Now you have seen a few examples of the kind of close analysis of the text that marks out a skilled reader, and had a go yourselves in the comments section of the last blog post, as well as in your books, I want you to practise those skills further, working in pairs.
Below you will find a series of quotations. First you will need to sign-up for one of the quotations by clicking here. The quotations that are available are labelled ‘free slot’. Above the list, and below the ‘Sign Up’ heading, there is a link to a form that allows you to choose the quotation. You will need to select the number of the quotation from a drop-down menu, add your names in the box below, then click submit. Please check that your names have been added to the sign-up sheet before beginning work on your quotation. If someone else has chosen that quotation before you, you will have to pick another one.
Once you know which quotation you are working on, please copy and paste it at the top of a word processor document, then write your analysis of the quotation beneath. Then copy and paste the quotation and your response into a comment box under this post. Please do not work directly in the comment box, as there is a chance that all your work will be lost if the page crashes or the comment does not save properly.
You will find it helpful to find your quotation in the text so you can put it into context, and feel free to refer to other parts of the text that you think are relevant to link to your particular quotation.
Try and do this fairly quickly (no more than 20 minutes at the most). It doesn’t matter if it feels unfinished: you can always add more ideas later, but I want everyone to publish their comments in time for you then to begin to look at what other people have written, and to make further comments, ask questions, and discuss further the quotations that other people have been working on. To allow this to happen I am disabling comment moderation, so please be responsible and only make relevant and constructive comments and questions. Your homework will be to continue the discussion.
The numbered quotations for you to choose from are below:
- WILLY: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff— he’s not lazy.LINDA: Never.WILLY: [with pity and resolve]: I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time. My God! Remember how they used to follow him around in high school? When he smiled at one of them their faces lit up. When he walked down the street… [He loses himself in reminiscences.]
- BIFF: 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.
- WILLY: You and Hap and I, and I’ll show you all the towns. America is full of beautiful towns and fine, upstanding people. And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people. And when I bring you fellas up, there’ll be open sesame for all of us, ‘cause one thing, boys: I have friends. I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own. This summer, heh?
- 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
- WILLY: [stopping the incipient argument, to Happy]: Sure, he’s gotta practice with a regulation ball, doesn’t he? [To Biff] Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative!BIFF: Oh, he keeps congratulating my initiative all the time, pop.WILLY: That’s because he likes you. If somebody else took that ball there’d be an uproar. So what’s the report, boys, what’s the report? (Act 1)
- WILLY: That’s just what I mean, Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. You take me, for instance. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. “Willy Loman is here!” That’s all they have to know and I go right through.
- LINDA: We should’ve bought the land next door.WILLY: The street is lined with cars. There’s not a breath of fresh air in the neighborhood. The grass don’t grow anymore, you can’t raise a carrot in the backyard. They should’ve had a law against apartment houses. Remember those two beautiful elm trees out there? When I and Biff hung the swing between them?LINDA: Yeah, like being a million miles from the city.
- BIFF [with enthusiasm]: Listen, why don’t you come out West with me?HAPPY: You and I, heh?BIFF: Sure, maybe we could buy a ranch. Raise cattle, use our muscles. Men built like we are should be working out in the open.
- WILLY: How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!LINDA: He’s finding himself, Willy.WILLY: Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!
- WILLY: There’s more people! That’s what’s ruining this country! The competition is maddening! Smell the stink from that apartment house! And the one on the other side… How can they whip cheese?
- HAPPY [enthralled]: That’s what I dream about Biff. Sometimes I wanna just rip my clothes off in the middle of the store and outbox that goddamned merchandise manager. I mean I can outbox, outlift and outrun anybody in that store, and I have to take orders from those petty, common sons of bitches till I can’t stand it anymore.
- HAPPY: I bet he’d back you. ‘Cause he thought highly of you, Biff. I mean, they all do. You’re well liked, Biff. That’s why I say to come back here, and we both have the apartment. And I’m tellin’ you, Biff, any babe you want…
- WILLY: Oh, I’ll knock ‘em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me.[They move onto the forestage]LINDA: Oh, don’t be foolish.
WILLY: I know it when I walk in. They seem to laugh at me.
LINDA: Why? Why would they laugh at you? Don’t talk that way, Willy.
[Willy moves to the edge of the stage. Linda goes into the kitchen and starts to darn stockings.]
WILLY: I don’t know the reason for it, but they just pass me by. I’m not noticed.
- LINDA: I’m just wondering if Oliver will remember him. You think he might?WILLY: [coming out of the bathroom in his pajamas]: Remember him? What’s the matter with you, you crazy? If he’d stayed with Oliver he’d be on top by now! Wait’ll Oliver gets a look at him. You don’t know the average caliber any more. The average young man today —[he’s getting into bed]— is got a caliber of zero. Greatest thing in the world for him was to bum around.