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Miller: Death of a Salesman

16. Act II – “He’s planting the garden!”

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In this module, we continue reading through Act II, from the moment the boys return home from dinner to Willy’s speech to Ben about “the great times” (pp. 97-101). In particular, we focus on: (i) the transition from the restaurant/hotel room scene to the Lomans’ house; (ii) the character of Linda, who now finds herself having to make a choice between her husband and her sons (“You’re a pair of animals!”, p. 98); (iii) Willy in the garden – his planting the carrots and his continued babbling about a “guaranteed twenty-thousand-dollar proposition” (p. 100); (iv) Willy’s plans to kill himself – and to claim on the life insurance – in order to help his family; (v) the extent to which Willy thinks only of the past or the future, never the present; and (vi) Willy’s dreams and aspirations, and the idea of the American Dream more generally.


In this nineteen-part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, literary and cultural context, before going through the play scene-by-scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism, and more.

Note: Page numbers are based on the Penguin edition of the play (1998, ed. Christopher Bigsby). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both text and page numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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APA style

McRae, J. (2021, January 22). Miller: Death of a Salesman - Act II – “He’s planting the garden!” [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Miller: Death of a Salesman – Act II – “He’s planting the garden!”." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Jan 2021,

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