This scene begins with a flashback to
when Biff and Happy are in high school. They are busy polishing the family car as Willy rambles
on as usual. Soon in becomes obvious that Happy is trying very hard to please his father, though
Biff seems to receive all of Willy's attention. "I'm losing weight, you notice, Pop?" he asks
his father. Yet Willy doesn't notice, choosing to talk to Biff instead.
When Willy learns that Biff has stolen a football from
the high school, Willy shrugs it off, saying, "Coach'll probably congratulate you on your initiative."
It seems nothing can get in the way of Willy's belief in Biff's success. This incident is just
a further example of Willy's illusions about his sons. These illusions are continued when Willy
later tells his boys that he's a great, successful businessman who one day will be rich like Uncle Charley.
Yet unlike Charley, Willy intends to be "well liked." He brags about having friends all over the East
Coast. "I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own,"
he exaggerates. It seems the idea of being liked is crucial to Willy's notion of success.
Yet these illusions begin to be
disproved when Bernard, a neighbor and son of Charley, enters the scene, warning Willy that Biff won't
graduate from high school if he doesn't study math. It soon becomes apparent that Biff is only
a football hero, not a good student at all. Yet again, Willy shrugs off this shortcoming, telling
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."
Later, Miller flash-forwards to the present. The reader learns that the Loman family is deeply
in debt and that Willy is only getting paid by commission because he has lost most of his ability as
mind also seems to be going. Though near the beginning of his conversation with Linda he says
that his Chevrolet is the best car ever built, moments later he contradicts himself, saying, "they ought
to prohibit the manufacture of that car!" These contradictions continue, as Willy laments over the fact
that he is not well liked, despite the fact that moments before he tells his sons that he is very well
liked. Yet Linda tries to reassure her failing husband, telling him that he is successful
and handsome. This statement causes Willy's mind to drift away to a time when he was with a prostitute
on the road. This short scene ends with Willy giving "The Woman" a pair of stockings as a present.
Though Willy certainly can't afford to buy these gifts, he does so anyway. Here again, Willy shows
himself to be anyone but a strong role model for his sons. Later, when the scene returns to the
present and Willy finds Linda mending some stockings, he feels very guilty.
Finally, Willy returns to his illusions-this time, of
his rich brother, Ben. Throughout the play, Miller uses Ben to represent the pinnacle of capitalist
potential and the benchmark for Willy's success as a businessman. 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. Many critics believe that Ben is simply a figment of Willy's imagination-not a real
person at all.