DEATH OF A SALESMAN

BY ARTHUR MILLER




Wiki made by: Monica , Chris, Dana and Preston.
Lit 3 Block 5


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Character Analysis


Happy Loman

Happy Loman
Happy Loman


Happy Loman is the second son of William and Linda Loman, and the younger brother of Biff Loman who is 2 years older than him. Presently he is 32. As said in the book, Happy is “tall, powerfully made. Sexuality is like a visible color on him, or a scent that many women have discovered . He, like his brother, is lost, but in a different way, for he has never allowed himself to turn his face toward defeat and is thus more confused and hard-skinned, although seemingly more content,” (19). To clarify, Happy has a quixotic mentality. His life, like his father’s and brother’s, for the most part, is a lie. While he states to have been a success, in reality he’s a lost soul in the scheme of things. He tries so hard to make his father proud and to be like him that he fails to be happy himself, hence his name.
Happy is significant to the text in many ways. For one, his character represents all of the reprehensible qualities of his father: he has a strong attraction to women, he exaggerates the truth, and he lives in the shadows of other people. In business, he’s the assistant to an assistant buyer in department store which suggests that he’s nothing more than another worker, just like Willy. He lives behind his illusions to convince himself that he’s content with his life. This makes his character more confused and stubborn than even his brother Biff- at least Biff finally accepts that his life was a failure.
A strength of Happy is that he is able to pacify any spontaneous family quarrels. He is persistent with the idea that as long as his father believes his sons are successful, everybody is happy. As soon as Willy begins to berate Biff with condemning statements, Happy steps in, and makes peace. This becomes a viable trait when he approaches women- within a couple of sentences he can get a girl to stop what she’s doing and pay her full attention to him.
A weakness of his is that he refuses to accept the fact that things aren't always as simple to do as they seem. His proposition for him and Biff to start their own business is nothing but a futile hope to try and impress their father. Sadly, that’s all that Happy wants. When Biff tells Happy that it didn't go as planned, Happy suggests that Biff lie to Willy, “Say you got a lunch date with Oliver tomorrow.” This is a major reason why Happy is the most confused in the novel: he’s convinced himself that he’s living the dream of an American. Lastly, Happy’s true identity is hanging in the balance before page 131. Up to then the reader can’t tell whether he truly believes everything is OK or whether he has lied to himself to protect himself from life’s difficulties. On page 131, he says, “We always told the truth!” With those few words he confirmed that he is the greatest liar.

Biff Loman

Biff Loman
Biff Loman
Biff Loman is the eldest of the Loman Brothers. He is cursed with the blessing of being the first born in his family. As expected, his father, Willy Loman, had set the bar extremely high ever since he was a young boy. In high school, he obtained a college scholarship for football, which Willy, in turn, showed off to everyone he knew. When that dream was ripped away from Biff, due to flunking math his senior year, all the respect Willy had for Biff diminished. Since then, life for Biff had been a maze. At age 35, all Biff yearns for is to settle down and stop all the craziness that occurs in his life. Even after 35 years, his big life decision was whether or not he should gain the self-satisfaction he deserved by following his dreams of becoming a well renown farmer, or satisfying his father’s thirst for a successful son who was “well liked.” This habitually overwhelms Biff, causing him to only stress and be angered. There is still a growing, consistent conflict with fulfilling his own ambitions and fulfilling his father’s dreams while gaining his approval. Biff just wants to be accepted for who he is and praised by Willy for the successes he had achieved throughout his adulthood. Being an obedient son, despite everything his father had done to him, from kicking him to the curb after his failed college future to endless fights, Biff always aids his father. Biff is the epitome of the ideal first born son. He is benevolent but stands his ground when he needs to. Biff is underestimated by his family, but proves to be more worthy than he or his father could comprehend. Not only does Biff tell his mo off about how she should be treated, but ultimately figures out his question. Biff learns that he does not need his father’s approval to be happy, but that he could also be defiant. He is able to finally realize that he is the master of his own life and his father can not do anything to stop him.


Willy Loman


Willy Loman
Willy Loman
“He is past sixty years of age, dressed quietly. Even as he crosses the stage to the doorway of the house, his exhaustion is apparent.”
“He is past sixty years of age, dressed quietly. Even as he crosses the stage to the doorway of the house, his exhaustion is apparent.”

Working as a salesman for 36 years, Willy believes that his life goals are to obtain success and be well liked by the people around him. At the start of the play, Willy appears to be very boastful about his earnings and clients. Yet as the novel progresses, we see that Willy is really very insecure and tends to cover up his misfortunes with exaggerated stories of success. As the novel progresses, Willy is unable to hold on to reality and often flashes back to the past. By the end of the novel, the reader realizes that Willy was never an amazing salesman with as many clients as he claimed. Instead, he is seen as a defeated, old man who is unable to work, pay his bills, or even continue on in life. Willy’s last bit of hope is his obsession with watching his eldest son, Biff, succeed. Ever since Biff’s grand accomplishments in high school football, Willy instilled in his mind the idea that a popular person will make it big in the world. At the end of the novel, Willy is mortified by the fact that Biff was unable to get a loan from Oliver. In a last attempt at preserving his last bit of hope, Willy kills himself so that Biff can obtain the $20,000 of insurance money. Even in his last moments of life, Willy was always looking out for his sons.



Linda Loman

Linda Loman
Linda Loman

There is little said in the play regarding Linda's physical descriptions. Nonetheless, Linda is the mother of Happy and Biff Loman, and wife of Willy Loman. Linda acts as a traditional mother of the time period, she stays at home and does not have a job. Linda is most noteworthy for her treatment of Willy. She is said to be, "Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior — she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end" (12).
A strength for Linda is her ability to remain faithful to her husband. Willy often will tell her to be quiet when he is speaking with someone. Regardless of what Willy did, or his countless failures, Linda always stood right by him.
LINDA (timidly): Willy dear, what has he got against you?
WILLY: I’m so tired. Don’t talk any more.
A weakness of Linda is the same as her strength. Due to her faith towards Willy, she is forced to deal with his shortcomings such as financially.


Themes


Family
Linda: Everyday I go down and take away the little rubber pipe. But, when he comes home, I put it back where it was. How can I insult him that way? I don’t know what to do. I live from day to day, boys. I tell you, I know every thought in his mind. It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell you he put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him. (60)

Abandonment
“Where’d you go this time, Dad? Gee we were lonesome for you.” (30)

Loneliness
Willy: Cause I get so lonely — especially when business is bad and there’s nobody to talk to. I get the feeling that I’ll never sell anything again, that I won’t make a living for you, or a business, a business for the boys. He talks through The Woman’s subsiding laughter; The Woman primps at the "mirror." There’s so much I want to make for... (38)

American Dream
Happy: Wait a minute! I got an idea. I got a feasible idea. Come here, Biff, let’s talk this over now, let’s talk some sense here. When I was down in Florida last time, I thought of a great idea to sell sporting goods. It just came back to me. You and I, Biff - we have a line, a Loman Line. We train a couple of weeks, and put on a couple of exhibitions, see?
Willy: That’s an idea!
Happy: Wait! We form two basketball teams, see? Two water-polo teams. We play each other. It’s a million dollars’ worth of publicity. Two brothers, see? The Loman Brothers. Displays in the Royal Palms - all the hotels. And banners over the ring and the basketball court: “Loman Brother.” Baby, we could sell sporting goods!
Willy: That is a one-million-dollar idea!
Linda: Marvelous! (63)



Vocabulary


Mercurial (12)- subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind
Temperament (12)- a person's or animal's nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior
Trepidation (12)- a feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happen.
Crestfallen (15)- sad and disappointed.
Colt (22)- a type of revolver
Mare (22)- the female of a horse or other equine animal
Insinuates (27)- suggest or hint (something bad or reprehensible) in an indirect and unpleasant way
Chamois (28)- a type of soft pliable leather now made from sheepskin or lambskin
Incipient (30)- in an initial stage; beginning to happen or develop
Scrim (38)- strong, coarse fabric, chiefly used for heavy-duty lining or upholstery
Laconic (41)- (of a person, speech, or style of writing) using very few words
Valise (44)- a small piece of luggage that can be carried by hand
Gallantly (47)- having or showing politeness and respect for women
Rollicking (49)- boisterously carefree, joyful, or high-spirited
First-rate (52)- of the first order of size, importance, or quality
Stolid (44)- showing little or no emotion : not easily excited or upset
Aura (44)- a special quality or feeling that seems to come from a person, place, or thing
Imbue (52)- to cause (someone or something) to be deeply affected by a feeling or to have a certain quality
Fob (52)- a small object that is a decoration on a watch chain or a key ring
Evasively (54)- done to avoid harm; not honest or direct
Timidly (68)- feeling or showing a lack of courage or confidence
Dictation (71)- the matter of coping words spoken by another
Saccharine (75)- a sweet, sugary taste; sentimental
They’re working on a very big deal (83)- an phrase only Willy Loman would say when he is unsure of the economical situations in his family.
Valise (84)- hand carry, travel luggage small enough to fit clothing and minimal items inside
Ignoramus (97)- an ignorant person; a fool who knows nothing
Carte Blanche (97)- full, authoritative power
Rap (97)- to strike quickly, to criticize(slang) , to give out a command
Strapped (97)- to be in need of something
Raucous (98)- rough, rowdy, harsh
Sotto Voce (100)- a tone of voice that is low and soft, so it cannot be heard by others
Louse (113)- a contemptible or unpleasant persons
Gilt-edged (126)- (especially of paper or a book) having a gilded edge or edges
Simonizing (127)- polishing (a motor vehicle)
Dime a dozen (132)- something that is so common that its value is little or nothing
Idyllic (133)- extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque
Elegiacally (135)- expressing sorrow or lamentation
Don (136)- put on (an item of clothing)
Requiem (137)- a mass for the repose of the souls of the dead




Scenes


The Flashback (29-33)

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Biff:" Where’d you go this time, Dad? Gee we were lonesome for you."
Willy, pleased, puts an arm around each boy and they come down to the apron: Lonesome, heh?
Biff: Missed you every minute.” (30)

Significance- This scene contributes to the theme of family in this text. Willy returns home after a business trip and his two sons, Biff and Happy, come to greet him with the utmost happiness. As this scene is a flashback to the time before the Loman Family fell apart, it depicts a time when everything was “okay.” The Loman brothers are proud of their father, who is “well liked” (30). Willy constantly exaggerates his success on this business trip, giving his children hope that “someday [he would] have [his] own business”(30). At this point of Biff and Happy’s life, they have given into the illusion of their father being someone who is iconic and revolutionary;he is their role model. Willy continues to hype Biff and Happy up by announcing that they would be able to travel along with their father, taking mini-vacations because Willy’s success is everywhere. We also see, in the beginning of this scene on page 29, Happy tries to gain his father’s attention by telling Willy, “I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop?” To his dismay, Willy retorts with “Jumping rope is good too,” and turns his full attention onto Biff. We can tell that Willy, even in the past, has only been proud of Biff and often dismisses Happy's accomplishments, despite Happy’s attempts at gaining equal praise as Biff from this father. Willy continues to converse with Biff about his college recruitment, continuously ignoring Happy’s comments. The scene ends on page 33, with Happy, once again repeating, “I'm losing weight, you notice, Pop?”


Biff finally admits that he is a failure to Willy (127-133)

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Willy: “Spite, spite, its the word of your undoing! And when you’re down and out, remember what did it. When you’re rotting somewhere beside the railroad tracks, remember, and don’t you dare blame it on me!” (130)


Significance- This scene is at the end of the book where Biff and Happy get home from spending the day with some girls they met in the restaurant. In the scene Biff tries his best to finally set it straight with his father and to convince him that he’ll be fine on his own. This brings about the concern Willy has with his sons. He is infuriated with the fact that Biff calls himself a failure to the point where Willy says that Biff is doing this to spite him. In Willy’s eyes, he’s done everything a good father can do and that is lead his sons in the right direction. Biff counters Willy by saying, “I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!” (131)

The quote written above illustrates Willy’s point of view and belief about Biff. Willy is so lost in his own lies that he fails to recognize the fact that his sons were his making. A parent’s job is not only to encourage their children, but to educate them enough so that the children can survive on their own.. There are so many other factors that parents have to take into consideration as well. Unluckily for Biff, Willy refuses to take the responsibility for his lack of parenthood. Now what did Biff exactly do? Biff failed math which kept him from graduating high school and attend college. Yes, Biff did fail, but in Willy’s eyes nobody could fail a kid with as much potential as Biff. In reality, a teacher has to grade based on what the student did, and in Biff’s case, there was nothing there to keep him from failing.Willy then concludes that Biff had to fail on purpose to “spite” his father. As many readers saw, Willy kept telling Bernard, Biff and Happy’s cousin, to stop worrying about Biff’s failing grade in math class. Even when Biff went all the way up to the North to seek help from his father nothing happened that benefited Biff in any way. A child only has so much experience compared to their parents that when a child needs help, a parent should ready for assistance. Willy was not ready; instead, all the blame was put on Biff.



Linda reveals that Willy is trying to commit suicide (58-60)

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LINDA: I don’t think he fell asleep.
BIFF: Why not?
LINDA: Last month...Oh, boys, it’s so hard to say a thing like this! He’s just a big stupid man to you, but I tell you there’s more good in him than in many other people. I was looking for a fuse. The lights blew out, and I went down the cellar. And behind the fuse box — it happened to fall out — was a length of rubber pipe — just short.
HAPPY: No kidding!
LINDA: There’s a little attachment on the end of it. I knew right away. And sure enough, on the bottom of the water heater there’s a new little nipple on the gas pipe.
HAPPY: That — jerk.
BIFF: Did you have it taken off?
LINDA: I’m — I’m ashamed to. 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? I don’t know what to do.

Significance: This is the first scene that mentions the impending death of Willy Loman. Here, the reader realizes that he will most likely commit suicide at the end of the play. From this scene on, we start to recognize Willy’s downfall more and more as the story progresses. Suicide is then referenced multiple times before Willy actually commits the act one night. This scene also shows the lack of interest and care that Happy and Biff have for their father. While Linda goes off to explain her inability at confronting Willy about the attempted suicides, both sons cannot understand his reasons for attempting such an act. Rather than being sympathetic for their father, both sons condemn him and fail to realize that they were part of the reason for his actions.





The First Time We Witness Willy Imagining Ben (44-52)

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WILLY: That’s funny. For a second there you reminded me of my brother Ben.

BEN: I only have a few minutes. (He strolls, inspecting the place. Willy and Charley continue playing.)

CHARLEY: You never heard from him again, heh? Since that time?

WILLY: Didn't Linda tell you? Couple of weeks ago we got a letter from his wife in Africa. He died.

CHARLEY: That so.

BEN (chuckling): So this is Brooklyn, eh?


Significance: This is definitely one of the most confusing parts of the book as we witness the first of Willy's imaginations in the play. This is very interesting as Willy's dreams intersect with reality; therefore, in the midst of his conversation with Charley, Willy begins talking to Ben. This irritates Charley eventually leading to him exiting the room. Willy is so exhausted and stressed that he imagines either happier times such as Biff's football game or he imagines Ben to ask him what his secret to success was.


Quotes


Page 18:
WILLY: Don’t say? Tell you a secret, boys. Don’t breathe it to a soul. Someday I’ll have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home any more.
HAPPY: Like Uncle Charley, heh?
WILLY: Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not liked. He’s liked, but he’s not — well liked.



Significance: This quote clearly demonstrates how delusional Willy was even during his younger years. As the readers, we know that Willy is not a very successful salesman so it is very unlikely that one day he would own his own business. Like most of his other positive stories and attributes, this is story is yet another lie. Compared to Charley, Willy has no place owning his own business. Ironically, Willy tells Happy that Charley is unliked while he himself has the support needed for a business. This quote demonstrates Willy’s constant need to prove that he is the perfect salesman and portrays his belief in the American Dream.





LINDA: No. You can’t just come to see me, because I love him. (With a threat, but only a threat, of tears.) He’s the dearest man in the world to me, and I won’t have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue. You've got to make up your mind now, darling, there’s no leeway any more. Either he’s your father and you pay him that respect, or else you’re not to come here. I know he’s not easy to get along with — nobody knows that better than me — but...
Analysis:
This is significant in that it shows the immense extent of Linda's devotion to Willy. This was a very strong statement by Linda because it demonstrates that she has chosen her husband over her son. When considering the role of the mother, one is inclined to think of the mother archetype and her undying faith to her children but Linda does away with that idea. For reasons unspecified, Libda is bound to the Willy and all of his failures. She was willing to never see or receive letters from her son over the disrespect he showed Willy. Unlike the cheating Willy, Linda is completely faithful to her partner.





Willy: Without a penny to his name, three great universities are begging for him, and from there the sky’s the limit, because it’s not what you do, Ben. It’s who you know and the smile on your face! It’s contacts, Ben, contacts! (86)

Significance: Willy is, without a doubt, delusional. This quote is significant not only because it shows Willy’s inability to cope with failure, but it also shows that he is a habitual liar. All his life, Willy has been a salesman, his paycheck determined by how many smiles he could make appear and money, disappear everyday. One day, he realized that he was not as “well liked” as he assumed he was and could not handle the truth. His automatic solution was to formulate a plan on how to be successful to make himself feel better. This lead to him being mentally astray, bringing higher expectations onto his son, Biff, so that Biff could fulfill what he could not. This quote shows Willy’s character, it shows that he is a person who lies to keep the truth from being revealed. He lies to prevent himself from looking bad and being defeated by an outside force. He was fed lies through his wife’s exaggeration that he began to believe and spread them out. He could not fathom the fact that he was truly a failure and could not admit to it. His delusional state paired with his lies lead to his extreme exaggeration on Biff’s scholarship, which made him think that by having “contacts”, just as he had when he was a salesman, it is the only thing that you needed to get to big places in the world. Without money, he made it seems like Biff had so much talent, nothing matter and all Biff had to do was walk up to any college and they would take him. This was also a parallel to how he thought of himself as a salesman. This quote contributed to Willy’s sour attitude towards his son every time they fought, which is shown throughout the story.






Charley: “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” (97).


Charley, Willy’s semi-successful brother, tries to offer Willy a job, and Willy refuses. The fact is that Willy will not settle for welfare from his brother. He’s already convinced himself that he is a successful businessman. Here, Charley is attempting to talk some sense, but Willy won’t hear it . Charley realizes that if Willy is going to come to him anyway to ask for money that he might as well give Willy a job. But again, Willy claims that he is doing just fine. Willy’s internal struggles kept him from ever reaching his dream of being a successful businessman.
With Willy, every little aspect is exaggerated, as you can see. A simple nod from a mayor, for instance, counts as a formal conversation. Naming the boss’ son is enough for him to be a first-rate employee. Any occurrence at all that made him slightly more than an ordinary person was understood by him as being on top of the business world. His lack of true skills forced him to resort to handling real business affairs by making “friends”. But when it came down to his funeral, there were none of his so-called “friends” there. As we all know, there are no friends when it comes to money. It’s too bad that Willy Loman learned that the hard way.

Social Issue



Affairs


On pages 113-120, Willy’s Mistress is openly revealed in the play. It is then inferred that Willy often visits her while on his trips to the north. It is this affair that seems to cause most of Willy’s downfall. After Biff comes to Boston and sees the two together, he drops university and moves out West. This action stops Biff from accomplishing Willy’s dreams for him which then leads Willy on a path of disappointment and sorrow. This affected the society because everyone who had some involvement with the Lomans would see the effect of one decision. Because the affair caused most of Willy’s crazy nature, it also caused people like Charley and Howard to take pity on Willy and help him out.
Affairs seem to be as present today as they were in Death of a Salesman. Yet, unlike contemporary society, Linda’s opinions on the affair are never mentioned. Though she has a direct involvement in these events, as a woman at that time, her opinion didn't matter. This changes the perception of the play’s time period. Unlike modern society where a man or woman are equally likely to take part in an affair, during this time, men were the only ones allowed. This showed the sexist ideas of the society at the time.


Greed


In the book, Death of a Salesman, greed becomes a societal issues. Taking place at a time of depression, it is not surprising to see that the Loman family had financial issues. Money is and will always be a problem in society because there is never enough of it for those of the middle class, like the Lomans. Throughout the novel, Willy had traveled far and wide to make ends meet for his family. What can a man do when his two grown sons, set way past marital age, have not yet secured a job with a decent pay. With the stress of being the only benefactor to a four people family, Willy had to find a way to make his problem go away. Willy’s desire to obtain vasts amounts of money were the causes of his delusions of how successful of a salesman he was. On page 126, we get a hint at what Willy’s last resort is. He says to Ben, “ It’s twenty thousand dollars on the barrelhead. Guaranteed, gilt-edged, you understand?” Ben questions Willy’s suggestion by undermining the company ability to stick to their honor of giving Willy this money. Ben calls it a “cowardly” (126) move, but to our dismay, it does nothing. Willy becomes so desperate, just as others would have been at this time, to get a hold of a couple of bucks. His greed overpowered his senses which lead to his ultimate doom, suicide.
In American society, greed works the same way as it did in the book. It is still a societal issue today and i believe it has gotten worse. Death is not the only way greedy people obtain money, but it leans them towards doing any action that will cough up some dough. Today, drug dealers are everywhere, trying to make a quick buck. People are constantly faking insurance claims, a foot that “broke” when a car hit them from behind. Greed drives people to do the most insane things. It will always be this way.


Suicide:

Suicide is nothing more than an escape plan. The person committing suicide struggles with the hardships of life to the point where they choose to take their life own life away. In the novel, Willy Loman comes to realize that he can no longer provide a sufficient amount of money for his family. Willy was already at an old age when he killed himself. Not many people even make it to that age. After he thought it out, he came to understand that he is worth more dead than alive.
Suicide has been an aspect of American society for as long as anyone can remember. Literature such as Antigone, Romeo and Juliet, Frankenstein, and many more show that the act of suicide has and always will be an inescapable fact of humanity. It affects society, because as the world evolves technologically, people are more aware of the amount of people that take their lives away. As opposed to the novel, suicide is presently done by a vast majority of teenagers and young adults. This fact is frightening because if children feel that their lives are too much to bare now, what will children say 10 years from now?
Overall, suicide has been an undeniably profound issue in human society. The effects have been demonstrated with pictures of crying family members. The stories of suicide and suicide attempts are still on the news every day, and there is nothing more another person can do. People have to understand the gift they were given when they were born and deal with the stress life can bring. It’s not easy, but we all have to try to make it.

Role of the Father as the Main Money Maker


In the story, Linda does not work while Willy is expected to make all of the money. This hurts this particular family in that a salary garnered by Linda would have aided the family financially. This is not to say that Linda is in anyway lazy, rather, this is what her society demanded of her. There are much less women in the workfield than men in this time period. The monetary gains by the men as opposed to the women leads to a feeling of dominance by the male. This issue has greatly changed, not completely though, in modern America as women are now integral parts of the work force. The phrase "stay at home dad" has even emerged because wives are going to work while their husbands stay at home. Once again, the financial situation of the family should not be blamed on Linda, she should be blamed for accepting a subservient role however. Nonetheless, the blame should be placed onWilly for not accepting the less exhaustive job offered by Charley.

CHARLEY: Without pay? What kind of a job is a job without pay? (He rises.) Now, look, kid, enough is enough. I’m no genius but I know when I’m being insulted.

WILLY: Insulted!

CHARLEY: Why don’t you want to work for me?

WILLY: What’s the matter with you? I’ve got a job.

CHARLEY: Then what’re you walkin’ in here every week for?

WILLY (getting up): Well, if you don’t want me to walk in here...

CHARLEY: I’m offering you a job.

WILLY: I don’t want your goddam job!