Character Sketch of Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman

Character Sketch of Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman

Character Sketch of Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman

Linda Loman is a devoted wife. She shows a constant wifely solicitude about Willy. This, indeed, is her dominant trait. This trait appears in the very opening dialogue when Willy has unexpectedly returned after having left in the morning on his business trip which was to keep him away from home for quite a number of days. Linda anxiously asks him if he had an accident with the car. Perhaps the steering wheel caused him some trouble. Perhaps he needs a change of glasses. When all these guesses prove to be wrong, she says:

“Well, you’ll just have to take some rest, Willy, you can’t continue this way.”

She then suggests that he should ask his company for a job in New York so that he should not have to travel. She affectionately urges him to tell his employer Howard that his proposal for a change in his job should be accepted. She next offers to make a sandwich for him. She is anxious that he should eat something and tells him that there is some cheese in the refrigerator. She puts up with his irritation. Her patience in dealing with him seems to be unlimited. Willy is fully aware of Linda’s devotion to him and he acknowledges this fact in the following words :

 “You’re my foundation and my support, Linda.”

Linda is a very affectionate mother, too. She is quite indulgent towards her two sons. She urges her husband not to lose his temper with Biff because, she says, “he’ll find his way.” Whenever Willy expresses a high opinion about Biff, Linda readily agrees. In fact, in assessing Biff, Linda is as partial and unrealistic as Willy. Both Biff and Happy have a high opinion about their mother. Biff often addresses her as his “pal” and does not want her to feel unhappy. Happy thinks that his mother is a woman of “character”. Referring to the kind of woman he would like to marry, he says:

“Somebody with character, with resistance I like Mom, y’know?”

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On another occasion this is how he talks about his mother:

“What a woman! They broke the mould when they made her. You know that, Biff?”

Although Linda loves both her sons, she is not crazy about them. She does not dote upon them to such an extent as to lose sight of the fact that both her son are quite casual about, and almost indifferent to the sad plight of Willy. She asks Biff why he is so “hateful” towards his father. And she goes on to say:

“Biff, dear, if you don’t have any feeling for him, you can’t have any feeling for me.”

She tells him that her husband is “the dearest man in the world” to her, and that she will not have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue.” She puts it bluntly to Biff: “Either he’s your father and you pay him that respect, or else you’re not to come here.” Even when Biff tries to prejudice her against Willy by saying that Willy has never had even an ounce of respect for her, she continues to defend Willy. She becomes almost eloquent in her defence of her husband:

“I don’t say he is a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.”

She tries to make both her sons feel ashamed of their indifference towards Willy. She reminds them of the great love he has always borne for them and of their worship of him in the bygone days. She asks them what medal they have given him as a reward for his having worked for their benefit and for having loved them better than his life. She reveals that she discovered in the cellar a rubber pipe with which Willy obviously planned to commit suicide. She appeals to them to save him. Addressing her older son, she says:

“Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands!”

Eventually both the sons have to yield and to give a promise that they will make amends to him. Later in the play, when Willy has been treated by both the boys disgracefully in the restaurant, Linda again loses her temper with them and reprimands them severely for their misconduct. This is what she says to them:

“You’re a pair of animals! Not one, not another living soul would have had the cruelty to walk out on that man in the restaurant!”

Still later, Linda plays an important role in bringing about a reconciliation between Willy and Biff. At Willy’s grave, she gives an outlet to her suppressed sorrow, even though she does not cry. She is puzzled by Willy’s action in having killed himself:

“Why did you do it? I search and search and I search, and I can’t understand it, Willy.”

She tells her dead husband that she has made the last payment on the house but that he will no longer come home. Her brief soliloquy by the side of Willy’s grave is deeply moving.

But, although we greatly admire Linda both as a wife and a mother, we cannot help feeling that she is a somewhat timid and passive individual. She falls so much under her husband’s influence that she becomes a sharer of all his illusions. In other words, she becomes an unthinking partner in his fantastic dreams and unrealistic hopes. Also, she restrains him from availing the golden opportunity offered to him by Ben. She shrinks as much as Willy from taking any risks in life.

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