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WILLY: [noticing her mending] What’s that?
LINDA: Just mending my stockings. They’re so expensive!
WILLY: [angrily, taking them from her]: I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!
[Linda puts the stockings in her pocket] (Act 1)
Willy lashes out at Linda about her mending stockings because it reminds him of his affair and betrayal of her. We wonder if Linda ever suspected Willy's betrayal. What do you think? Are there any clues in the play that hint at this?
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.