Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman Betrayal Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act)
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)
Linda feels that her sons have betrayed their father by turning their backs on him. Here, she insinuates that that betrayal is a big part of what has driven Willy to contemplate suicide.
WILLY: Charley, I’m strapped. I’m strapped. I don’t know what to do. I was just fired.
CHARLEY: Howard fired you?
WILLY: That snotnose. Imagine that? I named him. I named him Howard.
CHARLEY: Willy, when’re you gonna realize that them things don’t mean anything? You named him Howard, but you can’t sell that. The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that. (Act 2)
Charley questions Willy's insistence that Howard's actions were a betrayal. He tries to get Willy to understand the harsh realities of capitalism.
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.