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Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 30 Mar 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (30 Mar. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182742
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Arthur Miller's 1949 Death of a Salesman has sold 11 million copies, and Willy Loman didn't make all those sales on a smile and a shoeshine. This play is the genuine article--it's got the goods on the human condition, all packed into a day in the life of one self-deluded, self-promoting, self-defeating soul. It's a sturdy bridge between kitchen-sink realism and spectral abstraction, the facts of particular hard times and universal themes. As Christopher Bigsby's mildly interesting afterword in this 50th-anniversary edition points out (as does Miller in his memoir, Timebends), Willy is closely based on the playwright's sad, absurd salesman uncle, Manny. But of course Miller made Manny into Everyman, and gave him the name of the crime commissioner, Lohmann, in Fritz Lang's angst-ridden 1932 Nazi parable, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.

The tragedy of Loman the all--American dreamer and loser--works eternally, on the page as on the stage. A lot of plays made history around 1949, but none have stepped out of history into the classic canon as Salesman has. Great as it was, Tennessee Williams' work can't be revived as vividly as this play still is, all over the world. (This edition has edifying pictures of Lee J. Cobb's 1949 and Brian Dennehy's 1999 performances.) It connects Aristotle, The Great Gatsby, On the Waterfront, David Mamet, and the archetypal American movie antihero. It even transcends its author's tragic flaw of pious preachiness (which undoes his snoozy The Crucible, unfortunately his most-produced play).

No doubt you've seen Willy Loman's story at least once. It's still worth reading.--Tim Appelo, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Arthur Miller was born in New York City in 1915 and studied at the University of Michigan. His plays include All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), After the Fall (1963), Incident at Vichy (1964), The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972) and The American Clock. He has also written two novels, Focus (1945), and The Misfits, which was filmed in 1960, and the text for In Russia (1969), Chinese Encounters (1979), and In the Country (1977), three books of photographs by his wife, Inge Morath. His most recent works include a memoir, Timebends (1987), and the plays The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), The Last Yankee (1993), Broken Glass (1993), which won the Olivier Award for Best Play of the London Season, and Mr. Peter's Connections (1998). He has twice won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and in 1949 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 May 2000
Format: Paperback
Death of a Salesman is a trdgedy of the common man. It is mainly concerned with the fulfillment of the American Dream, but it also shows aspects of family life and commercilalism. Willy Loman is a failed salesman, who forces his dreams onto his two sons, Biff and Happy. Biff had a promising future but after an incident, refused to take part in the American dream, and chooses to 'Bum around' on farms 'out West'. His Brother Happy is the assistant to one of the assistant buyers, but sees himself as a great success. Miller concentrates on how the characters lie to themselves about who and what they are, and this is ultimatly the downfall of Willy, Happy and possibly Biff. The play is an important lesson for all. Although written in the forties, it is still increadibly relavent today in this age of consumerism and the tremedous desire for success. I have recently read this play, and it has changed my whole perspective on life, aspects of the play are constantly mirrored in every day life, and I am sure one of the characters will be relavent to you. This play - contraversial in the forties and fifties leading to Miller being charged with anti-American activities - should be read by all, putting your feet firmly on the ground.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By hillbank68 TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 April 2007
Format: Paperback
I suppose this iconic American play is depressing, in a way, as some other reviewers have said. So's 'Hamlet'. The old Greek view of tragedy was that it should purge the mind by means of pity and terror - there should be a catharsis - and whether we are looking at the Oedipus plays, or Shakespeare (King Lear'? Old man dies, so do all three of his daughters, his closest allies, etc., etc.) or this play, that is what we get. I think it's a measure of 'Death of a Salesman' that it can be considered at the same time as Shakespeare, but perhaps it comes closer to some of us because the hero is so recognisable - not a king, a prince or someone from an exotic time and place but a commission-only salesman down on his luck and chasing shadows. What cannot be disputed is that this is a beautifully crafted play full of memorable lines and with a group of well-delineated characters whose interplay really, really works. The haunting use of music and of Willy's flashbacks (its original title was 'In His Mind', or something like that, if I remember correctly) are its memorable trademarks. It has valid claims to being the greatest of twentieth-century plays in English, and if it is depressing, perhaps that's something we just have to put up with.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tom Doyle on 21 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
A work becomes a classic when it transcends the years, just as DOAS does. The themes of dissatisfaction, striving to achieve an almost impossible ideal, and not being able to sit to one side and realise what's really important as life in the fast lane creates a blur -- they're all as relevant now as in the late 40s.

Post-war idealism meant that many lived the winner-takes-all dream (as Willy's brother Ben is imagined to have), but not everyone can win. Willy pictures himself as being among the losers, even if he has had a successful career for many years as an on-the-road seller. As he comes to the end of his energy nearing retirement age, he is frustrated not to have broken through and made it truly big... and his mind is on all those others who have. He's also preoccupied with his goldenboy son Biff, high school football star, who somehow failed to slip into the winning world that Willy imagines.

Willy realises that his past successes were based on a broad smile, but the smile no longer works and he feels empty - left with nothing. His wife Linda recognises his achievements, and wants him to relax into old age. Meanwhile, unexpressed impulses are making Willy want to plant the family's small garden... to do something with his hands that is 'real'. But vegetables won't grow as their house is now surrounded by apartment blocks that keep out sunlight.

He loses his job and his way. And Miller captures the mindset of a worker in freefall when capitalism goes wrong... just as it is across the globe today, with economic crisis after econmic crisis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Books Worth Remembering on 10 May 2012
Format: Paperback
Well I read this play for my English Literature class. Our unit was simply titled `Tragedy' and that pretty much sums up the play in a single word. It is one of those titles that is definitely what it says on the tin.

Death of a Salesman is a play about Willy Loman, a failing and aging salesman who cannot come to terms that he is not the man he used to be. The plays shows us Willy's emotional breakdown through flashback which blur his perception of reality and memories. It also talks about his family - his wife Linda and her struggle to keep Willy happy and of their two sons Biff and (I'm not making this up) Happy.

First off let's just congratulate Arthur Miller for picking two great names for Willy's children. I know Happy is just a nickname but it is the one which his lines are referred to as. That's probably the only funny thing in the play and also an ironic device used to show how Happy actually isn't happy and all that jazz.

I really loved Death of a Salesman, it is incredibly short yet powerful and moving. Arthur Miller makes us question what truly makes us happy. Do we appreciate the great things in life like family? Or are we, like Willy, still obcessed with achieving the American Dream.

A communist at heart Miller hated the American Dream and used this play to highlight how destructive and futile the capitalist dream is and how capitalist society uses and abuses people before throwing them away without a second glance. However some people still say that it is a worthy or even achievable goal. I say read Death of a Salesman followed by The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men and then see whether you still believe and aspire to the dream.
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