Death of a Salesman
ACT I A “small and fine” melody, “telling of grass and trees and the horizon” is heard upon a flute. Willy Loman, two large sample cases in hand, arrives home early from a business trip. His wife Linda stirs from bed, puts on a robe, and comes down to speak to him. Willy was feeling exhausted and disoriented on the road, and he had to turn back just past Yonkers and return to New York. (“I’m tellin’ ya, I absolutely forgot I was driving. If I’d’ve gone the other way over the white line I might’ve killed somebody,” he tells his wife.) Linda urges Willy to ask his boss to let him work closer to home, and he promises to do so. Their conversation turns to their sons, and Willy expresses his frustration that Biff, at the age of thirty-four, has yet to “find himself”. Linda returns to bed, but Willy begins muttering to himself about the old car Biff used to take care of.
In their bedroom, Happy and Biff hear their father and discuss his sharply declining stability. Biff is agitated by Willy’s disappointment in him, and he confesses he feels equally lost working in the city (“To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off.”) and the in country (“What the hell am I doing, playing around with horses, twenty-eight dollars a week!”). He’s tried “twenty or thirty different kinds of jobs since I left home,” and he’s not sure what’s left for him. Happy, though making more money than Biff, is equally discontent. He’s unable to advance in his sales job at a local store until the merchandise manager dies, and “everyone around [him] is so false that [he’s] constantly lowering [his] ideals”. His only real pleasure is seducing the fiancées of the store’s executives. (He’s done it three times!) Biff decides he’ll ask for a meeting with Bill Oliver, his old boss; if he can save ten thousand dollars, he can buy a ranch out west, and he and Happy can go into business together.