Death of a Salesman Top 10 quotes

  1. When explaining why they can’t leave the crowded city to live in New York, Willy tells his wife, “I’m the New England man.  I’m vital in New England.” Unfortunately for Willy, this is just an illusion.
  2. Unlike Charley, Willy intends to be “well liked.” He tells his sons that personality is more important than smarts.  He explains, “the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead.  Be liked and you will never want.”
  3. According to Willy, Ben has made a fortune mining diamonds in Africa.  “The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich!” Thus, Willy’s illusions continue.
  4. Like his brother Ben who conquered the wilderness, Willy feels that he must live on the frontier, building a house and planting a garden for his family if he wants to properly care for his family.  He tells Linda, “Before it’s all over we’re gonna get a little place out in the country, and I’ll raise some vegetables, a couple of chickens.” Unfortunately, times have changed and his dream is no longer possible in twentieth century New England.
  5. Willy grows angry, telling Howard, “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away-a man is not a piece of fruit.” Here, Willy feels that Howard (the son of the father who had formerly promised Willy that he would be rewarded for his service to the company) has gone back on the word of his father by forgetting the salesman in his golden years, throwing away the peel after eating the orange, so to speak.
  6. Willy alludes to suicide.  He admits to Charley, “After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.” It seems Willy has a sizable amount of life insurance.
  7. Biff sorrowfully concludes before his brother, “I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been!” Biff realizes that he was never a salesman for Oliver, but just a lowly shipping clerk who was fired from stealing from the company he worked for.  Finally Biff realizes that his father’s illusions of success for him are just that-illusions.
  8. On the way out of the restaurant, Willy asks the waiter where he can buy seeds for his garden.  He tells Stanley, “I’ve got to get some seeds.  I’ve got to get some seeds, right away.  Nothing’s planted.  I don’t have a thing in the ground.” This is a last, desperate attempt by Willy to salvage what’s left of his life and his legacy.  Planting seeds represents the success he hopes to leave for his sons and his wife.
  9. Biff dispels Willy’s idea that the Loman family is special.  Biff asserts, “Pop! I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you!” This infuriates Willy who counterattacks, “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!”
  10. While Biff realizes that their father “had the wrong dreams,” Happy defends Willy’s aspirations, saying, “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain.  He had a good dream.  It’s the only dream you can have-to come out number-one man.  He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.” In this way, Happy picks up the torch that his father has left at the grave.