Death of a Salesman is the story of Willy Loman, a salesman past sixty-years-old with a deteriorating grip on the present, his two sons and his wife L...moreDeath of a Salesman is the story of Willy Loman, a salesman past sixty-years-old with a deteriorating grip on the present, his two sons and his wife Linda. It is his mental decline which allows the play to present both the present-day action and various scenes from the past without those scenes being actual "flashbacks." In short: Willy is a failure, and has set his sons--particularly his eldest Biff--up for failure by instilling in them the same belief that being well-liked is enough to ensure success. This leads to a tragedy, or not, depending on who you side with in the seemingly endless critiques that follow this edition of the play.
This edition features over a hundred pages of essays about Death of a Salesman (both the written play and the theatrical run) and Miller in general. It was a bit of an overload to read all at once (but hey, I've got to move on and focus on writing papers, which won't be about Miller). The analogous works included are:
- The Know-It-All Salesman by Walter D. Moody. This is just a selecton from his book Men Who Sell Things, and it isn't all that interesting. It reads like a pep talk for salesmen.
- "Death of a Traveling Salesman" by Eudora Welty. I was on the third page of this story when I realized I've read it before, but I'm not sure in which anthology I first found it. The story doesn't do that much for me, but I can see its relevance.
- "The Last of My Solid Gold Watches" by Tennessee Williams. This play is a brief exchange between a an older salesman and a younger salesman, as well as even briefer exchanges between the older salesman and the porter at the hotel. The southern dialect made me laugh, which I'm fairly certain was not its intention.
"NEGRO, solemnly nodding: The graveyard is crowded with folks we knew, Mistuh Charlie. It's might late in the day!
MR. CHARLIE: Huh!
He crosses to the window.
Nigguh, it ain't even late in the day any more--
He throws up the blind.
The space of the window is black.
NEGRO, softly, with a wise old smile: Yes, suh . . . < I>Night, Mistuh Charlie!"
- "The Eighty-Yard Run" by Irwin Shaw. Despite two glaring typos ("beginnnig" and "here" instead of "her"), I liked this story best of the analogues. In it a married man, alone on a football field, reminisces the best day of his life--an eighty-yard run made during football practice fifteen years prior. Football just didn't work out for him, and after some cozy years working for his father-in-law, the economy went sour and his wife got uppity and got a better job than he could find. She didn't get uppity so much as grow up, improve herself, and grow apart from her husband while he stayed home and drank whiskey. It's a depressing story if you sympathize with the protagonist, the husband, but it's actually a bit empowering if you just see a woman who loved her husband, but didn't want to fall into the pit of depression and self-helplessness alongside him.
**spoiler alert** It is interesting and yet alarming how long the misconceptions behind Columbine were allowed to remain portrayed by the media as fac...more**spoiler alert** It is interesting and yet alarming how long the misconceptions behind Columbine were allowed to remain portrayed by the media as fact. Ten years later may be a little late to set the record straight considering this book will never get as much attention as the initial coverage of the incident.
The killers were not the misfits I was led to believe as a child. Quite the opposite was true. The two had thriving social lives and spent time ridiculing "inferiors." Those blaming video games and parenting fail to realize that Eric Harris was a psychopath. He hid behind charm and lies. The few people who saw through it reported it to the proper authorities, but for various reasons action was never taken. The other shooter, Dylan Klebold, even intentionally leaked information which may have prevented the massacre if it had been taken seriously enough. The parents didn't have knowledge of the pipe bombs the police had found. The police's inaction is not at all helped by the lies they later told in an attempt to coverup proof that they had been warned of Eric's threatening website which bragged about his illegal activities. Their poor response to the incident itself was inadequate. In their defense, there was no working procedure in place at the time, which was addressed after Columbine. Still, it is particularly tragic that teacher Dave Sanders was allowed to bleed to death inside of the school, waiting for help that promised to be there within ten minutes but which didn't arrive until three hours later.
What most people may not realize (or at least I was certainly clueless) is that the attack on Columbine was really a failed bombing. The guns were initially only to shoot people fleeing from the destruction and chaos of the various bombs. The media covered the event like any other school shooting, but it was McVeigh who Eric Harris hoped to outdo. The two killers seemed to grow bored of shooting their victims. It wasn't dramatic enough.
Cullen provides the reason why which the police kept to themselves for so long. Harris was a psychopath. The bombing was to destroy inferiors, with vague plans of going down in crossfire with the police. Klebold was a depressed suicidal, who may have never directed his self-loathing and violence outward if not for the unfortunate pairing.
Cullen also tells the story of the survivors, who for the most part, just got on with their lives despite emotional and physical pain, and overwhelming odds against them. (less)