Linda in Death of a Salesman: Character Analysis

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

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.

Linda, Willy Loman's wife in ''Death of a Salesman'' by Arthur Miller, might look like a typical housewife on the surface. However, she is the only person in the Loman family who is grounded in reality; all the rest relentlessly pursue the dream of success.

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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  • 0:03 Who Is Linda?
  • 0:46 Linda Supports Willy
  • 1:58 Willy Betrays Linda
  • 2:40 Willy's Death
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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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.

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