Character Analysis and Overview of Key Characters in Death of a Salesman

Character Analysis and Overview of Key Characters in Death of a Salesman

In “Death of a Salesman,” Arthur Miller paints a vivid portrait of the Loman family and explores themes of loneliness, alienation, and the pursuit of the American Dream. The play follows the tragic downfall of Willy Loman, a worn-down salesman who sees himself as a failure. Through the examination of key characters, including Willy, his wife Linda, and their sons Biff and Happy, the play offers a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of chasing unrealistic dreams.

Willy Loman, the central protagonist, is a sixty-year-old traveling salesman who is haunted by his inability to achieve the success he desires. Before his death, Willy reminisces about his past, both in his imagination and in real life, showing his struggle to become the successful “salesman” he has always wanted to be. Despite his flaws, Willy’s character demonstrates the dangers of conformity and the seductive power of the American Dream.



Linda Loman, Willy’s devoted wife, is an important and complex character who serves as a moral compass in the play. She supports Willy unconditionally, even though she knows he is a deeply flawed man. Linda’s loyalty and unwavering love for Willy add to the tragedy of the play, as she is left all alone to mourn his death.

Their sons, Biff and Happy, are both deeply affected by their father’s unrealistic expectations. Biff, the oldest son, is a former high school football star who never lived up to his potential. Feeling trapped by his father’s expectations, Biff struggles to find his own identity and purpose in life. On the other hand, Happy, the younger son, is a womanizer who desperately seeks validation and attention. Despite their different personalities, both Biff and Happy suffer from a deep sense of alienation and disillusionment.

Other notable characters include Charley, Willy’s loyal friend and neighbor, who offers kindness and understanding in contrast to the harsh reality of Willy’s life. Charley’s son, Bernard, is a nerdy yet successful lawyer, providing a stark contrast to Biff’s inability to succeed in the business world. Howard Wagner, Willy’s boss, represents the impersonal and cutthroat nature of the business world. Finally, Willy’s deceased brother Ben serves as a reminder of missed opportunities and the lure of wealth and success.

“Death of a Salesman” is a powerful and timeless play that explores the consequences of pursuing the ever-elusive American Dream. Through its compelling characters and thought-provoking themes, the play challenges audiences to reflect on the values and priorities of modern society.



Biff Loman

Biff is initially portrayed as a charming and strong young man who had great potential. As a high school student, he was a football star and had many opportunities ahead of him. However, after failing a crucial math exam, he becomes lost and disillusioned, unable to find his way in life.

Throughout the play, Biff struggles with his relationship with his father. Despite Willy’s high expectations for Biff to be successful and become a salesman, Biff feels alienated and resentful towards his father. He recognizes Willy’s delusions and refuses to perpetuate the false narrative of success that Willy has created.

Biff’s pivotal moment comes when he discovers his father having an affair with another woman during a business trip. This revelation shatters Biff’s perception of his father and his own ambitions. From that point on, Biff rebels against the false illusions of success and material wealth, realizing that true happiness lies elsewhere.



Following this discovery, Biff abandons his dreams of becoming a businessman and chooses a different path. He rejects the idea of working a meaningless job and instead seeks personal fulfillment. Biff demonstrates his newfound self-awareness and growth by walking away from a business opportunity with his former employer, Stanley, to pursue a simpler life in Alaska.

Biff’s character also demonstrates the theme of the consequences of one’s actions. As a teenager, Biff stole a football from his high school and was caught by his idol, his father, who never forgave him. This minor act of theft highlights the major theme of personal responsibility and the consequences that can result from one’s actions.

Despite his struggles, Biff is well-liked by others, such as his childhood friend, Bernard, and Charley, his father’s neighbor. Biff’s ability to connect with others on a personal level showcases his authentic character and his rejection of the superficial ideals that society often values.

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Overall, Biff Loman is a complex character in Death of a Salesman. Through his journey of self-discovery and rejection of his father’s ideals, he embodies the themes of identity, alienation, and the search for meaning in a materialistic society.

Minor Characters

In “Death of a Salesman,” there are several minor characters who play important roles in the story. While they may not be at the forefront of the narrative, their interactions and relationships with the major characters provide valuable insight into the themes of the play.

Ben

Ben is Willy Loman’s successful and well-liked older brother. He is often referred to by Willy and serves as a source of inspiration for him. Ben’s success as a businessman in Alaska represents the opportunity for wealth and happiness that Willy believes he missed out on. Though Ben only appears in Willy’s memories and hallucinations, his presence serves to demonstrate the contrast between the seductive allure of wealth and the harsh reality of Willy’s life.

Charley

Charley is Willy’s neighbor and friend. He is a successful businessman, which is evident in his thriving business and comfortable lifestyle. Charley is the voice of reason, offering Willy a job when he is in need and lending him money to cover his bills. Despite Willy’s resentment towards Charley, he is genuinely concerned for Willy’s well-being and tries to help him. Their relationship highlights the theme of alienation and the contrasting approaches to success between the two characters.

Charley’s son, Bernard, is also a minor character who plays a significant role in the story. Though nerdy and unassuming, Bernard is a successful lawyer who is often used by Willy to contrast the lack of success in his own sons. Bernard’s personal and professional achievements emphasize the importance of hard work and highlight the flaws in Willy’s fixation on superficial appearances.

Other minor characters, such as Howard, the young businessman Willy works for, and Stanley, the waiter in the Boston hotel where Willy stays, serve to further illustrate the challenges Willy faces in his career and personal life. These characters contribute to the overall themes of loneliness, missed opportunities, and the devastating effects of Willy’s pursuit of the American Dream.

While the major characters of “Death of a Salesman” may dominate the story, the minor characters play essential roles in the development of the plot and themes. Through their interactions with the Loman family, these characters shed light on the complexities of the American Dream and the consequences of striving for success.

Minor CharactersRole
BenWilly’s successful and well-liked older brother who represents the seductive allure of wealth and success
CharleyWilly’s neighbor and friend who offers him support and contrasts Willy’s approach to success with his own
BernardCharley’s son who becomes a successful lawyer, highlighting the importance of hard work
HowardThe young businessman Willy works for, symbolizing the changing landscape of the business world
StanleyThe waiter in the Boston hotel where Willy stays, providing a glimpse into Willy’s struggles and loneliness

These minor characters, among others, contribute to the rich character development and thematic exploration in “Death of a Salesman.”

The Woman in Boston

Willy, having been unsuccessful in his personal and professional life, is constantly searching for happiness. During a summer sales trip to Boston, Willy met a woman in a hotel. Though the exact details are never revealed, it is implied that Willy had an affair with her. This encounter represents Willy’s desire for success and happiness that he feels he lacks in his own life.

Willy’s relationship with The Woman in Boston and his brother Ben demonstrate his inner conflicts. While his brother Ben becomes a successful businessman in Alaska, Willy is struggling as a salesman in New York. This contrast highlights Willy’s sense of failure and his feelings of being left behind.

This affair also contributes to Willy’s alienation from his sons, particularly Biff. Biff, who had previously idolized his father, later discovers the truth about Willy’s infidelity. This revelation shatters the idealistic image Biff had of his father and contributes to the strained relationship between the two of them.

The Woman in Boston serves as a metaphor for the allure of success and happiness that Willy desperately desires. She represents the women who Willy believes will bring him the success he seeks, but ultimately only leads to his downfall.

Overall, The Woman in Boston is a minor character in “Death of a Salesman”, but her presence and impact on the Loman family is significant. Her brief appearance in the narrative sheds light on Willy’s inner turmoil and the consequences of his pursuit of the American Dream.

Notes on Characters from Death of a Salesman

In Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, the characters are portrayed as complex individuals with their own unique traits and struggles. Here are some key notes on the main characters:

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CharacterDescription
Willy LomanWilly is the protagonist of the play, a hard-working but delusional salesman who is constantly chasing the American Dream. He is well-liked by others but struggles with his own self-worth.
Biff LomanBiff is Willy’s oldest son, a former high school football star who has become lost in life. Despite his potential, he never achieves success and feels alienated from society.
Linda LomanLinda is Willy’s loyal and supportive wife. She always stands by him, even when he is at his lowest. Linda is the voice of reason in the play and tries to keep the family together.
CharleyCharley is Willy’s neighbor and friend, as well as a successful businessman. He often offers Willy financial assistance, which Willy sees as charity.
BernardBernard is Charley’s son and a nerdy, studious character. Though initially seen as inferior by Willy, Bernard becomes a successful lawyer, demonstrating the importance of hard work.
BenBen is Willy’s deceased older brother, who appears in Willy’s hallucinations. He is a wealthy and adventurous man who represents the American Dream that Willy has always aspired to.
HowardHoward is Willy’s boss, a young and successful businessman who shows little empathy towards Willy’s struggles and eventually fires him.
Miss ForsytheMiss Forsythe represents the women in Willy’s life. She is a woman who Willy meets in a restaurant while on a business trip. She seduces Willy and represents the temptation and allure of a life outside of his family.
StanleyStanley is another woman whom Willy meets in Boston. Willy had an affair with her while on a previous business trip, further highlighting his infidelity and personal issues.
WagnerWagner is Willy’s boss’s son and a minor character in the play. He represents the younger generation and the changing nature of the business world.

These characters each have their own strengths, weaknesses, and conflicts that contribute to the overall themes of alienation, the American Dream, and personal identity explored in Death of a Salesman.

CHARACTER LIST

Willy Loman

Willy Loman is the protagonist of the play. He is a 63-year-old salesman who has spent his entire life working for a company in New York. Willy is a hard-working and well-liked person, but he is also lonely and often loses himself in memories of the past. Despite his hard work, Willy never achieved the success he desired and is now struggling to keep his job.

Linda Loman

Linda is Willy’s wife and the mother of their two sons, Biff and Happy. She is a supportive and caring woman who always tries to do what is best for her family. Linda is devoted to Willy and often tries to help him see the positive aspects of their life, even though they are facing financial difficulties. She is the backbone of the Loman family and is always there for them.

Biff Loman

Biff is Willy’s oldest son and is often seen as a disappointment to his father. Biff was once a promising football player with a bright future, but he never pursued his dreams and is now lost and struggling to find his place in the world. Biff has a complicated relationship with Willy and feels pressure to live up to his father’s expectations.

Happy Loman

Happy is Willy’s younger son and is often overshadowed by Biff. He is more successful than Biff in his career and is well-liked by others. Happy is a womanizer and often seduces women to feel important. However, deep down, Happy is also looking for his father’s approval and struggles with feelings of emptiness and unhappiness.

Charley

Charley is Willy’s neighbor and his only friend. Charley is a successful businessman and is often seen as a contrast to Willy. He tries to help Willy by offering him a job, but Willy refuses out of pride. Charley is a practical and sensible person who contrasts with Willy’s idealistic and dream-like nature.

Bernard

Bernard is Charley’s son and a successful lawyer. He is often seen as nerdy and unpopular by the other characters, but he demonstrates a successful and well-liked person. Bernard is always there to support Biff, even when Biff doesn’t appreciate it. He represents a minor character who becomes more successful than the main character.

In addition to these major characters, Death of a Salesman also features minor characters such as Uncle Ben, Miss Forsythe, and Stanley, who all play a role in Willy’s unraveling and the overall themes of the play.

Linda Loman

Linda is a traditional woman who takes care of the household responsibilities and supports her husband’s dreams and ambitions. She is often portrayed as a nurturing and compassionate figure, always trying to create a happy home for her family.

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Linda’s character is significant because she provides a contrast to the other women in the play, who are more independent and assertive. While Linda may seem weak or submissive at times, she is actually a strong and resilient woman who stays by her husband’s side no matter what.

In the play, Linda has a close relationship with her two sons, Biff and Happy. She tries to mediate between them and their father, acting as a bridge between the two generations. Linda always believes in her sons’ potential and supports them unconditionally.

Although Linda is a minor character in terms of stage time, she plays a major role in the overall themes of the play. Her unconditional love for Willy and her commitment to her family highlight the potential consequences of alienation and the pursuit of the American Dream.

Linda provides a contrast to Willy’s friend and neighbor, Charley, who is a successful businessman and a single father to Bernard. While Charley is well-liked and admired by Willy, Linda is the one who truly understands her husband’s struggles and supports him emotionally.

In one of the most poignant scenes in the play, Linda delivers a powerful speech about Willy’s dedication to his job and the sacrifices he has made for his family. Her speech shows her unwavering faith in her husband and her deep understanding of his inner turmoil.

Despite the hardships and betrayals that Linda faces throughout the play, she remains a devoted and loving wife until the very end. She chooses to remember the good times and the happy moments with Willy, leaving the audience with a sense of both sadness and hope.

  • Linda Loman is the wife of Willy Loman.
  • She is a traditional woman who takes care of the household responsibilities.
  • Linda demonstrates loyalty and dedication to her husband.
  • Linda is a nurturing and compassionate figure who creates a happy home.
  • She contrasts with the other women in the play who are more independent.
  • Linda has a close relationship with her two sons, Biff and Happy.
  • She acts as a bridge between the two generations.
  • Linda’s love for Willy highlights the consequences of alienation and the pursuit of the American Dream.
  • Her speech demonstrates her unwavering faith in her husband.
  • Linda remains a devoted and loving wife until the end.

FAQ

Who are the key characters in Death of a Salesman?

The key characters in Death of a Salesman include Linda Loman, Willy Loman, Biff Loman, Happy Loman, Charley, and Ben.

Can you give an overview of Linda Loman’s character?

Linda Loman is Willy Loman’s wife and the mother of Biff and Happy. She is a supportive and caring woman who tries to keep the peace in her family. She often defends Willy and tries to protect him from the harsh realities of their lives.

What is Willy Loman like as a character?

Willy Loman is the protagonist of Death of a Salesman. He is a delusional and desperate man who is struggling with his career and defining his self-worth. He has a strained relationship with his sons, Biff and Happy, and often finds himself lost in flashbacks and illusions.

What role does Biff Loman play in the play?

Biff Loman is Willy Loman’s eldest son. He is a former high school football star who is now struggling to find his place in the world. He has a complicated relationship with his father and is searching for his own identity and purpose.

Who is the Woman in Death of a Salesman?

The Woman is a minor character in Death of a Salesman. She is Willy Loman’s mistress and represents his infidelity and the deterioration of his marriage. She appears in Willy’s flashbacks and contributes to his feelings of guilt and regret.

What is the character analysis and overview of Linda Loman in “Death of a Salesman”?

Linda Loman is the loyal and devoted wife of Willy Loman, the protagonist of “Death of a Salesman”. She is a nurturing and selfless character who is constantly trying to support and protect her husband, despite his flaws and failures. Linda is portrayed as a traditional housewife, constantly cooking and cleaning, and her life revolves around taking care of her family. She is often the voice of reason in the play, offering words of encouragement and trying to bring stability to the turbulent household. However, she also enables Willy’s delusions and refuses to confront the harsh reality of their financial and personal struggles. Ultimately, Linda’s character represents the sacrifices and unconditional love of a wife and mother.

Can you provide an overview of the key characters in “Death of a Salesman”?

“Death of a Salesman” features a variety of key characters, each contributing to the exploration of the play’s themes. The main character is Willy Loman, a salesman whose declining mental health and fading career drive the plot. Linda Loman is Willy’s loyal wife, who tries to support him despite his erratic behavior. Biff and Happy Loman are Willy’s adult sons. Biff is the eldest son, whose failed ambitions and strained relationship with his father form a central conflict in the play. Happy is the more optimistic and success-driven brother. Other notable characters include Willy’s brother, Ben, who serves as a symbol of success and fortune, and Charley, Willy’s neighbor and friend. Each character brings their own complexities and struggles to the story, contributing to the overall exploration of the American Dream, identity, and the disillusionment of the American middle class.”

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.