A long held American classic, "Death" asks the fundamental question facing all Americans both today and in '49, when it was originally performed - Wha...moreA long held American classic, "Death" asks the fundamental question facing all Americans both today and in '49, when it was originally performed - What is the American dream? Author Miller uses an overlapping flashback structure, juxtaposing scenes from protagonist salesman Willy's early years with his family and close friends against their more troubled present, penetrating the facade of what's essentially American, that there's no acceptable alternative but to be the best, no matter the cost.
WILLY is the 60-year-old salesman father, who lives a little beyond this plane of reality, but only with the best intentions. He sees life not as it is, but instead at its most idealistic. Life's exactly what he should get out of it. BIFF is Willy's oldest son, the football star when he was in high school, who had scholarships and all the promise in the world, but instead ended up thirty and still finding himself.
HAPPY is Willy's youngest son, who's always looked up to Biff's good looks and talent, did the best with what he had, and lived a less eventful, but moderately accomplished life, which Biff envies. Willy's wife LINDA is the realist of the house. She's the glue that keeps things together, including Willy's financial books, and makes sure everyone maintains a healthy balance between her reality and their fiction. BEN is Willy's brother, a striking success that left home long ago, heading for Africa, getting rich on diamonds. But is his manifestation in the story real or a figment of Willy's imagination? Is he just the projection of Willy's own hopes and dreams?
Act one of this comic tragedy is mostly light, presenting the family dynamics clearly and captivating you with the humor of it all. Act two is where "Death" really finds its force, as the family faces two major tragedies that are on a collision course to deflate the family's long-held falsehoods.
Exploring themes such as mortality and paternity ("He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog."), Miller ultimately pits his characters most starkly against themselves, good intentions conflicting with the inherent flawed nature of humanity.
When a man cannot make ends meet or find success, whose guilty? Himself or the children he raised up to be something better than they finally chose to become? This is what "Death" is about. What does it mean to grow up and be an American?(less)