dara's Reviews > Death of a Salesman: Revised Edition

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
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's review
Nov 14, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2009, suicide, reviewed
Read in November, 2009 , read count: 1

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 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!


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.


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Reading Progress

11/14/2009 page 39
11/15/2009 page 188
41.96% "Finished with the play & Miller's essays. Now left with essays by others & various analogous works."
11/17/2009 page 449
100% 1 comment
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