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Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 30 Mar. 2000
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Arthur Miller's extraordinary masterpiece, Death of a Salesman changed the course of modern theatre, and has lost none of its power as an examination of American life.
'A man is not an orange. You can't eat the fruit and throw the peel away'
Willy Loman is on his last legs. Failing at his job, dismayed at his the failure of his sons, Biff and Happy, to live up to his expectations, and tortured by his jealousy at the success and happiness of his neighbour Charley and his son Bernard, Willy spirals into a well of regret, reminiscence, and A scathing indictment of the ultimate failure of the American dream, and the empty pursuit of wealth and success, is a harrowing journey. In creating Willy Loman, his destructively insecure anti-hero, Miller defined his aim as being 'to set forth what happens when a man does not have a grip on the forces of life'.
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About the Author
- ASIN : 0141182741
- Publisher : Penguin Classics; 1st edition (30 Mar. 2000)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 128 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780141182742
- ISBN-13 : 978-0141182742
- Dimensions : 13 x 0.9 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Willy was clearly burnt out in the end, maybe a bit of a dinosaur in a changing world. He was arrogant in many ways, or perhaps just 'conditioned' as many sales people are. Willy clearly had a concept of himself, his image and what he stood for and wanted for his family – the truth was that latterly he lived a lie and had a very fanciful grip on reality?
Willy loved his family and wanted the best for them, but couldn’t grasp the pressure he was putting his sons under or the fact that they were already conditioned by him and mirrored his salesman's 'bluster' in many ways.
He wasn’t against asking his only real friend and neighbour, Charley, for money when broke, but was far too proud to actually work under him when offered a job. He constantly talked up his old pals in the business world, and was justifiably proud of the the loyal stint he’d put in, but would his long standing boss and his so called business pals return that respect to Willy?
The storyline builds up gradually and it’s quite obvious very early on that Willy is under strain and is not living in reality – things are going to hit the fan, it’s only a matter of when?
The finale is beautifully written - it's compelling and poignant. It's undeniably a great play.
It is a day in life of a failed salesman, who still chases his American dream, at the same time being completely downtrodden and knowing that he is at the end. The other characters, his wife and the two sons - Biff and Happy - contribute to the illusion and have all been shaped and damaged by the same 'oversell yourself' dogma of Willy Loman.
The book is pretty tragic and Miller manages to bring across the message well, that life is not always on the up for everyone and that boundless optimism alone will not cut it. Yet some perceived societal pressures make it incredibly difficult for many (cue Willy, his wife Linda and Happy) to face the truth and deal with it effectively. The consumer culture then just exacerbates the situation by the protagonist feeling under increasing pressure to deliver in order to stay within hailing distance of the neighbours and society at large.
Funnily enough the book seems a perfect - fictional - complement to Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream . It is a sobering read and is likely to leave you questioning some aspects of the corporate rat race as well as of the constant self-delusion that unmade Willy Loman, as well as many others in our society.
It's as relevant today as it was when Arthur Miller first wrote it.
The story is simple - an elderly salesman struggling to cope with under-performance, old age and having to confront his own spin and publicity.
A great story.