Death of a Salesman: Linda Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine how Linda's role as Willy's passive wife enables Willy and their son, Biff, to fail and remain in a state of denial in Arthur Miller's ''Death of a Salesman''.


What would you do if your spouse told you they were successful despite evidence to the contrary? What if you suspected your spouse was considering suicide? Or if your son was a failure? Linda responds by enabling her husband and son rather than facing the truth. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is a two-act play that still resonates with audience members today. In this story, the main character, Willy Loman, is a salesman who believes he has found the key to the American Dream. All he needs to dress nicely and be well-liked. His wife, Linda, believes in her husband and supports him. If she suspects that he is not really a success, she doesn't let on. Let's learn more about how Linda has enabled Willy in this play.

Act One

Enabling Willy

After Willy has yet another car accident, Linda decides it is time for Willy to stop traveling so much.

She encourages Willy to talk it over with his boss, 'Why don't you go down to the place tomorrow and tell Howard you've simply got to work in New York? You're too accommodating, dear.'

Over many years, Willy has sold Linda on the idea that he is successful and valued in his company. She has no idea that the conversation she is encouraging Willy to have will lead to him getting fired.

At one point, Willy tries to come clean and let her know that he is not as well-liked as he has led Linda to believe. Some of his coworkers even make fun of him. Linda doesn't believe him, saying, 'Why? Why would they laugh at you? Don't talk that way, Willy.'

Enabling Biff

Although Linda also enables their son, Biff, she is a bit more pragmatic with him. Biff is more realistic and doesn't claim success that doesn't exist. Although Biff showed great promise in high school as a popular, good looking, football player, his life since high school has been less than stellar. He has trouble keeping a job and bounces from girl to girl. Linda tries to steer him back in the right direction.

'Biff, a man is not a bird, to come and go with the springtime.'

She believes it's time for him to stick to something.

Enabling Willy's Secrets

Linda's enabling becomes more disconcerting as she confides in her sons that Willy is trying to kill himself, although she doesn't confront Willy.

'The insurance inspector came. He said that they have evidence. That all these accidents in the last year - weren't - weren't - accidents.'

She further explains to Biff that she has found a rubber tube that she knows Willy has attached to the gas pipe on the hot water heater, but she refuses to take it off because she doesn't want Willy to realize she knows his secret.

Act Two

Linda's Hopes Rise

Linda believes that being handsome and well-dressed will bring success to Biff. She is excited when Biff decides to go ask his former employer for a business loan. She has so enabled him through his life that he is not even aware that it is odd to ask someone for money that you haven't had contact with in ten years.

She reports to Willy what Biff is wearing 'his blue suit. He's so handsome in that suit. He could be a - anything in that suit!' Unfortunately, the suit is not enough.

Linda's Hopes Hold Willy in Place

After Willy is fired, he flashes back to a time when his successful brother, Ben, asked him to join him in Alaska to work with him. It was perhaps the most potentially lucrative opportunity that Willy ever had, but Linda opposed the idea. Perhaps her guilt over Willy's missed opportunity is what led to her becoming an enabler.

Linda said, 'Enough to be happy right here, right now… Why must everybody conquer the world? You're well liked, and the boys love you, and someday - '

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account