Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman Act One Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Act)
WILLY: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff— he’s not lazy.
WILLY: [with pity and resolve]: I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time. (Act 1)
Willy's reflections suggest complete faith in the notion that in America, anyone who works hard and is personally compelling is destined to succeed. Beyond that, they have a right to succeed. By the end of the play, however, it becomes apparent that that isn't necessarily true.
WILLY: There’s more people! That’s what’s ruining this country! The competition is maddening! Smell the stink from that apartment house! And the one on the other side… How can they whip cheese? (Act 1)
Willy insists that his family's lack of success is due to population growth and not his faulty vision of the American Dream. Do you think this is true? How much has increased competition made the American Dream harder to accomplish?
BIFF: Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still—that’s how you build a future. (Act 1)
Biff struggles with the competition inherent in the American way, but still holds it as a truth that he must take a path unpleasant for him in order to succeed. It seems that he longs for a life that's more simple—a working-class lifestyle that his father sees as beneath him. Interestingly, though, throughout the play Willy seems to long for simpler things as well, like growing things.