Arthur Miller is a new author that I have discovered this month. I had heard about his book, “Death of a salesman” quite a few times and it constantly appeared as a suggestion on Amazon. I finally took a plunge to buy the book considering it is short and a play. as I hadn’t read a play in the last few months. This book did not disappoint and it made me feel the same way reading Karl Marx does. Why? Discover more in the post!
Death of a salesman was written in 1948 by Arthur Miller in a small studio built by in Roxbury, Connecticut. Miller had been a vocal critic of the cultural and economic myths of American capitalism. The book carries the disappointments and griefs and a 60-year old man, Willy Loman who is tired, yet not retired from achieving the American dream. The drama is centered around the Loman family’s economic struggles and his dream world which is filled with hopeless dreams.
About the author
Arthur Miller is considered one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century. His best-known plays include ‘All My Sons,’ ‘The Crucible’, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Death of a Salesman.’
Playwright Arthur Miller attended the University of Michigan before moving back East to write dramas for the stage. He earned widespread praise for Death of a Salesman, which opened on Broadway in 1949 and won the Pulitzer Prize along with multiple Tonys. He received more acclaim for his award-winning follow-up, The Crucible, which reflected his unwavering refusal to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. The playwright died in 2005 at the age of 89, leaving a body of work that continues to be re-staged internationally and adapted for the screen.
Premise of the book
The story starts with Loman’s palpitating state as he talks to himself, forgets things. His wife thinks he is about to take his life. He has two sons, Biff and Happy Loman. He seems particularly invested in Biff and making him the greatest salesman the world has ever seen. Willy is trying to live the great American dream which keeps him frustrated, yet he can’t stop living it. His life has been limited by finances because he is merely a salesman who is not of much importance to capitalism. In fact, not just sales, most of the professions in the modern world of capitalism are disposable and ungrateful jobs. This is the side that this book is willing to show.
Also read: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Willy has dreamed of success his whole life and makes up lies about his and Biff’s success. The more he indulges in the illusion, the harder it is for him to face reality. Biff is the only one who realizes that the whole family lived in the lies and tries to face the truth.
The misery of Willy Loman
Times over, Willy lashes out at Biff for not being good enough. For not being the “great” Biff, who is the greatest baseball player, academic overachiever, and the most successful businessman. Sadly, Biff is none of it and this breaks Willy apart. His wife, Linda is his biggest support who doesn’t take offense in what he says. Rather, she acts as a bridge between her husband and her sons. She is scared someday Willy might take his life out of frustration and she is extremely concerned about the way Willy forgets things and keep mumbling to himself. There is also a generation gap between Willy and his sons apart from over-expectations. Sometimes, you will want the boys to behave well. At other times, you will feel like Willy is overreacting.
Or maybe he is not overreacting. You will realize this once you read the act where he is fired from the company, he has faithfully worked for over 30 years. They just see him as an asset, rather he becomes a liability. He can’t bring new clients, which is the criterion of being a worthy salesman. You will feel sorry about him and sympathize with him. He eventually ends his life in some unexpected turn of events and hence happens the “Death of a salesman”.
I really appreciate the way the book has been written. It is fluent to read and makes you reminisce certain instances in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. One of the reasons he was belittled was because of a thankful job he pursued. It deserves to be mentioned as one of the classics.
Do give it a read!