Willy Loman, the aging, failing salesman who makes his living riding on a smile and a shoeshine, is a man whose dreams are at once insupportably vast and dangerously insubstantial. He has given us a figure whose name has become a symbol for a kind of majestic grandiosity.
I think I would’ve enjoyed seeing Death of a Salesman performed in person, rather than reading the script. This is supposed to be one of the best American plays ever written and my friend assures me that seeing it onstage is a very different experience. (And, hopefully, one better than watching the movie.)
My English class read the script aloud and I was disappointed. Three friends of mine cried at the end of the script, so I know I was supposed to sympathize with the characters. Yet, in order to sympathize with them I’d have to like them and that didn’t really happen. Willy refused to admit the truth, his sons were morons, and Linda was so utterly useless that I described her as “little more than a talking prop” to my English class. My teacher, and my friends, were not pleased with my declaration.
“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.” (pg. 40)
I understand the point of the play. I understand it’s supposed to make you feel sympathetic for the characters when they painfully become victims of the American Dreams. But I liked the idea more than the actual execution.
“After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.” (pg. 76)
Still, Death of a Salesman did make me feel as though I understand others better. I understood the family even when I didn’t like them or agree with them.
- Miller, Arthur. “Death of a Salesman”. New York: Penguin, 1976. Originally published 1949. Print. 144 pgs. ISBN: 9780140481341. Source: Class copy.