It seems to me that he is obsessed with three main things. The first being providing for his family, he goes to great lengths to be able to bring money home. A man of sixty-something years shouldn´t be driving between states every week, but he does it for the sake of his family. Secondly, he is obsessed with recognition. He constantly brags about being well liked and known all round Massachusetts. He is constantly teaching his sons to rely on personality and be as popular as they can be. And thirdly, he is desperately trying to prove to himself that he has made the right decisions in his life, instead of accepting his errors. He is unable to accept that taking the shortcut all his life had been a bad idea, he doesn’t accept the fact that what he did in Boston with that woman was a mistake. And overall, he can´t accept that he failed at being a good father to his sons.
2. What case can be made for seeing Linda as the center of the play: the character around whom all events revolve? Sum up the kind of person she is.
She is the fixer-upper in the house, always trying to mend the relationship between Willy and Biff. Although she has a significant bias towards her husband, it seems strange (at least to me) that a mother would always take her husband´s side when he quarrels with her son. Mothers are usually very biased toward her children, unless her husband has some sort of hold on her, which brings me to mention his not so kind treatment of her and her unhealthy devotion to him. He is always undermining her opinion and constantly yelling at her (as pointed by Biff near the ending of act I), which is a normal (although unacceptable) behavior of a frustrated man. She is also biased in respect of her sons, for she seems to focus more on Biff than Happy (which I believe is just a reflection of her husband´s character.) All in all, she seems like the typical housewife of the time.
3. Apparently Biff’s discovery of Willy’s infidelity took place before World War II, about 1939. In this respect, does Death of a Salesman seem at all dated? Do you think it possible, in the present day, for a son to be so greatly shocked by his father’s sexual foibles that the son’s whole career would be ruined?
The play seems dated, in my opinion; mostly because of the type of speech used (there is a lot of slang which is quite dated.) Terms like “Gee” and “strudel” (when referring to women) are very rare to hear these days. I don’t find Biff´s reaction dated, though. I believe it is still very possible for a boy, in modern times, to be quite shocked to find his father is cheating on his mother. I even think it´s possible for it to affect his life the way Biff´s was affected, mainly because I don’t think it was only the fact that his father was cheating that caused him to act that way. I think that the main reason he acted the way he did was because he worshipped his father, more than in the usual father/son dynamics. He admired willy so much, he was starting to mold his whole life after his father (placing personality over academic preparation), Willy was his hero. And it is very common for people, and especially children, to be so devastated when faced with the cold, hard truth of your hero´s true nature.
4. What meanings do you find in the flute music? In stockings—those that Willy gives to the Boston girlfriend and those he doesn’t like to see Linda mending? In Biff’s sneakers with “University of Virginia” lettered on them (which he later burns)? In seeds and gardening?
The flute music, I believe, is an allusion to Willy´s father. Willy molded his whole life after his father who was also a salesman. His father not being there much when he was a child had a big impact on Willy´s character, he started to believe that one must go in life relying on