Death of a Salesman Death of a Salesman question

What do you think?
Traci Tolman Traci Sep 01, 2011 09:28PM
My son is reading this in english class. There is a lot of cuss words and loose morals. The Lord's name is used in vain a lot. He is uncomfortable reading it, and I was just wondering what others think. Have you read it, would you recommend it? They have to read it orally in class and it makes him uncomfortable. What do I do?

Oh come on, don't you think it's about time for your son to be exposed to the real world? If you and your son find objectionable content in THIS book, then I feel slightly sorry for you - Once he gets to college he's going to be exposed to literature that will incense you.

This is one of the great classics of American playwriting. It shows you the life of the lower middle class in a specific time period. You can tell him to suck it up and actually try to understand the book instead of having his feathers rattled by what fictional characters say.

I'm sorry if I come off as antagonistic, but to be honest, this is not a book you need to shelter your kids from. There are no such books, but even if there were, this would NOT be one of them.

Skylerandbrandy i remember being in the 6th grade reading a science text out loud and having to say the word 'bitch' (female dog in heat; and i think the teacher took ...more
Mar 19, 2012 10:29AM

I understand having a strong sense of morals, and that your beliefs are important to you. But at the same time, I cannot stress to you how important it is to have a well-rounded education. How can a person know what they do and do not believe, or hope to understand the world around them if they do not experience as much as they can? There is no reason that your son should have to repeat swear words aloud if he believes they are wrong, and a teacher should understand that. But books and plays like this one are used in the school curriculum to help students gain a fuller understanding of history, society, art, and language. To avoid things that make you cringe a little is to cheat yourself out of a depth of knowledge that only serves to make you a better, wiser person.

On the bright side, this play no way endorses Willy's behavior or sends the message that his way was or is the right way to live. I agree, however, with some of the above comments regarding a well-rounded education. Your son is going to have to be prepared for the people and situations he is going to encounter in his life, and believe me, he is going to encounter people far worse than Willy Loman. If he is not prepared to meet this people, believe me, he will be crushed by them. Of course, it's wonderful that you don't allow curse words in your home around your children, but to give them the impression that these words don't exist or that they are only used by 'bad people' is a mistake.

deleted member Jun 09, 2012 01:19AM   0 votes
Loose morals are culturally relative. The power of offensive words is in the listener of the word, not the speaker. If it makes your child uncomfortable to hear such things in class, then you have done a poor job exposing your child to a) art and b) reality.

That's a good question deserving of a honest answer. Death of a Salesman was written in 1949. Two issues here:
One, the language it fitting for adults during a time when language was much more guarded (tame) then today. For generations high school and junior high kids had to read adult literature to study something literary. This is why the book was put on the list (after all these years and cultural changes I wonder why its still on the list, but that is a little off topic). Adults in their forties and fifties studied adult literature in high school, watch cartoons where characters smoked, drank liquor, and carried guns. A lot of that has changed today. But some things, like this book, have stuck around.
Two, the rise of YA literature, I mean books actually considered to have some literary merit, is a fairly recent phenomenon. YA when I was a kid was pulp. Books like The Giver, Harry Potter, and so many more weren't really available. That's how books like Death of a Salesman got on the list to begin with.
I figure you have two choices. One, tell him to read the text, listen to the text read in class (maybe he can go privately to the teacher and ask not to read or you can email her so not to make a scene), and learn the lesson (while understanding that the language isn't acceptable). Willy Loman still has something powerful to teach us about our values and our families.
You know that as he gets older he will only face more challenges in school, work, and life. He can be true to who he is while learning the lessons available he will be a stronger man. Two, he can stand up for what he believes to be correct. This is very hard at his age and it may have repercussions with how other students interact with him. As a parent you need to be sure this is the right cause, he is able to handle it, and you are willing to stand with him the whole way. You also need to be sure this is the right battle. Making a stand strengthens character and reinforces values.
I'll be honest as a parent I would choose the first option. There will be bigger issues and he will have his time to stand up and be counted. I'm just not sure this is the right one. You may still have Catch-22, Ender's Game, Man's Search for Meaning, Pygmalion, The Catcher in the Rye, Equus, The Things They Carried Away, A Separate Peace, The Stranger, Siddhartha, A Clockwork Orange, and The Bell Jar (to name a few from a HS reading list) which will challenge his values in many different ways.
As a parent this is a serious question we must continually ask ourselves. My wife likes to read the books so she can discuss the ideas in the books casually with the kids. Honestly, we have no issue with the language. But there are topics that come up that we think it is important that our kids consider our values as they read the books. My son is reading Nickle and Dimed right now. I love the book and wanted to be sure he understood how some people might object to it. So I discussed it with him before they discussed it in class.
One thing is for sure your decision will not be easy and probably will not set you at ease. That's the way it usually goes with these things.
All the best

Phillip Casteel Very nice ending
Sep 07, 2011 11:47AM

If he were amply exposed to the real world he would be thoroughly exposed to cussing.

How old is your son? I do not recall my age when I read it, but do know when I was a teenage, my older sister would black out bad words in her books. I found that annoying; some sentences lacked sense. Of course, even at that age cuss words did not offend me.

But if he is too uncomfortable with it, I would speak to the teacher and ask that he be excused from reading it aloud in class. It is refreshing to hear that a child is uncomfortable with cussing ~ it is so common for kids to use foul language, even at an early age.

Best wishes with this one. It has been many years since I first read it, then reread it many years after that ~ I enjoyed it.

Cage (last edited Dec 27, 2011 01:44AM ) Dec 27, 2011 01:43AM   0 votes
Cuss words and loose morals and lords' names in vain, oh my! What are we pre-Victorian here?

But actually, the author doesn't take a stand in favor of Willy's extramarital adventurings. Willy comes off looking like a cheater and a bit of a sleaze. Haven't you read it yourself?

On top of that, the wife he cheats on is decent and not at all deserving of such poor treatment. So Willy gets it on both sides, which is to say, it's practically a morality play, when you think about it.

And as P.D. noted, above, it has a beautiful and intense ending. Not to be missed, even for a few swear words.

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