Death of a Salesman (Viking Critical Library) Info

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy of a salesman’s
deferred American dream, presented here with enlightening commentary and
criticism

Willy Loman, the protagonist of Death of a
Salesman
, has spent his life following the American way, living out
his belief in salesmanship as a way to reinvent himself. But somehow the
riches and respect he covets have eluded him. At age 63, he searches
for the moment his life took a wrong turn, the moment of betrayal that
undermined his relationship with his wife and destroyed his relationship
with Biff, the son in whom he invested his faith. Willy lives in a
fragile world of elaborate excuses and daydreams, conflating past and
present in a desperate attempt to make sense of himself and of a world
that once promised so much.
Since it was first performed in 1949,
Arthur Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the tragic
shortcomings of an American dreamer has been recognized as a milestone
of the theater. This Viking Critical Library edition of Death of a
Salesman
contains the complete text of the play, typescript
facsimiles, and extensive critical and contextual material
including:
  • Conflicting reviews about its opening night by Robert
    Garland, Harold Clurman, Eleanor Clark, and others
  • Five articles
    by Miller on his play, including "Tragedy and the Common Man" and his
    "Introduction to Collected Plays"
  • Critical essays by John
    Gassner, Ivor Brown, Joseph A. Hynes, and others
  • General essays
    on Miller by William Weigand, Allan Seager, and
    others
  • Analogous works by Eudora Welty, Walter D. Moody,
    Tennessee Williams, and Irwin Shaw
  • The stage designer's account,
    presented in selections from Designing for the Theatre by Jo
    Mielziner
  • An in-depth introduction by the editor, a chronology, a
    list of topics for discussion and papers, and a
    bibliography 

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Death of a Salesman (Viking Critical Library):

4

May 17, 2018

A Classic with a big C. I can see why.
It's not a happy story. A story about a troubled family. About getting older and getting cast aside after years of hard work, never having quite made it. About big expectations, never met. Infidelity. About the estranged relationship between father and son. A father, what's he doing? Panicking because he is loosing his job.... loosing his grip on things... on his boys.... hallucinating even?Present and past events or even imagined flow in and out of the A Classic with a big C. I can see why.
It's not a happy story. A story about a troubled family. About getting older and getting cast aside after years of hard work, never having quite made it. About big expectations, never met. Infidelity. About the estranged relationship between father and son. A father, what's he doing? Panicking because he is loosing his job.... loosing his grip on things... on his boys.... hallucinating even?Present and past events or even imagined flow in and out of the story. A tragedy unfolding. Already I think I need to reread it to really grasp the whole story. I was impressed. Although this was not a pleasant read. In the format of a play and of course many famous actors played their part in Death of a Salesman....Death of a Salesman was first presented in a London Theatre on 28 July 1949.

Linda (hearing Willy outside the bedroom, calls with some trepidation): Willy!
Willy: It's allright, I came back.
Linda: Why? What happened (Slight pause). Did something happen Willy?
Willy: No, nothing happened.
Linda: You didn't smash the car, did you?
Willy (with casual irritation): I said nothing happened. Didn't you hear me?
Linda: Don't you feel well?
Willy: I'm tired to death. (The flute has faded away. He sits on the bed beside her, a little numb). I couldn't make it. I just couldn't make it, Linda...... ...more
4

Jan 27, 2013

A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man.

There's something to be said for waiting until later in life to read certain books. The struggles of Willy Loman would have meant little to my younger, more impatient self.
Now, the huge amount of time Loman spends dreaming of his halcyon days strikes a chord with me.

Memory has a way of making everything seem bigger, brighter and better than it actually was.
People have a tendency to dwell on the past when the present turns out to be not as A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man.

There's something to be said for waiting until later in life to read certain books. The struggles of Willy Loman would have meant little to my younger, more impatient self.
Now, the huge amount of time Loman spends dreaming of his halcyon days strikes a chord with me.

Memory has a way of making everything seem bigger, brighter and better than it actually was.
People have a tendency to dwell on the past when the present turns out to be not as they had hoped, and Willy Loman's present is nearly as bleak as it can get.

What's left to say when your boss's son dares to call you "kid"? What are you supposed to do when the children who once idolized you now look at you with a mixture of frustration and pity?

A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory. ...more
1

Jun 18, 2007

Hate! Hate! Oh, the hate! Arthur Miller does a beautiful job of conveying the emptiness and meaninglessness of his protagonist's life. It left me wanting to jump off a very tall building if only I could overcome the crushing ennui and the conviction that even ending ones life was too meaningless and futile to contemplate. Maybe that means Miller accomplished what he set out to do, but I don't have to like it.
2

Mar 23, 2017

The action below takes place in the GR cafeteria.....


GR: Do you mind, is this seat taken?
STEVEN: No, please do!
GR: How are you today?
STEVEN: Fine
GR: Could you spare a few moments?
STEVEN: Sure
GR: So, what did you think of Death of a Salesman?
STEVEN: Great!, the venue may have been small, but that just made the whole experience more intimate. I parked myself in a seat somewhere near the back and in the middle, so had a good panoramic view of the stage, the performances from all the cast were The action below takes place in the GR cafeteria.....


GR: Do you mind, is this seat taken?
STEVEN: No, please do!
GR: How are you today?
STEVEN: Fine
GR: Could you spare a few moments?
STEVEN: Sure
GR: So, what did you think of Death of a Salesman?
STEVEN: Great!, the venue may have been small, but that just made the whole experience more intimate. I parked myself in a seat somewhere near the back and in the middle, so had a good panoramic view of the stage, the performances from all the cast were good, with Willy Loman and wife Linda being the memorable ones. The play itself, with themes of anxiety and insecurity mainly takes place in the Lomans house and yard, with capitalism and one mans struggle with work dominating the story, it could be viewed as a social criticism, a tragedy, or simply just a psychological study of disintegration, cleverly though, Miller never takes sides with anyone, leaving the viewer to reach their own conclusions regarding the actions that take place. Written in 1949 (and somehow winner of the Pulitzer) it ties in strongly with miller's own family, and their problems during the great depression.
It held my attention throughout, and received a deserved round of applause at the end. I then went for a few cocktails, all in all, a good night.
GR: Er...I was actually referring to the written play, the book?
STEVEN: Oh that, sorry. Well once you have seen the play with your own eyes, reading it was never going to be the same, by act two I was starting to get fidgety, that's not a good sign. 2.5/5
GR: Thank you for your time
STEVEN: No problem
GR: ...Oh!, just one more thing
STEVEN: Yes
GR: Could you see yourself reading any more plays?
STEVEN: Miller, probably not. Any other playwrights, probably yes.
GR: Again, thank you
STEVEN: Any time, goodbye. ...more
4

Mar 27, 2019

When I was a young kid, I always insisted like a spoiled brat on having one foot wedged securely in the closing door of Paradise.

As the bright light of that paradisal dawn left my world on its ceaseless journey west, I refused to think Paradise was over for me - at least until the fat lady started to sing...

And way back in 1960, I sat next to my Mom on a gleaming - though already antiquated - little post-war twin-prop ‘aeroplane’ to Toronto.

The smiling and immaculately pageboy’d stewardess When I was a young kid, I always insisted like a spoiled brat on having one foot wedged securely in the closing door of Paradise.

As the bright light of that paradisal dawn left my world on its ceaseless journey west, I refused to think Paradise was over for me - at least until the fat lady started to sing...

And way back in 1960, I sat next to my Mom on a gleaming - though already antiquated - little post-war twin-prop ‘aeroplane’ to Toronto.

The smiling and immaculately pageboy’d stewardess handed out little plastic twin-propped replicas of the airship she was so proud of - to all the jubilant kids on board, in fact - as well as new Life Magazines crammed with photos (many of them in FULL COLOUR) of the laughing JFK and Jackie.

The dour, staid, grim Fifties were over!

Prosperity and the American Dream had RETURNED.

The changes in families we knew were obvious.

Their lives suddenly went faster.

Things suddenly had to be New, Newer or - if you worked hard enough - NEWEST.

Everyone suddenly laughed more loudly.

Togetherness became passé.

But life suddenly became EMPTIER.

Love and caring and honesty became very much less in evidence...

The American Dream was back, and the simple, magical dreams of our childhood were swallowed up in the new world of fast, cheap plastic entertainment and values.

We kids felt cheated.

We had LOST something valuable and extremely important.

And just as suddenly... WE felt lost.

Now, Willy Loman wanted his son to care - but to care about the American Dream - and not about its core values. Just as, ironically, those lost values were now so clearly evinced in his boy’s innocent love, written all over his young face - the simple love of children everywhere.

Willy’s values had been gradually and insidiously displaced - to fall under the cheaply smiling aegis of the Almighty Buck.

“Radix malorum est,” to quote Chaucer.

This is how parents fail their kids. Through a displacement of their deepest values. Then evil begins.

And value displacement breeds alienation, folks.

Cheap lives breed cheap kids. It’s as simple as that.

Instead of resting in the love of our families, we start continually hankering after that eternal carrot dangling from the string.

You know, as a kid myself, I saw FAR too much of that.

So, as adults, my wife and I decided to scale back our lives.

To SIMPLIFY things.

We haven’t owned a car in nearly twenty years.

And we’re happier.

That’s a start.

The other thing that I realized was indispensable is Faith.

Because if you haven’t kept nurturing that, one day your world will crumble, just as it did for Willy’s son, when you see you’ve always just been sold a bill of goods by the world!

But if your Faith is intact on that day, it will stand you in VERY good stead indeed.

For THEN you can then relax and pull back your tightly wedged foot...

For that passageway to Heaven will finally OPEN WIDE AGAIN. ...more
5

Feb 16, 2016

"Attention must be paid."

The only time I saw "Death of a Salesman" professionally performed I was almost 19 and I wept for most of the second act. I have not read or seen it since, but recently returned to it. 16 years after my first encounter with this piece I still am moved by it, but for very different reasons. I guess that is what makes it a classic.
The protagonist of the play, the iconic Willy Loman, is a frustrating, loser of a man who frankly has been a cruel fool his entire life. He is "Attention must be paid."

The only time I saw "Death of a Salesman" professionally performed I was almost 19 and I wept for most of the second act. I have not read or seen it since, but recently returned to it. 16 years after my first encounter with this piece I still am moved by it, but for very different reasons. I guess that is what makes it a classic.
The protagonist of the play, the iconic Willy Loman, is a frustrating, loser of a man who frankly has been a cruel fool his entire life. He is jealous of people who succeed, even when their success is because of their own merits, he is an adulterer, and he is a dad who wants to be his son's buddy, not his father. In short, he is everything I dislike. I don't feel sympathy for Willy Loman, and when he died I breathed a sigh of relief for his family who has been relieved of the burden of dealing with him. With the exception of his ever faithful wife, Linda, Willy's sons have already relieved themselves of him (to varying degrees). So the "hero" of the play is not noble, and does not meet Aristotle's definition of a tragic hero. So what is the tragedy? Why is the play so important? I think there are two primary reasons.
The first is the relationship between Willy and his sons, especially Biff. Biff and his father love each other very much; they just don't love each other very well. I think there are a lot of fathers and sons who can relate to that dynamic. It made me cringe more than a few times with its poignancy, and accuracy. And watching Biff's frustration with trying to communicate honestly with his father (the fault belonging to them both) was the reason for my weeping all those years ago.
The other reason the play is tragic is because although Willy is a nobody (and I think it is his own doing) he was loved by some people who cared deeply about him. Despite a wonderful wife, some loyal friends that he does not deserve, etc. Willy is always looking for greener grass and never content with what is in front of him. To have some truly good things, primarily family love and friendship, and to spit in its face for decades is the tragedy. Willy was a somebody to them, but it was not enough for him. The tragedy of this piece stems from Willy's ignorance, and also is extended for those who loved him.
There is a lot that can be said about this play, and I don't pretend to be the final word. These are just some thoughts. Read it for yourself; let some of the lovely prose sweep over you. Pay attention to some of Linda's speeches as even out of context they are wonderful. I don't think you will walk away from "Death of a Salesman" unhappy that you read it. ...more
3

Dec 20, 2008

ME: Good evening and welcome to part 3 of "Newt Gingrich meets Arthur Miller". As you may know, Mr Gingrich has recently been encouraging Americans to read Miller's works. Our third episode is devoted to Death of a Salesman, which--

LAWYER: Hold it right there.

ME: I'm sorry? Is there a problem?

LAWYER: Oh, go on and pretend you don't know what this is about. The "salesman" you're referring to is my client, President Donald Trump. "Death" is too obvious to be worth commenting on. Like so many ME: Good evening and welcome to part 3 of "Newt Gingrich meets Arthur Miller". As you may know, Mr Gingrich has recently been encouraging Americans to read Miller's works. Our third episode is devoted to Death of a Salesman, which--

LAWYER: Hold it right there.

ME: I'm sorry? Is there a problem?

LAWYER: Oh, go on and pretend you don't know what this is about. The "salesman" you're referring to is my client, President Donald Trump. "Death" is too obvious to be worth commenting on. Like so many liberals, you're openly inciting violence as an alternative to reasoned political discourse. We've seen it with Kathy Griffin, we've seen it with that disgusting production of Julius Caesar and now you--

ME: But I'm not.

LAWYER: You're not advocating violence against Donald Trump?

ME: No, not at all.

LAWYER: You fail to convince, Dr Rayner. I've read your pieces on Goodreads. Tell me, if you learned tomorrow that Trump had been shot, how would you react?

ME: Well, I must admit that my first reaction would be delighted surprise...

LAWYER: Ha! Out of your own mouth!

ME: ... but as soon as the initial buzz had worn off, I think I'd be rather disappointed.

LAWYER: Did I hear you say "disappointed"?

ME: Yes, absolutely.

LAWYER: This is absurd. May I remind you that you have posted nearly a hundred anti-Trump pieces over the last couple of years?

ME: I'm almost there. I just need five more.

LAWYER: You've made comments about his sexual assaults on women, his open contempt for basic democratic principles, his flirtation with white supremacist groups--

ME: All true.

LAWYER: You've mentioned his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Accord, a policy which could cause incalculable damage to the Earth's fragile ecosystem and result in the deaths of billions of people. [He coughs] Allegedly. And you still don't want Trump dead? Dr Rayner, you're not being straightforward with us here. Of course you want him dead. Any sensible person would.

ME: You said it, I didn't.

LAWYER: I naturally meant, any sensible person with your misguided beliefs.

ME: Thank you for the clarification.

LAWYER: So you admit it?

ME: No, I don't. Much as I dislike Trump, I think he's more valuable to us alive.

LAWYER: You'll need to explain that.

ME: Well, Trump is such a vile, universally despised excuse for a human being that everything he touches is automatically discredited in the eyes of a good two-thirds of the world's population. Many right-wing politicians could do a better job of promoting those views. So in fact, I'd rather have him alive and destroying his own party from the inside.

LAWYER: This is absurd. How can you--

ME: Wait a minute. May I ask you a direct question. Do you, personally, like Donald Trump?

LAWYER: I resent this question. Needless to say, I have the highest respect for--

ME: I should add that one of my Goodreads friends goes to the same hairdresser as your wife.

LAWYER: I-- uh--

ME: So I know what you really think of him.

[Pause]

LAWYER: Okay, okay. He's a sack of shit. But he's paying me $1750 an hour.

ME: And if he died tomorrow, he wouldn't?

LAWYER: Uh, of course--

ME: So you're in just the same position. He's worth more to you alive. I rest my case.

[Pause]

LAWYER: You know, maybe we've got more in common than I thought. Let's go get ourselves a drink.

ME: And talk about Death of a Salesman. We kind of forgot what this review was about.

LAWYER: I always loved that play. I could watch the scene where Biff steals the fountain-pen a thousand times.

ME: Do you think the Freudian interpretation is too facile?

[Fade to black] ...more
5

Feb 26, 2017

Recently Goodreads added a Rereading Feature so members can keep track of all the times they’ve read a book. I wonder how many times I’ve read Death of a Salesman.

The first time I read it was in high school and I didn’t really like it. In later years I developed an appreciation for the play and assigned it to my college literature classes. I even got a VHS tape of the 1985 film with Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich and watched it with my students.

Now I find myself again teaching a literature Recently Goodreads added a Rereading Feature so members can keep track of all the times they’ve read a book. I wonder how many times I’ve read Death of a Salesman.

The first time I read it was in high school and I didn’t really like it. In later years I developed an appreciation for the play and assigned it to my college literature classes. I even got a VHS tape of the 1985 film with Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich and watched it with my students.

Now I find myself again teaching a literature course. I needed a play and Death of a Salesman fit my theme. It’s been maybe ten years since I last read it, but each time I read it, at each stage of my life, I get something different from it. I get more from it, so much more.

I want to say that I have no words to describe how I feel on my umpteenth reading (my official reread number), but it isn’t true. I have too many words. I think I could write an essay on the stage directions alone.


Houses Covered by Leaves

“A melody is heard, played upon a flute. It is small and fine, telling of grass and trees and the horizon. The curtain rises” (11).

The whole play is contained in these three little lines. They are like a poem. In all my rereadings I never thought much about these things: the flute, the grass, the trees, the horizon. But this time, they were all I could see.

“An air of the dream clings to the place, a dream rising out of reality” (11).

This time I read the dream instead of the reality.

The dream begins with a melody played upon a flute somewhere in South Dakota. At the beginning of the dream Willy is four years old. He’s in a horse-drawn wagon with his mother. His father plays a flute he has carved with his own hands. His inventor father. His adventurer father. His soon-to-be absent father.

In the dream, Willy and his sons hunt snakes and rabbits in Brooklyn. His sons are strong and handsome. Athletes. Adonises. Willy builds a new front stoop, a porch, an extra bathroom. He puts up a new ceiling in the living room. He makes payments on the refrigerator and the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner. He has a mortgage. He’s proud of how his sons simonize the car.

There are two elm trees where Willy and Biff hang a swing. And the fragrance of lilac and wisteria, peonies and daffodils wafts in through the windows. This is the dream.

In reality, the trees are gone, the grass won’t grow, and the Loman house is boxed in by apartment buildings on both sides.

“The way they boxed us in here. Bricks and windows, windows and bricks” (17).

“The grass don’t grow any more, you can’t raise a carrot in the back yard” (17).

In reality, by the time the appliances are paid for they’re already used up and broken. By the time the mortgage is paid, there’s no one left to live in the house.

I see houses like the Loman house. They always make me a little bit sad. Houses boxed in by apartment buildings on either side. Houses that once had views of the sky and little vegetable gardens in the back. Houses through which the scent of trees and flowers must have wafted. I think of the inhabitants of those houses. I root for them. But I know someday a grandson or granddaughter will inherit the house and sell it so that more apartment buildings can be built. Then the last traces of a dream will fade away forever.

“Only the music of the flute is left on the darkening stage as over the house the hard towers of the apartment buildings rise into sharp focus, and The Curtain Falls” (139)


A Diamond, Shining in the Dark

In the end, I ask myself if Biff was right, if Willy “had the wrong dreams” (138). But no. Willy was lost, but his dreams weren’t wrong. Speaking to his dead brother, Willy says: “...I still feel—kind of temporary about myself ” (51). This says it all.

Early in the play Linda says “life is a casting off” (15) and Willy replies “some people accomplish something” (15). At sixty-three, Willy is still trying to accomplish something. At a time when he should be casting things off, settling into retirement, and enjoying the fruits of a lifetime of work, he is struggling to pay his mortgage, his life insurance. He’s driving to Boston when the effort of putting his valises into the car is exhausting. And he’s doing it all on commission now that his salary has been taken away.

“A man can’t go out the way he came in” (125).

In the dream, Willy plants something. He puts seed into the ground. He walks into the dark jungle like his brother and walks out with a diamond for his family. And as Charley says: “Nobody dast blame this man” (138). ...more
4

May 07, 2017

Book Review
Arthur Miller is a fantastic writer. 4 of 5 stars to one his most known works, Death of a Salesman, written in 1949. Most Americans read this in middle school as a required book for their English courses. I am not positive when I read this, but I re-read it as part of my English degree in college. I enjoyed it more the second-time around, but it is still a very rough book to read. Not in terms of bad writing, but in terms of topics and emotions.

It focuses on the Loman family. The Book Review
Arthur Miller is a fantastic writer. 4 of 5 stars to one his most known works, Death of a Salesman, written in 1949. Most Americans read this in middle school as a required book for their English courses. I am not positive when I read this, but I re-read it as part of my English degree in college. I enjoyed it more the second-time around, but it is still a very rough book to read. Not in terms of bad writing, but in terms of topics and emotions.

It focuses on the Loman family. The patriarch has been a salesman for over 30 years, most of his adult life. But eventually, it ends, and he's forced to face the reality of a 60+ year old man in the mid 20th century between the two world wars, where everything was not so cozy in America. The play touches on themes of mental illness, depression, parenting, suicide, life's purpose, the role of a father and husband, etc. I'm not fond of the main character, nor will most readers be. He's quite tragic and unable to really do the right thing for everyone else. But it's not entirely his fault; this was a bit of an issue in society at the time.

Miller's talent is top notch. He clearly can capture the mental state of his characters, who each struggle with things we all struggle with. They take it to a newer and higher level, but it's still something we can all relate to in our lives, whether it's a teacher, father, uncle, grandfather, or another person in our lives, we have seen this happen. And it's not pretty. The various passages and speeches by each of the characters are quite strong, pushing you as a reader to think about what society has done to us. But then again... we all have choices and should know better. The book makes you think... a lot... and for that, it does an excellent job at being one we should all read, or at least watch the play acted out.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

[polldaddy poll=9729544] ...more
5

Apr 04, 2007

In this book, Arthur Miller's masterpiece, one finds the reason that Miller was blacklisted during the Red Scare. His undisguised longing for a break from the class system and his disdain for the so-called "American Dream" are nothing short of remarkable.

Within Willy Lowman resides the typical American Dream with no reality. Overtaken by industrialism and materialism, this character represents the absolute failure of society's promise of economic prosperity. His life ends in the most tragic and In this book, Arthur Miller's masterpiece, one finds the reason that Miller was blacklisted during the Red Scare. His undisguised longing for a break from the class system and his disdain for the so-called "American Dream" are nothing short of remarkable.

Within Willy Lowman resides the typical American Dream with no reality. Overtaken by industrialism and materialism, this character represents the absolute failure of society's promise of economic prosperity. His life ends in the most tragic and simplest of ways. Sadly, the salesman who had worked his entire life just to be rewarded with "the death of a salesman," surrounded by friends, the spectator comes to the realization that everything he has worked so hard to build has either fallen or is no longer useful.

Biff is representative of a man who can see that one cannot, generally will not, always get what they dream of. He is the man who understands that this promise of the land of opportunity is misunderstood. It is the land of opportunity... opportunity for those who can afford it. However, for those who are just trying to get buy, who do not have a fortune to thrive with; these people are the ones who often work the hardest to come to the end of their life to find out that they will never be given the opportunity that they were promised.

A classic American tragedy, I think that this is one of the most important commentaries on the economic slump that still exists in our current society. ...more
4

Mar 28, 2016

Dreams have a dark side, and Death of a Salesman makes that painfully obvious.

Willy Loman, like all of us, just wants to be successful. And although at the start of the play he's amounted to nothing but failure, it's not from bad intention, it's not from lack of trying, it's from his ignorance. Willy thinks that success is measured in wealth, and the key to that is being well-liked. But he tries to cheat his way to wealth (instead of work hard and learn from his mistakes), so he ends up with no Dreams have a dark side, and Death of a Salesman makes that painfully obvious.

Willy Loman, like all of us, just wants to be successful. And although at the start of the play he's amounted to nothing but failure, it's not from bad intention, it's not from lack of trying, it's from his ignorance. Willy thinks that success is measured in wealth, and the key to that is being well-liked. But he tries to cheat his way to wealth (instead of work hard and learn from his mistakes), so he ends up with no friends (or money). The salesman in Willy likes to say "you're only worth what you can sell." But Willy can't sell a damn thing. He's worthless.

As they say, ignorance is bliss, and this play is really Willy attempting everything he can--including driving himself to insanity--to keep from acknowledging that he's just a lying, cheating, good-for-nothing failure.

What really makes this play stand out is how all of the characters so perfectly embody different aspects of Willy. His wife treats him exactly how he wishes society would, his sons grow up to be just like him (and when he notices it, his fantasy starts to fall apart), and his neighbor and his neighbor's kid are everything he wishes he and his sons were. So seeing Willy interact with these people is really interesting. Also, the dialogue is great:

When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich. ...more
5

Aug 26, 2012

“I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”

I have seen, read and taught Death of a Salesman many times, and loved re-reading it again as part of my tour this year through what I “I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”

I have seen, read and taught Death of a Salesman many times, and loved re-reading it again as part of my tour this year through what I think are his best plays, including The Crucible, All my Sons, A View From the Bridge. (In college I tried out for the part of Biff, but was runner-up, curse you Bruce Mulder! I worked on the lighting for the production, which I loved). I tend to think of this play as one of the greatest plays in American theater, and a kind of dramatic pair with The Great Gatsby as a treatise on The American Dream/capitalism, featuring sad, misguided people (Jay Gatz/ Willy Loman) who use money/appearance/material goods as a means to their ideas of success, both of them involved in infidelity as a central flaw/part of their downfall.

Death is a dream play, very lyrical, moving from past and present, as Willy’s fraying sense of reality in the last 24 hours of his life leads to what the title of the play reveals will happen. So it’s not about plot, it’s a sociological/psychological study, which features father-sons and a strong woman, Linda, who tries to keep the family together.

Hap is the guy most like Willy, and they are never not deluded in their pursuit of the material dream:

“Happy: All right, boy. I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It's the only dream you can have—to come out number-one man.”

Both Hap and Willy are (mis)guided by the image of the materially successful Ben, Willy’s older brother who left Brooklyn for Africa and Alaska:

“When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich.”

Biff and Willy can point to one moment when he was in high school where everything began to unravel, but whereas Willy never sees what he is, Biff comes to a realization:

“I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw—the sky. I saw the things that I love in this world. The work and the food and time to sit and smoke. 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!

“I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been.”

Such great language, terrific characters, great dialogue. I was saddened once again by this story of lost American values. Reminded me a bit, too, of a graphic novel by Seth, also about a salesman, Clyde Fans, though the (lost) American salesman is a staple of American literature and worth reading more deeply into: Glengarry Glen Ross (Mamet), John Updike’s Rabbit books, so much. ...more
5

Aug 05, 2016

Arthur Miller, one of the greatest playwrights to date, captures the frailty that is the human condition in his Pulitzer Prize-winning-drama, Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willy Loman, epitomizes the average hardworking male, manically struggling to fulfill unattainable dreams.

Loman now reaching the age of retirement and coming to terms with his physical limitations, Miller’s superior use of dialogue easily conveys Willy's gut-wrenching urgency to pass the baton to his disinterested Arthur Miller, one of the greatest playwrights to date, captures the frailty that is the human condition in his Pulitzer Prize-winning-drama, Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willy Loman, epitomizes the average hardworking male, manically struggling to fulfill unattainable dreams.

Loman now reaching the age of retirement and coming to terms with his physical limitations, Miller’s superior use of dialogue easily conveys Willy's gut-wrenching urgency to pass the baton to his disinterested son, Biff.

In the end, convinced his entire life for naught, Willy loses his desire to live in a world where his goals will never reach fruition. There is little mystery here and no action-packed, acrobatic sequences. Death of a Salesman, at its essence, symbolizes man’s need to make his mark in the world, and few literary triumphs have moved an audience nearly as much.

...more
1

Aug 11, 2010

I really hate giving this book (well, play) one star. I hate giving any "classic" one star, for that matter. It must have gone down in history for a reason, and is beloved by many. In most classics like this, even if I don't like the story, characters, etc., I usually can find that "spark" that has made it so popular for so many years. But I can honestly say that I found no redeeming qualities in Death of a Salesman. None whatsoever. Sigh.

Maybe I would have been more comfortable actually seeing I really hate giving this book (well, play) one star. I hate giving any "classic" one star, for that matter. It must have gone down in history for a reason, and is beloved by many. In most classics like this, even if I don't like the story, characters, etc., I usually can find that "spark" that has made it so popular for so many years. But I can honestly say that I found no redeeming qualities in Death of a Salesman. None whatsoever. Sigh.

Maybe I would have been more comfortable actually seeing the play instead of reading it, but, for me, this entire play was tedious and boring. I know I sound like a typical high-school student, but it's true. The storyline fell flat, I didn't care about any of the characters, the whole thing just felt bland. And the whole "these characters have fallen victim to the American Dream" idea was worn out before the first act was over.

And, this is probably my inner feminist talking, but all of the women in this play were useless. We have five women in this play. One is a secretary, and has four lines. The next is Linda, who is pretty much a piece of furniture. She gives in to whatever Willy says (because she has "infinite patience," apparently) and adds close to nothing to the play. Oh, and the other three? They're prostitutes. Classy. ...more
4

Jan 06, 2019

The Death of a Salesman seems to be a very polarizing play. People either really love it or really hate it. I personally enjoyed it; I've always liked Arthur Miller's works and this one has a lot of good points about life and the changes a man observes over time while chasing his own dreams. In high school I didn't get it. Willy was definitely not an admirable or even remotely likable protagonist for a story. Going back and reading it now though, it's more clear that the book isn't necessarily The Death of a Salesman seems to be a very polarizing play. People either really love it or really hate it. I personally enjoyed it; I've always liked Arthur Miller's works and this one has a lot of good points about life and the changes a man observes over time while chasing his own dreams. In high school I didn't get it. Willy was definitely not an admirable or even remotely likable protagonist for a story. Going back and reading it now though, it's more clear that the book isn't necessarily about Willy, but about his family and about the constant struggle for something unattainable.

In his behavior Willy has slowly lost the connections he had with his wife and sons. Although they still love each other there's some distance, mostly thanks to Willy, which has grown over time and now Willy's son Biff has no interest in continuing his father's legacy of shattered hopes and unfulfilled dreams. Willy has always been a loser, not in a derogatory sense of the word but in the sense that he is a very pathetic and tragic character who eventually loses his will to live after years of the tried and true American struggle.

The play is short and probably won't impress readers who dislike ambiguity or who like more epic stories with a more straightforward message, but The Death of a Salesman still holds true today and carries a lot of important themes. With well-developed characters like Linda and Biff helping to give even more substance to the story, this play manages to be memorable and deep at the same time without going overboard or being too vague. ...more
4

Jan 25, 2019

I surely must have read this classic in high school, but for the life of me do not remember it. Didn't even remember what poor Willy sold until I picked up this wonderful little Penguin copy of the screenplay. I know I've said it before, but I love Penguin books. They have the coolest book covers!

Anyway, now I've read it and won't likely forget it....and, yes....poor Willy Loman. He is a lost soul and aging 63 year old salesman who has spent his sorry life traveling from state to state selling

I surely must have read this classic in high school, but for the life of me do not remember it. Didn't even remember what poor Willy sold until I picked up this wonderful little Penguin copy of the screenplay. I know I've said it before, but I love Penguin books. They have the coolest book covers!

Anyway, now I've read it and won't likely forget it....and, yes....poor Willy Loman. He is a lost soul and aging 63 year old salesman who has spent his sorry life traveling from state to state selling (or trying to sell) women's hosiery ultimately in search of the American Dream.

He has a house, now boxed in between two tall brick buildings, a somewhat nagging wife, Linda who loves him and two grown sons, one, Biff, a realist and Happy who, well, just seems to be there.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN so expressively defines the lost, disappointing and just plain worn out living of a man in a world of unrealized dreams, the reader can just feel his anguish and desperation for wanting more....to have accomplished more as a proud, hardworking (?) family man who has served the same company honorably (?) his entire life, but is now being put out to pasture. (The prose makes us question Willy's conversations and sanity from beginning to end.)

First published in 1949, DEATH OF A SALESMAN is a dark and depressing look at the downside of not being able to cope when all does not go according to plan.

Although written with an abrupt (sometimes confusing) flashbacks throughout the story, still 4 Stars for this lover of old screenplays.

...more
4

Jul 27, 2019

I have heard the many references movies and people make to this play, but I didn't know the story. This is a complex piece of writing about aging and dreams not being achieved. I want to see this to see how it all works on the stage. There is so much going on. Time is blended and played with here by Willy. Everything that is going on in his head along with the present all swirl about so that he and us are just a little confused as to what is now, what is past, and what is happening. I mean we I have heard the many references movies and people make to this play, but I didn't know the story. This is a complex piece of writing about aging and dreams not being achieved. I want to see this to see how it all works on the stage. There is so much going on. Time is blended and played with here by Willy. Everything that is going on in his head along with the present all swirl about so that he and us are just a little confused as to what is now, what is past, and what is happening. I mean we know what is going on, but it is so well done.

This is a family drama. It is not uplifting really. Yet, there is something about this play that sits with me. It is a sad piece. I must say, I much prefer a happy ending, but I really appreciate this story. I think it’s more famous as a title than people actually knowing the story, at least in my generation. I hope it’s not forgotten as there is a lot of truth in these lines.

Biff and Willy Loman are father and son and they don’t get along. Happy is the 2nd son and he is much like his father. The mother is trying to keep them all together and going. We find out that Willy is rather delusional in his positive self-talk. He doesn’t see who Biff really is and we see some secrets from his past come up. There is hope for the future and blame for the past passed around. Everything swirls together. It really is a masterpiece Arthur wrote.

I think I need to read some more plays. This was a lot of fun and who knows what else I’m missing out there. I’m sure whole libraries have been written about this play and I am not going to go into a whole lot about it. This play touched something in me and I think that’s the important thing. ...more
4

Dec 31, 2012

"I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."

Attention, attention must finally be paid... So sounds out Arthur Miller's cry to observe that every individual, every human being must "I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."

Attention, attention must finally be paid... So sounds out Arthur Miller's cry to observe that every individual, every human being must have attention paid to them. It is a tragic irony that it seems impossible for the limited human love and kindness to engage with all people, for there is always something that turns us away. In the case of this drama, the slowly grinding wheels of a tiredness created through the every pressing need to possess more and more.

Death of a Salesman is often called the dark drama of the American Dream. In many ways this is true, as Miller recreates a world where human wants are turned on their head into 'human needs'. As part of my research for travelling to the States myself, I've been reading up on the concept of the American Dream in novels and theoretical articles. It seems that as I've read an interesting proposition has sprung up: can any author when writing about America escape the whirlpool of literature that is the American Dream? I doubt that any author can, for in writing a play about multiple failures - the failures of family, success, love and ultimately the many failures of relationships - Miller wrote a play that has come to be known as a play about the failure of the American Dream in its many formats. Yet, this failure is one which seems to me to be connected to all humans everywhere, in how our drives towards false dreams will only end in failure.

Ultimately I believe Miller's story is one which is about success and visionary dreams as much as it is about failure. As Biff says at the end of Willy Loman, "He never knew who he was." Miller seems to have created a work which analyses and observes that chasing after false dreams never brings satisfaction. It is a theme as old as time, seen in such writings as those of Solomon in Ecclesiastes when he states that 'Everything is meaningless.' And certainly everything is meaningless when you base your identity solely in your set dream. For if your dream fails it becomes a failure of yourself as an individual. The ultimate warning of Miller's play is to seek satisfaction in yourself as an individual and not to chase after what you are not: not to be complacent but to be satisfied. ...more
5

Jul 02, 2018

This is a tragic tale beautifully told by Arthur Miller.

Previous times I’ve read this, Linda Loman seemed to me to be a passive character who is fiercely loyal to her husband, Willy Loman. This time round I saw her as a woman who was doing all she could to help her husband be happy. Linda Loman is practical, patient and generous to her husband’s obsessive search for that miracle that will give him the happiness he believes he deserves. She is also ready to sacrifice her relationships with her This is a tragic tale beautifully told by Arthur Miller.

Previous times I’ve read this, Linda Loman seemed to me to be a passive character who is fiercely loyal to her husband, Willy Loman. This time round I saw her as a woman who was doing all she could to help her husband be happy. Linda Loman is practical, patient and generous to her husband’s obsessive search for that miracle that will give him the happiness he believes he deserves. She is also ready to sacrifice her relationships with her sons if they do not put in the effort to support Willy’s delusions.

Miller gives no clues of what drives her to be like this, but in the last scene I found I now read her passivity as her strength, a simple will to survive.

Correction
I just noticed I gave this 4 stars when it shoudl have been 5 - brilliant read!!! if I get a chance I will try and read another one of his plays ...more
5

Jan 23, 2015

“Death of a salesman” is an amazing classic in its true sense. It’s gripping, moving, touching and painful. In a world where everybody’s judged by his/her material accomplishments and investments, this profound piece of literature may be an alarming notion that what matters is not necessarily what one seeks or desires. Life’s merely a matter of living for the sake of others: A man is useful as long as he contributes to the society and useless once he stops. In such society there is no motivation “Death of a salesman” is an amazing classic in its true sense. It’s gripping, moving, touching and painful. In a world where everybody’s judged by his/her material accomplishments and investments, this profound piece of literature may be an alarming notion that what matters is not necessarily what one seeks or desires. Life’s merely a matter of living for the sake of others: A man is useful as long as he contributes to the society and useless once he stops. In such society there is no motivation for emotional or spiritual achievements; no place for “being liked by the measure of personality” alone. To Willy Loman – the main character and the hero of this play – this is what brings agony and desolation the most. His emotional crisis begins when he realizes that he’s unable to accommodate his dreams to the real world. He’s aged, weak and no more useful to the sales company. “He cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself as a literal “loman” or “low man.” Willy is too driven by his own “willy”-ness or perverse “willfulness” to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has forged.” (Note the choice of name for the main character: “Willy” and the family name: “Loman”. His two sons were also named: “happy” & “Biff”. Happy is a blind ambitious and optimist while Biff is strict and realist). Through the imaginary advice of his deceased brother, “Ben”, Willy’s finally able to understand the reality and his suicide at the end of the story represents a partial discovery that he’s unable to live up to his materialistic dream. He believes that this sacrifice will leave a valuable inheritance to his family – mostly Biff his oldest son – to fulfill his fantasy.

Let’s wrap it up quickly! It’s way beyond me to write a proper review for this play. It’s really wonderful! The messages, themes and emotions resonate almost clearly today as they did a century ago. (If it isn’t the classic’s meaning? “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” That’s what Italo Calvino said.)
[I could not resist copying this beautiful closing paragraph from the book down here (a requiem for Willy by his friend, Charley, at his funeral)]:
“Nobody dast blame this man. You don’t understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a Shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that’s an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”

This is one of the most amazing plays I’ve ever read! Strongly recommended to all. Don’t miss the opportunity to read/watch it.

پی نوشت: خاطرات پراکنده – 25 دی 1393 – سالن اصلی تئاتر شهر – نمایش مرگ فروشنده
"!مرگ یه فروشنده مرگ باشکوهیه"

...more
5

Feb 11, 2017

A very haunting story.... of broken dreams. A the power these dreams and hopes can have...
4

Oct 01, 2015

4/5

This book was better than I thought it would be. I was expecting a boring and easy read but what I got was very different. There was action even though you wouldn't really think that those scenes were that exciting. The characters were also really interesting.

I felt bad for Willy at his determination to keep pursuing his dream of being a salesman despite his lack of success. I also was sad about how he truly didn't see his mistakes or reality. He had so many flashbacks and they interfered 4/5

This book was better than I thought it would be. I was expecting a boring and easy read but what I got was very different. There was action even though you wouldn't really think that those scenes were that exciting. The characters were also really interesting.

I felt bad for Willy at his determination to keep pursuing his dream of being a salesman despite his lack of success. I also was sad about how he truly didn't see his mistakes or reality. He had so many flashbacks and they interfered with what was really going on.

Biff was another character that I liked. He changed throughout the book and I liked how he ended up having thought that he should be that way from the start.

The ending was what I expected, which was kind of obvious, but it was still upsetting.

Overall, this book was better than I thought and I liked reading though I probably would have liked reading it better at my own pace and not in school. ...more
5

Jan 31, 2019

"I simply asked him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?"
I don't know if Miller intended it as such but it might as well be a criticism of capitalism.

Just look at what Willy has to say to his boss upon being fired:

"You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit."

but this criticism is more existional:

"After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive."

or

"Work a lifetime to pay off a "I simply asked him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?"
I don't know if Miller intended it as such but it might as well be a criticism of capitalism.

Just look at what Willy has to say to his boss upon being fired:

"You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit."

but this criticism is more existional:

"After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive."

or

"Work a lifetime to pay off a house — You finally own it and there's nobody to live in it."

or

"Nothing's Planted, I don't have a thing in the ground."

Unless you are rich, money is a very strong determinant of your self-worth. Willy and Biff struggle with the realty of fact that they haven't made much. The desire for greatness and having to accept that one is not great is another theme. Awesome.

"Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory."

"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. "
...more
3

Nov 25, 2016

A book many apparently studied and hated in High-school, and no doubt I would have as well. I have no idea why that age group would be interested in the Story of Willie Loman our 60 year old "salesman" here, as he's looking back over his life. Has he been successful, or has he not, is he a tragic dreamer, a hero, or like most of us somewhere in between ? If you're not old enough to have asked these questions of yourself, this book most likely is not for you, that said it's been around since 1949 A book many apparently studied and hated in High-school, and no doubt I would have as well. I have no idea why that age group would be interested in the Story of Willie Loman our 60 year old "salesman" here, as he's looking back over his life. Has he been successful, or has he not, is he a tragic dreamer, a hero, or like most of us somewhere in between ? If you're not old enough to have asked these questions of yourself, this book most likely is not for you, that said it's been around since 1949 and folks are still reading it. 3.5 stars- short play with stage directions ...more
4

Apr 24, 2008



http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gpwk4

Description: David Suchet, Zoë Wanamaker and director Howard Davies, who all won awards for the sell-out production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons in the West End in 2010, reunite to create a new production for Radio 3 of Miller's 1949 classic about the American dream and his second big Broadway success. The original won The Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award and Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. This new radio production is part of the

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gpwk4

Description: David Suchet, Zoë Wanamaker and director Howard Davies, who all won awards for the sell-out production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons in the West End in 2010, reunite to create a new production for Radio 3 of Miller's 1949 classic about the American dream and his second big Broadway success. The original won The Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award and Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. This new radio production is part of the celebrations across BBC Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra to mark the centenary of the birth of one of the most important American playwrights of the twentieth century.

Willy Loman is a 63-year-old travelling salesman worn out by a life on the road. His wife Linda has supported him throughout and borne him two sons, Biff and Happy. Biff is working away and has returned home for the first time in years, so the whole family are reunited. But there is a secret between Willy and Biff, which has destroyed what was a mutual hero-worshipping relationship when Biff was a star athlete in High School, and still haunts them both.

Willy Loman David Suchet
Linda Loman Zoe Wanamaker
Biff Loman Daniel Lapaine
Happy Loman Brendan Patricks
Bernard Adam Best
Charley Tony Turner
Uncle Ben Simon Kunz
The Woman Lucy Black
Howard John Mackay
Letta Laura Rogers
Ms Forsythe Florence Hall

Miller nailed human nature here, sobering stuff. Excellent version going on here, fully recommended. ...more

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