Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English from Mississippi State University. She holds a Mississippi AA Educator License.
Who is Linda?
In Arthur Miller's 1949 play Death of a Salesman, Linda Loman is Willy Loman's wife and mother of their two sons, Biff and Happy. Linda doesn't work outside her home. Throughout the play, she offers support to her emotionally fragile husband as he finally comes face to face with his fading dreams of success.
At first glance, Linda appears to be a stereotypical housewife - even a doormat - dominated by her bullying husband and waiting at home as Willy pursues some elusive idea of success in his job as a traveling salesman. But she's more than that. Linda is also a realist, and in fact, she's the only member of the family who is not caught up in Willy's dream of being well-liked.
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Linda Supports Willy
When Linda first appears, she expresses the concern for Willy that is the hallmark of her character throughout the play. Willy has returned unexpectedly, and Linda fears that something has happened to him. This concern for Willy does not spring from the obsessive imaginings of a lonely housewife, though. Linda has reason to worry. She knows that Willy has attempted suicide before, and she is acutely aware of the fact that her husband is disintegrating.
Willy is a pitiable character, reduced to subsisting on only the commissions he makes from his sales. At sixty years old, he is tired of traveling and unable to make a living. For a man whose self-esteem is rooted in dreams of success, this decline in his career has had a devastating emotional effect. To make things worse, Willy is forced to turn for financial help to his neighbor Charley, whose success Willy envies.
Linda listens to Willy's troubles and offers him rational advice. She convinces him to talk to his boss again about his situation. Linda wants him to be transferred to the New York office so he won't be required to travel anymore. 'They can't expect you to keep traveling every week,' she says, but that is exactly what the Wagner Company expects of the elderly salesman.
To his credit, Willy does acknowledge Linda's devotion to him, calling her 'my foundation and my support.'
Willy Betrays Linda
Despite Willy's acknowledgement of Linda's love for him, he's depicted as a man restlessly seeking something more. He has an illicit encounter with a woman in a hotel when Biff is still in high school. Biff's discovery of this liaison forever changes their relationship.
Though Linda never explicitly indicates that she has knowledge of the affair, Willy is haunted by guilt. His remorse is evident when he sees Linda mending stockings. He remembers giving new stockings to his mistress, an uncomfortable memory that causes him to lash out at Linda. 'I won't have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!' he bellows. Another part of Willy's reaction, of course, is found in the worn stockings as a reminder of the Lomans' financial situation.
Linda foresees Willy's inevitable end, and she's torn between preventing his suicide and maintaining his dignity. When she tells Biff and Happy about the rubber hose Willy plans to attach to the gas pipe in the cellar, she explains her dilemma to them. '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 that way?'
Linda knows that Willy is an arrogant and 'stupid man,' yet she continues to exhibit genuine love for him. Willy finally succeeds in killing himself, and Linda stands at his grave in the play's final scene. She has made the final house payment, which leaves them 'free and clear' in her words. Linda's use of the word 'free' in her final lines is a bit ambiguous. She is free from debt, but it also may indicate that she is finally free of Willy's relentless dreams of success.
In Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, Linda Loman, the only pragmatist in the Loman family, faces the truth of her husband's decline. She offers support and encouragement, though she knows that Willy lives in a hopeless dream of success. Willy betrays his marital vows, though Linda appears to be the ideal wife for man like Willy, a traveling salesman who needs constant reassurance that he's well-liked.
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Linda in Death of a Salesman: Character Analysis
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