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LINDA: Biff was very changed this morning. His whole attitude seemed to be hopeful. He couldn’t wait to get down town to see Oliver.
WILLY: He’s heading for a change. There’s no question. There simply are certain men who take longer to get solidified. How did he dress? (Act 2)
Linda and Willy cling to even the slightest indication of change as definite proof of a better future to come. It's really sad that all their dream and hopes for themselves and their children have come down to this.
WILLY: Gee whiz! That’s really somethin’. I’m gonna knock Howard for a loop, kid. I’ll get an advance and I’ll come home with a New York job. Goddammit, now I’m gonna do it!
LINDA: Oh, that’s the spirit Willy! (Act 2)
Willy experiences occasional moments of extreme optimism that contrast with similarly extreme moments of depression. The back and forth between these highs and lows is what eventually tears him apart.
LINDA: You’re doing well enough, Willy!
BEN [to Linda]: Enough for what, my dear?
LINDA [frightened of Ben and angry at him]: Don’t say those things to him! Enough to be happy right here, right now. [To Willy, while Ben laughs] Why must everybody conquer the world? You’re well liked and the boys love you and someday—[to Ben]—why, old man Wagner told him just the other day that if he keeps it up he’ll be a member of the firm, didn’t he, Willy? (Act 2)
Linda defends Willy by losing herself in an unrealistic characterization of their lives and of Willy's potential at the sales firm. Is she defending her husband here? Or is she trying to keep him from disappearing with Ben?