Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman Act Two Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
WILLY [now assured, with rising power]: Oh, Ben, that’s the whole beauty of it! I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand. Not like—like an appointment! This would not be another damned fool appointment, Ben, and it changes all the aspects. Because he thinks I’m nothing, see, and so he spites me. But the funeral—[Straightening up] Ben, that funeral will be massive! They’ll come up from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old timers with the strange license plates—that boy will be thunderstruck, Ben, because he never realized—I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey—I am known, Ben, and he’ll see it with his eyes once and for all. He’ll see what I am, Ben! He’s in for a shock that boy! (Act 2)
Willy's musings about diamonds and his funeral foreshadow his death. This all becomes incredibly tragic later on when nobody really shows up at Willy's funeral at all. By Willy's own standards, his life and death have been totally unsuccessful.
WILLY: Without a penny to his name, three great universities are begging from him, and from there the sky’s the limit, because it’s not what you do. It’s who you know and the smile on your face! It’s contacts, Ben, contacts! The whole wealth of Alaska passes over the lunch table at the Commodore Hotel, and that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked! [He turns to Biff] And that’s why when you get out on that field today it’s important. Because thousands of people will be rooting for you and loving you. [To Ben, who has again begun to leave] And Ben! When he walks into a business office his name will sound out like a bell and all the doors will open to him! I’ve seen it, Ben. I’ve seen it a thousand times! You can’t feel it with your hand like timber, but it’s there. (Act 2)
Willy's timber analogy is used to convince Ben that even intangible success is real. Do you think this is true? How exactly do you measure success?
WILLY: Sure, sure. I am building something with this firm, Ben, and if a man is building something he must be on the right track, musn’t he?
BEN: What are you building? Lay your hand on it. Where is it?
WILLY [hesitantly]: That’s true, Linda, there’s nothing. (Act 2)
Ben implies that physically tangible results are central to a definition of progress and success. He sees no true value in Willy's life as a salesman.