Quotes or quotations are important phrases and sentences or lines that show the universality of the message of a literary piece. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman has quotes that present such universality of ideas and circumstances. Some of its memorable quotes have been discussed below.
Quotes in Death of a Salesman
“They don’t need me in New York. I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England.”
Act 1, Part 1
Willy Loman, the protagonist, is asserting that he is an important person in his business. He explains that he is from New England, and he works in that region. He is not required in New York. These lines show that he is trying to establish his importance in the business and to prove himself though he is aware of the fact that his sales are on the constant decline.
“I simply asked him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?”
Act 1, Part 1
Willy Loman is asking his wife, Linda, about their son. As Biff has not taken up any good career as yet, he is asking Linda if he has earned any salary. Hence, Linda tells him that he should not be angry. Therefore, he is clarifying that he is asking if his son is earning enough or making money for himself and not criticizing. These lines are important as they show that Willy is slowly losing his importance at home.
“I’ve always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all I’ve done is to waste my life.”
Act 1, Part 2
Biff speaks this line when talking with Happy about his realization that tending farms have given him nothing. He says that he has already decided not to waste his life in such petty jobs, but then he returns home, and it dawns upon that he has already wasted his life. This line is significant, as it shows Biff’s self-realization about wasting his life and yet doing nothing.
“That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead.”
Act 1, Part 3
Willy Loman speaks these lines when talking to Happy and Biff. His mind is filled with the notion that if people, especially his sons will succeed because they are handsome. In Greek mythology, Adonis is a god of beauty and desire. He wants to convey this idea to his sons that the business world only pays attention to the individuals looking attractive. These lines show that the father has filled his sons to be confident about their physical appearances instead of intelligence and hard work.
“Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You’ll never get out of the jungle that way.”
Act 1, Part 7
Ben, the dead brother of Willy Loman, speaks these lines in the first act when he fights with Biff in Willy’s dream. When Ben argues with Biff, he pats him and says that he should not fight any stranger fairly. He means that success does not come in fair games. The world is compared to a jungle where success frames its own rules. These lines are significant as they show a wrong example set by Willy about success.
“I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.”
Act 1, Part 8
Linda, Willy Loman’s wife, speaks these words in the first act. She is telling her son Biff and Happy that though Willy does not make a lot of money and is not a popular salesman, and he has been going through a rough patch. He should be paid attention to. She is teaching them that they are now old enough to respect their father.
“In those days there was personality in it, Howard. There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear
—or personality. You see what I mean? They don’t know me anymore.”
Act 2, Part 2.
Willy speaks these lines to Howard, his boss, in the second act. He is telling him that when his father was his boss, there was respect, brotherhood, and gratitude for the work he did. However, now the business world has become entirely measured and there is no respect for friendship. He tells him that now people do not know him, the seasoned salesman. These words of Willy show the important aspect of the business world and the place of a salesman in it.
“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit!”
Act 2, Part 2
Willy again protests after cold-hearted Howard orders him to leave his office. Willy is saying that he cannot throw him away like the peel of a fruit. Willy further tells him that people are not fruits and must be given proper respect. These lines are significant as they display the relationship between an organization and an employee.
“Willy, when’re you gonna realize that them things don’t mean anything. You named him Howard, but you can’t sell that. The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.”
Act 2, Part 4
Charley, Willy Loman’s neighbor, speaks these words in the second act. He is trying to make Willy realize that his skill of selling things is not up-to-date any more. He cannot sell things in old ways. Therefore, he is not successful and has no place in the marketing field. He is challenging and also mocking Willy for the lack of his knowledge.
“Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!”
Act 2, Part 7
Biff, Willy’s son, speaks these words in the end. He says that he does not want to become monotonous by doing a desk job at an office, but he is doing so. He is saying that he is not suitable for an office job and that he only wants to learn about himself. These lines are significant as the son still does not understand that he should work to support his old father.