Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman Act Two Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
WILLY: Don’t you want to be anything?
BIFF: Pop, how can I go back?
WILLY: You don’t want to be anything, is that what’s behind it?
WILLY: Are you spiting me?
BIFF: Don’t take it that way! Goddamnit!
WILLY [strikes Biff and falters away from the table]: You rotten little louse! Are you spiting me? (Act 2)
Willy perceives Biff's business failure as a personal betrayal, an attempt to punish him for his earlier love affair. Willy's guilt over his affair leads him to make lots irrational and damaging decisions.
WILLY: She’s nothing to me, Biff. I was lonely, I was terribly lonely.
BIFF: You—you gave her Mama’s stockings! [His tears break through and he rises to go] (Act 2)
Unable to fully lash out at his father, Biff focuses his anger on the stockings. The stockings are used as a symbol of betrayal throughout the play.
BIFF: Exactly what is it you want from me?
WILLY: I want you to know on the train, in the mountains, in the valleys, wherever you go that you cut down your life in spite.
BIFF: No, no!
WILLY: Spite, spite is the word of your undoing! And when you’re down and out remember what did it. When you’re rotting somewhere beside the railroad tracks, remember, and don’t you dare blame it on me! (Act 2)
Willy assumes that Biff's betrayal of his expectations is intended as a punishment for his betrayal of Biff's trust when Willy had an affair. Here, Willy tries desperately to separate himself from his own guilt about both Biff's failure in life and the reality of his infidelity.