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5.0 out of 5 starsDeath of a Salesman (micro-review)
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2017
When Willy Loman says, “Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it.” he’s laying bare the hollowness of American capitialism. Work a job you don’t like, to buy stuff you don’t need, and end up “a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them!” Arthur Miller’s masterpiece Death of Salesman was first performed in 1949, but it feels vital to me today, as I grapple to redefine my definition of success in 2017 and beyond.
4.0 out of 5 starsDark and Depressing, but worthwhile read!
Reviewed in the United States on January 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 this 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 who loves him and two grown sons, one, Biff (a realist) of whom he has a very strained relationship, the other 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, hard-working (?) 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 abrupt (sometimes confusing) flashbacks throughout the story, still 4 Stars for this lover of old screenplays.
I needed this book for a class. There are no line breaks, which makes reading this play, complete with stage directions and character cues, more than a little difficult. It is a terrible version to buy. Don't do it. Spend the extra money on one with proper formatting. (Version - 2016 Crome Publishing)
I love this play, but not because it shows that the American Dream isn't possible. Willy Loman is a fundamentally dishonest man, and the tragedy isn't his life, it's how he's inflicted that dishonesty on his sons. Biff is the only person who is self-aware enough to see the damage done, but he doesn't blame his father. At the end, Linda and Happy are both clinging to their illusions about Willy and their lives and goals, but Biff is at peace because he knows who he is and why.
1.0 out of 5 starsThis review is of the kindle edition and NOT for ...
Reviewed in the United States on March 19, 2017
This review is of the kindle edition and NOT for the play itself. The kindle edition is unreadable. There are no hard returns between character lines so you can't follow what's happening. Avoid if you want to read this on the kindle.
4.0 out of 5 starsIt's alright. Totally not what I was expecting.
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2020
I read this book/play because I've always heard it by name, heard references about it and just wanted to see what it was really about. I gathered that by the title that a salesman died, but did not know that it was literally was going to be that. I thought that there may have been some kind of metaphor at play with the title. Anyway, it follows Willy Loman and his last day on earth. He is 63 and from the looks of it, looks like he is suffering from some form of early onset dementia. He talks to himself and the stress of life at his age is starting to wear on him. He's starting to wonder if everything that he has done really amounted to anything. He is married and has two boys. They are mid 30's and have not really done much with their lives. And they stay at home with them. In Willy's eyes, they are some what failures, but he is still holding out that they will somehow blossom into more. Can't say much without spoiling of course since it is a pretty simple read so I will review William Lowman himself. He is a typical salesman and he is a guy that puts “personality and character” over substance. You see it in the way he raises his sons and the way they turned out versus the boys best friend Bernard who goes on tho do bigger things. If you can't tell, Bernard is more on the quiet, diligent side of the spectrum. His father did not do much to egg him on either. Bernard's father was more hands off. Willy feels that his boys have to have “contacts” and have not made it unless everybody knows the name Loman. I think that ultimately leads them to not truly establishing themselves properly because they are being molded for a profession that really does not fit them. I also believe that Willy is doing this because he did not have the upbringing that he is providing for his boys. He does not remember much of his father and does not speak of any experiences of him either. So I am guessing that he is compensating by trying to do the opposite for his sons. He wants to be there all the time for them. The original helicopter father. The only time that he talks of his youth is when he is recalling memories of his brother. His brother Ben has officially “made it” in his eyes. Seeing that he always questions himself and Ben if he has raised his sons on the right path. That being said, Willy has some pretty hard hitting revelations hit him on his last day. I say for spoilers but you really see what drives him to do what he does. It was a good book. I read it on my Kindle Voyage. Would I buy a copy for the bookshelf? I think so.
I have been in sales most of my working life and I can relate so much to this play / story. Selling is all about the incentives – a fast track to the top and big bucks if you're good, but below the surface is the real pressure of the job - to produce the goods, week in, week out, the continual pressure of sales success and the company profit, on that your job depends. It's a life of continual ups and downs. The people in the business talk of ‘burn out’ and very few salespeople stay in the job for any real length of time! 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.
5.0 out of 5 starsA modern classic that more than lives up to expectations.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 27, 2020
After a gap of several decades, I recently re-read this modern classic, which had been one of my favourite books and plays, and wasn't disappointed. It still reads as a gritty story, with credible characters and, of course, brilliant dialogues. I wish I could see it performed by great actors again.
4.0 out of 5 starsWhen a smile and a bit of shoeshine no longer produce smiles in return
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 23, 2011
I came to
Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem (Penguin Modern Classics)
via a description of its author in Max Frisch's
. In it one gets the impression that some of the characteristics of Willy Loman - the protagonist - were not only those of Miller's salesman uncle Manny but got transferred to Miller himself (at least a couple of years after the play's prime).
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.