Death of a Salesman

Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Death of a Salesman, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon

Inspired by his love for his family, Willy ironically abandons them (just as he himself was abandoned by his father when he was three). The tragedy of Willy's death comes about because of his inability to distinguish between his value as an economic resource and his identity as a human being. The Woman, with whom Willy cheats on Linda, is able to feed Willy's salesman ego by "liking" him. He is proud of being able to sell himself to her, and this feeling turns to shame only when he sees that by giving stockings to The Woman rather than Linda, he is sabotaging his role as a provider. He doesn't see that his love, not material items, is the primary thing Linda needs from him.

The link between love and betrayal is present throughout the play: part of Biff's revelation at the play's end is that Willy has betrayed him by encouraging him to settle for nothing less than greatness, thus making the compromises of the real world impossibly difficult. Happy, and even Linda, also betray Willy out of a kind impulse to not shake him out of his illusions, which forces Willy's fragile mind to deal alone with the growing discrepancy between his dreams and his life.

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Abandonment and Betrayal ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Abandonment and Betrayal appears in each act of Death of a Salesman. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Abandonment and Betrayal Quotes in Death of a Salesman

Below you will find the important quotes in Death of a Salesman related to the theme of Abandonment and Betrayal.
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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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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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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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I even believed myself that I'd been a salesman for him! And he gave me one look and - I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been!
Related Characters: Biff Loman (speaker), Bill Oliver
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Requiem Quotes
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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.