Monologues in Death of a Salesman

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  • 0:03 What Is a Monologue?
  • 0:28 Biff's Monologue About Work
  • 1:23 Linda's Monologue About Willy
  • 2:17 Willy's Salesman Monologue
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In the play, 'Death of a Salesman,' you might have noticed a few places where the person speaking seems to talk for a long time. Don't skip over these monologues - they contain insight into the characters. In this lesson, we'll look at three important monologues in this play.

What Is a Monologue?

A monologue is a section of text in a play in which a character shares his or her thoughts by addressing either the audience or the other characters. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman features quite a few monologues. These monologues contain important information, including hints about what might happen next, bits of revelation about what's happened in the past, and some insight into the characters' innermost secrets and fears.

Biff's Monologue About Work

One of the first examples of a monologue is when Biff and Happy (Biff's brother) are talking about how their father feels about Biff. He tells happy, ''Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it's a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still--that's how you build a future.''

This monologue gives us a glimpse into Biff's mind. Throughout the play, we learn that he has been trying to be a businessman his whole life, but this is simply not who he is. He has tried since high school to work his way up, but his lack of success has made him realize what he really wants out of life.

Linda's Monologue About Willy

Throughout the play, Linda, Willy's wife, is reserved but supportive of her husband. She tries to deal with the conflict between Biff and her husband as calmly as possible. However, she finally steps up and delivers a powerful monologue after Biff calls his dad crazy. Linda says ''He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him anymore, no one welcomes him. And what goes through a man's mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent? Why shouldn't he talk to himself? Why?''

While Linda seems to be a quiet and submissive character, with this monologue she displays that she's thoughtful and intelligent. She wants her sons (especially Biff) to understand why Willy is talking to himself and losing his mind. But she does not lecture or attack them. Instead, she does something much more important and effective: she forces them to think deeply about their father by asking a question: Why?

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