Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
After reading the play, I think that there are many feelings evoked towards Linda. There is pity and sympathy and some resentment at her denying Willy the chance to work in Alaska. She is a hard-working wife and loving mother. One could blame her for Willy’s suicide but this would be harsh, as she feels that she must go along with what Willy believes and not interfere.
To begin with, there is her relationship with her sons. She loves them very much, and wants the best for them.
When they come home she is obviously extremely pleased.
She says: “It was so nice to see them shaving together, one behind the other, in the bathroom.”
We can see that she is a caring and devoted mother when she defends Biff whilst Willy criticises him:
Willy: “…But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!”
Linda: “He’s finding himself, Willy.”
Willy: “Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!”
Willy: “The trouble is he’s lazy, goddammit!”
Linda: “Willy, please!”
Her sons disappoint her, especially when they desert Willy at Frank’s Chop House where they were meant to be having dinner with him.
She is angry with them, and shouts at them:
“You invite him to dinner. He looks forward to it all day – and then you desert him there. There’s no stranger you’d do that to!”
“Get out of here, both of you, and don’t come back!”
“You’re a pair of animals! Not one, not another living soul would have the cruelty to walk out on that man in a restaurant.”
Despite this, Biff and Happy love her very much and respect her. Biff refers to her as his “pal” and is upset to see her hair turning grey:
Biff: “…Your hair got so grey.”
Linda: “Oh, it’s been grey since you were in high school. I just stopped dyeing it, that’s all.”
Biff: “Dye it again, will ya? I don’t want my pal looking old.”
Happy also respects her and when he describes the kind of girl he would like to meet, he says:
“…Somebody with character, with resistance! Like Mom, y’know?”
He also says this of her: “What a woman! They broke the mould when they made her. You know that Biff?”
Biff is also sensitive to the way Willy treats her, and stands up for her when Willy keeps silencing her:
“Stop making excuses for him! He always, always wiped the floor with you. Never had an ounce of respect for you.”
Linda: “Oliver always thought the highest of him…”
Willy: “Will you let me talk?”
Biff: “Don’t yell at her, Pop, will ya?”
Willy: “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: “Don’t take his side all the time, goddammit!”
Biff: “Stop yelling at her!”
Linda is also suffering from the financial state of the family, and is upset at her sons’ lack of support.
“…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!”
She has succeeded in making her sons feel ashamed of themselves, which shows that she is a good mother who can still make her sons feel that they have let her down. I believe that this is a good quality. Biff says this about himself:
“The scum of the earth, and you’re looking at him!”
I also admire her confidence when she admits to the boys some of her fears:
“…a terrible thing is happening to him. He’s not to be aloud to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.”
Linda, as we can see from the play loves Willy very much. She shares in his dreams, and is even too ashamed to remove a piece of rubber piping that he is using to commit suicide with. Despite this, she is thrilled when she sees it gone, though she later discovers that it was Biff who removed it. She is also too ashamed to admit to knowing that Willy is borrowing money from Charley, pretending that it’s his pay.
“Willy, darling, you’re the handsomest man in the world…To me you are. The handsomest.
“…because I love him. 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…”
She shows here her love for Willy, and her faithfulness, even though we know that Willy has been disloyal to her. She tells her children her fears, and that she believes that only they can help him.
“Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands!”
“…When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend that’s his pay? How long can that go on? How long?”
She loves her husband so much, that she is too afraid to even talk about his contemplation of committing suicide.
“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 in that way?”
Therefore we feel remorse for Linda, and much sympathy, as she doesn’t know what to do. We also feel sympathy for her, as we, as an audience, know that Willy is having an affair while he is away at Boston. It is the ultimate punishment for such a loyal and hard-working wife. Even as she mends her stockings, Willy feels guilt for what he has done, and says:
“I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throwx them out!”
“Will you stop mending stockings? At least while I’m in the house. It gets me nervous. I can’t tell you. Please.”
Biff almost lets on twice to Linda about The Woman in Boston. He says:
“Because he’s a fake, and he doesn’t like anybody around who knows!”
Linda: “It seems there’s a woman…”
Biff: [sharply] “What woman?”
Linda: [simultaneously] “…and this woman…”
Biff: “Nothing. Go ahead.”
Linda: “What did you say?”
Linda does once deny Willy the chance to make a success of his career, when she refuses to let Willy go to Alaska to manage some timberland that Ben owns:
Willy: “No wait! Linda, he’s got a proposition for me in Alaska.”
Linda: “But you’ve got [to Ben] He’s got a beautiful job here.”
Willy: “But in Alaska, kid, I could -“
Linda: “You’re doing well, enough, Willy!”
Ben: “Enough for what, my dear?”
Linda: “Don’t say those things to him! Enough to be happy right here, right now. Why must everybody conquer the world? You’re well liked, and the boys love you, and someday – [to Ben] – why, old man Wagner told him just the other day that if he keeps it up he’ll be a member of the firm, didn’t he, Willy?”
It would be unfair to judge Linda’s actions here, as it was early in their marriage, and she probably believed everything Willy told her about his achievements.
We also feel pity for Linda when Willy keeps silencing her. He does this very often, but we can’t tell why.
Willy: “…- 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.”
Willy also gets annoyed with Linda when she buys him a new American type of cheese, one that he hasn’t tried:
“I don’t want a change! I want Swiss cheese. Why am I always being contradicted?”
Linda is also correct in her vision of the upbringing of their children, though Willy’s bad influences shadow it, and so the children never take any notice of her. We see her in Act one attempting to persuade Willy that it would be right for Biff to take the stolen football back:
“And he’d better give back that football, Willy, it’s not nice.”
According to Linda, Biff is “too rough with the girls” though Willy puts this down to the fact that “he’s got spirit, personality…”
Despite the many hardships Linda has to face, we can see that she has a strong personality herself, and therefore we feel a lot of pity and sympathy for her at her husband’s funeral:
“I can’t understand it. At this time especially. First time in thirty-five years we were just about free and clear. He only needed a little salary. He was even finished with the dentist.”
Ultimately, the feelings evoked towards Linda in this play are sympathy, pity, and concern. There is also admiration felt for the woman who shared her husband’s dreams, and took in all the criticism that was hurled her way in a calm and somewhat melancholy manner.
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