Death of A Salesman: Novel Summary: Act 1, Scene 4

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Amidst Willy's late-night yelling, Charley, a neighbor and friend of the family, enters from outside, wondering what all the commotion is about.  He starts a card game with Willy in order to settle him down.  Out of friendship, he offers Willy a job after hearing about his problems as a salesman.  Willy is quick to take offense at this offer, saying that he already has a good job. 
Later, when Willy brings up the subject of Biff, Charley advises Willy to give up on his son.  "When a deposit bottle is broken you don't get your nickel back," Charley asserts.  Yet Willy is not willing to let go of his illusions about his sons' potential for success.
Soon, Willy begins to confuse Charley with his brother, Ben.  This leads to a flashback of sorts to a scene with Willy and Ben. It seems Ben and his father left to make their fortunes sometime in Willy's early childhood, leaving Willy and his mother behind.  It's obvious that Willy idealizes Ben because he has "made it" in the world.  Willy is remorseful that he didn't take his brother up on his offer to run his business in Alaska.  That was an opportunity of a lifetime, Willy admits. 
Yet Ben has little time to spend with his little brother.  Willy, excited that Ben is there to give advice to his sons, forces Biff and Happy to listen to their Uncle Ben, hoping that they will learn his business techniques and strike it rich themselves.  In this way, Willy sees the potential success of his sons as the only remaining hope of being successful himself.  It all seems quite simple to Ben.  He tells Biff and Happy, "Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out.  And by God I was rich." This ideal, however, proves to be unattainable by Willy and his sons when Willy's desperate struggle for success and happiness is never achieved.  This realization is foreshadowed when Ben knocks Biff down with his umbrella, saying, "Never fight fair with a stranger, boy.  You'll never get out of the jungle that way."
But Willy is left with a glimmer of hope when Ben tells him that he's taught his boys well.  Again, though, Ben seems more a figment of Willy's imagination than anything else.  His word goes a long way with Willy, but no one else. 

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