Death of a Salesman
How we cite our quotes:
LINDA: Then make Charley your father, Biff. You can’t do that, can you? I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. 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. You called him crazy— (Act 1)
Linda understands Willy's fear of abandonment; this is reflected in her insistence that Biff be attentive to his father. Here, she recognizes that Willy's fears have turned him into a really flawed person. She begs her son to look past those flaws and see the good in his father.
LINDA: 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 that way? I don’t know what to do. I live from day to day boys. I tell you, I know every thought in his mind. It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell you he’s put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him. [She is bent over the chair, weeping, her head in her hands]. Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands! (Act 1)
Because of her understanding of Willy and his fear of abandonment, Linda is particularly concerned that Biff and Happy are turning their backs on their father. She thinks that if Willy feels finally and totally abandoned by his boys then it might totally push him over the edge to suicide. Ironically, at the end of the play, it is Willy's realization that Biff truly loves him that pushes the salesman to finally take his own life.
HOWARD: Where are your sons? Why don’t your sons give you a hand?
WILLY: They’re working on a very big deal.
HOWARD: This is no time for false pride, Willy. You go to your sons and tell them that you’re tired. You’ve got two great boys, haven’t you?
WILLY: Oh, no question, no question, but in the mean time… (Act 2)
Howard's suggestion highlights Willy's fear that he is unable to rely on his sons; it also heightens his sense of abandonment. Willy knows that he can't really count on his boys in the way that Howard suggests.