Willy Loman, an unsuccessful salesman in his sixties, enters his home in New York late at night with two large sample cases. He talks to his wife Linda who is waiting for him and tells her why he came back so early. He had an experience that made him feel as if he was driving in the past. Linda is worried about Willy and wants him to ask his boss Howard for a job in New York. She doesn’t want Willy to have to drive to Boston every day.
Willy and Linda start talking about their sons Biff and Happy who are asleep in their bedroom. Willy says that Biff is lost because he is working on a farm. Linda tries to convince Willy that Biff is just trying to find himself and that Willy shouldn‘t be so criticising. After that Willy remembers how famous and popular Biff was when he attended school but Linda stops him from that and he immediately starts to complain about the surrounding of their house.
The boys are awake in their room and Happy tells Biff about Willy talking to himself as if he was talking to Biff and his car driving problems. They remember their old times in the house and talk about their life now. Biff is not happy with his life situation and says: "I've always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all I've done is to waste my life." (page 11) In addition to that Happy says that his life isn’t easy, too, although he has fun with a lot of women and a well paid job he doesn’t feel well. Both have the idea to buy a ranch together but then Happy thinks about the good sides of his job and refuses from this idea. While Happy is talking Biff gets the idea of visiting Bill Oliver who might lend him money to buy his own ranch. Oliver liked Biff and being liked is the way to success in business as their father said. They hear their father talking downstairs and Biff becomes sad because he’s worried about his mother.
While Willy is mumbling to himself, Linda starts arguing with Biff because she says that it‘s Biff‘s fault that Willy became like this. Now Willy gets in on the family discussion and the situation gets more complicated. He and Biff begin to argue, but Happy interjects that Biff plans to see Oliver the following morning and Willy is the happiest man on earth then. Everyone goes to sleep believing that tomorrow will fulfill their dreams: Willy expects to get a local job, and Biff expects to get a business loan.
The next day Linda tells Willy that Biff and Happy invited him for lunch and that they would meet in the restaurant. After that Willy goes to see Howard but instead of getting a job transfer Willy is fired.
Now Willy is alone in Howard‘s office and Ben crosses his way. Ben wants Willy to come to him to Alaska because he needs help there but Linda keeps Willy away from this chance. This conversation only happens in Willy‘s mind. He talks to people in the past. Things don‘t go round with Biff, too. Bill Oliver doesn‘t show any interests for him and so Biff doesn‘t get any money.
As willy gets home his neighbour Charley comes over and Willy tells him about being fired. Charley offeres him a job but Willy refuses the chance. Instead of that he asks Charley for money because he needs to pay his bills. Charley gets angry with that and Willy leaves.
Bernard arrives and asks Willy why Biff didn‘t graduate. He says that all Biff had to do was attending summer school, but he didn‘t. Bernard remebers that Biff visited Willy before he failed and asks what happened. Willy knows that Biff caught him with his affair in a hotel while he wanted to tell his father that he had become the football captain. He realizes that this is the reason why Biff didn‘t graduate and that this is also the reason for Biff hating Willy.
Biff left the place, threw away his sneakers with “University of Virginia” on it and he quitted his career as football captain. He went away to work far far away from his father and to try to forget about the affair, but he couldn’t.
When they meet in the restaurant Biff wants to tell the truth to Willy but Happy prefers to tell a lie to Willy because he is so enthusiastic. Biff and Happy meet two girls and leave the restaurant with them. As soon as Biff and Happy come home Linda starts a big fight with Biff because she‘s so angry and disappointed. The boys left their father alone in a restaurant just to have fun with girls. She doesn‘t want Biff to talk to his father and she says that she wants him to leave the house. Willy is outside in the garden seeding seeds. When he comes in Biff tells him how much he cares about him although he had an affair in the past. After hearing that Willy waits until everyone went to bed and says that he needs a few minutes for himself. When he‘s alone in the kitchen, he starts talking to Ben, his brother who is just present in his thoughts. Willy says that he wants to kill himself because of the life-insurance which would pay 20.000$ if he dies in an accident. With this money Biff would have a chance to start a new life and he would be able to find himself.