Act I (Loman House, Present Day):
Willy informs Happy that he almost hit a kid in Yonkers. Willy wonders why he didn’t go to Alaska with his sibling Ben, since the male was a genius: success incarnate. Ben wound up with diamond mines: he strolled into a jungle and came out abundant at the age of twenty-one. Happy tells Willy that he need to retire. Charley gets in. As Willy and Charley play cards, Charley uses Willy a task, which insults him. Willy asks Charley why Biff is returning to Texas, but Charley tells him to let Biff go. Willy speaks about the ceiling he set up in the living room, however refuses to give any information. When Charley questions how he might set up a ceiling, Willy yells at him that a guy who can’t manage tools is not a guy, and calls Charley revolting.
Uncle Ben gets in, a stolid man in his sixties with a mustache and an authoritative air. Willy informs Ben that he is getting terribly exhausted, but given that Charley can not see Ben, Willy tells him that for a 2nd Charley reminded him of his sibling Ben, who died numerous weeks ago in Africa. Ben asks Willy if their mother is coping with him, however Willy stated that she died a long time earlier. Charley, who can not see Ben, wonders what Willy is talking about. Lastly Charley ends up being unnerved and leaves.
If Charley and Bernard are the signs of tangible material success in Death of a Salesman, Willy’s older bro Ben signifies the broadest reaches of success, which are intangible and virtually imaginary. Whether Ben is a Horatio Alger figure, a character whose history is to be taken actually, is disputable; some elements of his biography are so glamorized and absurdly grandiose that it is most likely that the details that Miller offers concerning Ben is filtered through Willy Loman’s imagination. When Ben appears in the play, it is only as a representation of Willy’s creativity. For Willy, Ben represents great success acquired through intangible luck rather than through the monotony of stable dedication and hard work; Ben has gained what Willy always desired however never could attain.
The encounter between Charley and Willy illustrates that Willy feels some jealousy towards his friend for his success. Willy offers suggestions to Charley at every chance in an effort to assert some supremacy over him. He interprets a man as an individual who can deal with tools well, returning to a physical meaning of manhood in contrast to monetary or status-based meanings that would assert Charley’s superiority.
Also, Charley appears to understand Willy’s envy, and acts tentatively towards his pal. Although he does injure Willy’s pride by providing him a job, Charley does so tentatively, for he has great pity for Willy that he understands he should mask. Charley does, however, offer the most sound suggestions to Willy, recommending him to let Biff do what he pleases and leave for Texas.