The play begins on a Monday evening at the Loman family home in Brooklyn. Willy returns from a sales trip, because he couldn't focus on driving. His wife, Linda, asks him to ask his employer for a job in New York City. Willy’s two sons, Biff and Happy, are visiting and before he left that morning, Willy criticized Biff for still working manual labor jobs on farms and horse ranches in the West. He tells his Linda that Biff should have made something of himself by now. This is the main conflict between Willy and Biff, and one of the main causes of his delusions.
Happy, Willy's second son, is worried about Willy’s talking to himself. it is established that Willy talks to an imaginary Biff about his disappointment in Biff’s life choices. During this conversation we learn that Biff has not had a stable job and is concerned that he wasted his opportunities. Biff reveals that he plans to ask Bill Oliver, his old employer, for a loan to buy a ranch, a plot point that becomes important later on.
During Willy's day dream, the women that is Willy’s mistress is revealed. She and Willy are sinfit in a hotel room, and she tells him why she chooses to sleep with him. All of the reasons a things that he is particularly insecure about. She talks about how funny and sweet Willy is, and he loves the praise. This event shows that Willy is discontent with his life, because he has not realized his dream for himself. It is during this Daydream that Willy's dead brother, Ben , is established.
Willy’s talking in his daydream wake Linda and Biff, who find Willy talking to himself outside. Biff asks Linda how long he has been talking to himself, and she explains that Willy’s delusions stem from overwork, due to his recent loss of salary. Linda also reveals that all of his recent automobile accidents were actually failed suicide attempts. She also reveals that she found a rubber hose that she suspects Willy was going to use to drown himself.
At the beginning of act two, goes to talk to his boss, Howard, to try and change his job so that he doesn't have to drive long distances. Biff also pursues a business venture, and he tries to receive a loan from his former employer, which will fun his dream, t own his own ranch. Willy tries to talk to Howard about the job change, but Howard tells him he doesn't have a position for him in the Brooklyn and that He needs Willy to keep selling to the clients in the New England area. Willy becomes angry with Howard and starts to yell at Howard, lead him to get fired.
Biff waits in his former boss, Bill Oliver's office for six hours. We learn that Bill doesn't remember Biff and doesn't want to speak to him. Biff caught up in the moment and in anger enters Bill's office and steals his fountain pen. As he runs he claims that he "saw — the sky. I saw the things that I love in this world. The work
and the food and time to sit and smoke. And I looked at the pen and said to myself, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I
know who I am! ".
At home, Linda is upset with Happy and Biff. She says that it would be better if they left and never returned, because of the stress that they cause for Willy. This leads to Willy and Biff finally telling each other how they feel, which makes Willy understand that his son loves him. It is at this point that Willy decides the insurance money would benefit his family more than his presence. He talks to Ben in a delusion and decides to kill himself.
Willy’s family, in addition to Charley and Bernard, are the who attend Willy’s funeral. She wonders why all of his business friends did not come , and how Willy killed himself when they were so close to paying off all of their bills. Biff says "When he’d come home from a trip... that Willy seemed happier working on the house than he did as a salesman." Showing that ": He never knew who he was".