
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Willy, suddenly in better spirits, comments that Biff must really like him to cry over him... (full context)
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Happy goes upstairs. Linda follows soon after. Willy promises to also come upstairs soon. Alone, now, Ben appears to him, and Willy assures... (full context)
Requiem
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The only people at Willy's funeral are his family, Charley and Bernard. Linda is bewildered by the absence of all... (full context)
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Happy, upset, says that Willy's death was unnecessary. Linda wonders why Willy would kill himself now, when they had nearly... (full context)
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Charley delivers an eulogy in Willy's defense. He says that a salesman doesn't do anything concrete like bolting a nut or... (full context)
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Linda asks for some privacy to say goodbye to Willy, and she is left alone at the grave. She can't cry yet, she confesses, because... (full context)