Monday, December 22, 2014

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

Willy Loman is a traveling salesman, but he's getting older and more tired, and he's getting less stable--he keeps reliving memories instead of facing reality.  He's disappointed in his two sons, Biff and Happy, who were popular and successful in high school but have drifted ever since.  Willy expected them (and himself, too) to become successful businessmen, but that never materialized and he takes refuge in memories and lies about his life.  His wife loves him and is worried that he will commit suicide, but he tends to trample her.  During the play, we find out why Biff, the oldest son, went off the rails and just how far Willy will go to avoid reality.

I gather that the play is supposed to be about the failure of the American dream; at least, as Willy Loman sees it.  He wants to make deals and be loved, and for his sons to get rich.  He wants to believe that his sons are special--all-American athletes, popular, able to wheel and deal with the best and strike it rich without trouble.  The boys, more realistic, try to tell him that they are just ordinary men with ordinary lives.  That's not good enough for Willy, who can't face his own failures as a father (and husband), and whose dreamy expectations eventually kill him.


My Spin title was "The Crucible," and it came in a collection of five plays, so I read this one from my CC list as well.  It's yet another famous American piece that I'd never read before.  I had kind of a hard time with it, really.  Depressing mid-20th-century plays by Miller are not quite my thing, I guess. 

1 comment:

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I quite liked The Crucible (but haven't reread it). Death of a Salesman I could live without. Like you, I can see what the themes are, but I don't particularly appreciate them on an emotional level.