Go back to the Miller page for more texts and other resources.

"Dead or Alive"

In "Death of a Salesman", Linda decides to be a selfish housewife who pretends to care about her husband's mental state, but in reality, prefers that he kills himself so that she can live an easier life

A sad, sad tragedy it is. A woman found a man that she thought would be successful in life. Everything might have gone well for a while, but hard times were sure to come. And when they did, the proverbial "stuff" hit the fan and chaos began. What was an old lady to do when her kids were dead beats and her husband couldn't bring in the money? Get a job and possibly help? No. Not Linda, a character from Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". Linda decides to be a selfish housewife who pretends to care about her husband's mental state, but in reality, prefers that he kill himself so that she can live an easier life.

Linda is given nothing but motive for wanting her husband, Willy, to die because of the ways he mistreats her. For example, during a family conversation in Act I, Linda, trying to put in a few words, says, "Maybe things are beginning to change-," with Willy coming in right after her, "(wildly enthused, to Linda)Stop interrupting!..."(1187) Linda, trying desperately to be a part of the conversation, is constantly denied her voice. Always under Willy's control, Linda is treated as if she is allowed to speak when he gives her permission. In another conversation in Act I between Biff, Happy, and Linda, more evidence of Willy mistreating Linda is provided:
"Linda: It seems there's a woman...(She takes a breath as-)
Biff: (sharply but contained) What woman?
Linda: (simultaneously) ...and this woman...
Linda: What?
Biff: Nothing. I just said what woman."(1184)
During this conversation, Linda is introducing the idea to Biff and Happy that Willy's car accidents might not have been accidents. She is telling of a woman that was a witness to the wreck, but a twist comes into the conversation. It seems that Biff is quick on making an assumption about who the woman is, and Linda shows a suspicious tone to Biff's reply. This time implies that Linda is aware that Willy is unfaithful to her, providing another way he mistreats her. In Guerin Bliquez's essay over "Death of a Salesman", she states, "But betrayal exposes the basic dishonesty of the entire marriage relationship;...". Even though Willy sees Linda as his "support", he still strays to another woman. Their whole marriage has been a lie and Linda strives for a moment of peace. Too scared to reveal the truth, Linda holds her motives in and allows Willy to trip until he falls.

Along with her motives, Linda attempts to keep any voice of reason away from Willy, showing that her selfish desire of her well-being is more important than his. In a discussion with her boys in Act I, Linda says, "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 like that?"(1184) Linda claims that acknowledging the truth about Willy's possible attempt to kill himself is an insult. But, in order to develop a solution to any preoblem, one must start with the truth. Linda merely wants to accommodate Willy's mental problems rather than get rid of them, causing him to stay in his troubled state of mind. In another conversation in Act II, Linda tries to push Biff away from speaking with his father:
"Linda: You're not going near him. Get out of this house!
Biff: (with absolute assurance, determination) No. We're going to have an abrupt conversation, him and me.
Linda: You're not talking to him."(1221)
Linda does not want Biff talking to Willy in fear that her indisposed attemp to keep Willy in his troubled state of mind will be unraveled. But in reality, Willy needs to hear the truth rather than the promotion of a dead-end dream. Linda, overall, tries to support Willy's alternative mental state and she helps lead him to destruction. In agreement that Linda is not positive help for Willy, June Schlueter states, "When Willy keeps driving the car off the road, though she knows of his death wish, she tries to excuse the action by suggesting he needs an eye examination or a good rest." Linda cares more that Willy continues to hide the truth because she knows that eventually he will kill himself. Her supposed love for Willy is just a cover-up of her destruction of him and her desire for a peaceful life.

After Willy's death, Linda uncovers her emotionless heart and displays little care of Willy's death, proving that she preferred he died. During the funeral in Act II, Linda claims, "He was so wonderful with his hands."(1229) In some of her final words about Willy, Linda reveals what she thougth he was good at, which is construction. Although Willy had a talent with construction, Linda never thought that introducing the idea of a different job would be good for her. Knowing that the job of a salesman was hard on Willy, Linda's selfish desire of being married to a successful man overtook her cares of Willy's well-baing. In her final words to Willy in Act II, Linda says, "...We're free. (Biff comes slowly toward her.) We're free...We're free..."(1230) Linda attempts to show feeling for the audience but allows the truth to shine. She is finally free, free from the troubles of dealing with her husband and of financial worries. The insurance money has arrived and she was able to make the last payment on the house. Life ahead was looking to be easier for her. In another essay over "Death of a Salesman", William B. Dillingham claims, "Willy encounters another aspect of the American dream in his wife Linda, for whom security is the most important goal in life." Indeed, security is Linda's goal in life. Rather it be with or without her husband makes no difference to her. And being that it couldn't be with, Linda has found her security with the insurance money now that her husban has died. Her secret plotting to help Willy stay mentally ill was a success and easy street is in her grasp.

One could say that maybe after all Linda had a job and was helpful. She had a job of destruction and definitely helped Willy with his troubles. Helped him so much that eventually he committed suicide. Now she has the ability to say she married a successful man, maybe dead, but successful.

Works Cited:

Bliquez, Guerin. "Linda's Role in 'Death of a Salesman'," in Modern Drama, Vol. 10, No. 4, February, 1968, pp. 383-86. RPTD in Drama Criticism, Vol. 1. Gale Research Inc.. 1991. 322.

Dillingham, Wiliam B.. "Arthur Miller and the Loss of Conscience" in Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman. Penguin Group. 1967. 344.

Miller, Arthur. "Death of a Salesman" in Literature, Reading, Reacting, Writing, Compact Fourth Edition. Harcourt, Inc.. 2000. 1187, 1184, 1221, 1229, & 1230.

Schlueter, June. Essay over "Death of a Salesman" in Arthur Miller-Criticism and Interpretation. The Ungar Publishing Company. 1987. 65.

Authors | Quotes | Digests | Submit | Interact | Store

Copyright © Classics Network. Contact Us