Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Analysis of Chunk 3

In the beginning of the chunk Willy is playing cards with Charlie. During this game some important discourse takes place. The reader sees that Charlie is the voice of reality in the play. Unlike Willy, he knows where and who he is, and accepts the fact that he is just an ordinary guy. The two talk about Biff, and Charlie says, "Let him go." Willy cannot bear this, he tells Charlie, "I got nothin' to give him, Charlie, I'm clean, I'm clean." And it's true: Willy Loman is too poor to give his son anything. Willy wants to see his son succeed, and his investment of time and energy hasn't paid off. Charlie tells Willy, "When a deposit bottle is broken, you don't get your nickel back."

Willy is ashamed that he is stuck in Brooklyn, with a low-paying job and yearns for Ben's happy-go-lucky lifestyle. Nonetheless, being Willy, he has to cover this fact up with lies. When Ben appears, Willy talks admirably about their father. He weaves a myth that he was a good man, who, "…made more money in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime…" He is another of Willy's idols. In reality, it is not possible to make a lot of money selling flutes. The father deserted his family, and Ben tried to go to Alaska to look for him. He ended up in Africa, stumbled upon some diamond mines and became rich. Ben says, "Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich."

Willy sees this story differently, though. Ben stumbled across his wealth, but Willy believes that he worked hard for it, and wants his sons to do the same: work hard and be like Uncle Ben. Willy asks Ben, "What's the answer? How did you do it?" Willy wants to be reassured that he has been raising his sons properly. Willy says, "…to walk into a jungle. I was right! I was right!"

More mixed messages are sent in this chunk, not only from Willy, but Ben as well. Ben asks Biff to fight with him, but Ben trips him and says, "Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never get out of the jungle that way." The jungle that Ben keeps talking of is metaphorical of life. It is the same jungle that Willy talks about when he tells Hap, "The woods are burning! I can't drive a car!" Willy's life is crashing down around him, and he cannot stop it: his boys are stealing on his insistence, he feels woefully inadequate beside Ben, he is ridden with the guilt of his infidelity, he has lost his job. He continues to lie to himself and his family hoping everything will turn out all right in the end.