Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Willy Loman, the protagonist of Death of a Salesman, has spent his life following the American way, living out his belief in salesmanship as a way to reinvent himself. But somehow the riches and respect he covets have eluded him. At age 63, he searches for the moment his life took a wrong turn, the moment of betrayal that undermined his relationship with his wife and destroyed his relationship with Biff, the son in whom he invested his faith. Willy lives in a fragile world of elaborate excuses and daydreams, conflating past and present in a desperate attempt to make sense of himself and of a world that once promised so much.
This play has been hailed as an "epitaph for the American dream" and "one of the finest dramas in the whole range of American theatre." Frankly, I don't agree. The story wasn't all that bad; a father trying to reconnect with his sons, a man whose life's work has come to nothing - a story most people can sympathize with. But I couldn't sympathize with the characters; there was no character development and I found Willy to be rather annoying.
The characters' conversations swing wildly from subject to subject and from yelling to crying to celebration. There were no scene breaks and few segues between topics, so the action felt very disjointed and patched together. In a play, dialogue is the most important part, and Miller didn't really hit the mark with it.
The play is written with a lot of flashbacks, which happen at the same time as the present action. Willy speaks to the people in his flashbacks while carrying on a conversation in the present, which is somewhat confusing. It's also rather clever, showing Willy's mental state pretty plainly, and is probably a lot less confusing on stage. The whole play is most likely much better on stage, but I can't really testify to that since I haven't seen it.
Death of a Salesman had a few good points - the ending, a couple of Biff's lines, and the portrayal of Willy's confusion and disillusion - but I doubt I'll read it again.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.