How and what do we learn about Willy’s Character and Beliefs from the First Act of Death of a Salesman? In Act one of the play Miller begins with a dialogue between the main character Willy and his wife Linda. Willy is a travelling salesman and the reader learns that he is having trouble with his mind as it drifts from the past (memory) to the present (reality). Throughout the first act Miller begins to reveal Willy’s character and beliefs. The reader learns that Willy is an unsuccessful salesman; he believes that the key to success “Is not what you know but who you know.”
From the opening scene Miller presents the reader with Willy’s first problem, we are told that while Willy was driving and admiring the scenery his car veered off the side of the road. Linda thinks the problem is with the car, however, Willy disagrees he says “I absolutely forgot I was driving ….I have such thoughts, I have such strange thoughts”. This shows that Willy himself was abnormal. During Willy’s first flash back when Biff and Happy were children, we learn about Willy’s character with his eldest son, Biff. We find out that Biff is Willy’s favourite son as he is a star athlete, popular with the girls and well liked.
Being well liked is an important part of Willy’s character. He believes that being liked, leads to success. Although Willy encourages success, he fails to provide his boys with morality. This can be seen when Biff steals a football from the school and Willy says ” Sure, he’s gotta practise with a regulation ball, doesn’t he? Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative!” Willy encourages his boys to steal building supplies from a building site so that he could build a new stoop and doesn’t seem to care if they get caught. He even brags about what they steal, “You shoulda seen the lumber they brought home last week. At least a dozen six-by-tens worth all kinds a money”. He is proud of their theft. This encourages their deviant behaviour.
It becomes apparent within Act 1, that Willy’s character is both immoral and dishonest. Dishonesty is common throughout the Death of a Salesman. Willy lies to Biff, Happy and Linda. The dishonesty begins at the start of the play when Willy tells Linda the reason he came home was because he couldn’t drive any more. However, we later find out that the truth is because he almost ran over a child in Yonkers and it scared him.
Willy also lies to his boys about having coffee with the Mayor of Providence and he claims, “I can park my car in any street in New England and the cops protect it like their own.” But we later find out that Willy’s lies cover up his lack of confidence. He later admits to Linda that people in New England appear to laugh at him. Finally, Willy lies about the amount he is selling. One minute he states his is making $1,200 and then the next he admits the truth, that he only made $120. The reason why Willy is dishonest to his boys and Linda is because he wants to impress them and not appear as a failure to them. Lying is his method of hiding what he sees as his inadequacies. Willy’s immorality is evident in the disclosure by Miller of his mistress