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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Dream
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...
Published on 17 May 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book gets better the more depth you go into it.
I'm learning about this play for English A-level coursework. When I had just finished reading it, I didn't like it. I found it a miserable play with a distinct lack of action.
However, as we are going into more depth about the characters and themes, I am starting to like the play. Arthur Miller has thought about every detail, and though I am not convinced about it...
Published on 9 Nov. 1999


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Dream, 17 May 2000
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully crafted, wonderfully moving, 20 April 2007
By 
hillbank68 "almac1975" (Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't get no satisfaction, 21 Jan. 2013
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.

But in those post war years, the backdrop of coming out of a monumental struggle shoved all these issues to the fore, at a time when people felt that they had suffered for a better future than the one they were living. Miller has captured this perfectly, and the voice of Willy's dejection lives on, as does Linda's plaintive encouragement: "You're doing well enough Willy! ... Why must everybody conquer the world?"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A poignant look at the futility of the American Dream, 10 May 2012
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. Miller also wanted to show how the common man could be considered a tragic hero which went against previous classic conceptions, first stated by Aristotle.

Death of a Salesman received criticism for this harsh outlook on such a patriotic dream but like so many authors he spoke the truth, showing the world, and our capitalist society, for what it truly is - brutal and uncaring.

Willy struggles to hold onto his sanity while battling the memories of his past that continue to plague him. We see how he has continually believed in the dream at the expense of so much - his happiness with Linda, his influence on Happy and Biff that they must be rich to succeed and so much more.

I would definitely recommend everyone to pick up and read a copy of Death of a Salesman - it is an incredibly story of love, loss and misguided dreams.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When a smile and a bit of shoeshine no longer produce smiles in return, 24 Nov. 2011
By 
AK (London) - See all my reviews
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I came to Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem (Penguin Modern Classics) via a description of its author in Max Frisch's Amerika!. In it one gets the impression that some of the characteristics of Willy Loman - the protagonist - were not only those of Miller's salesman uncle Manny but got transferred to Miller himself (at least a couple of years after the play's prime).

It is a day in life of a failed salesman, who still chases his American dream, at the same time being completely downtrodden and knowing that he is at the end. The other characters, his wife and the two sons - Biff and Happy - contribute to the illusion and have all been shaped and damaged by the same 'oversell yourself' dogma of Willy Loman.

The book is pretty tragic and Miller manages to bring across the message well, that life is not always on the up for everyone and that boundless optimism alone will not cut it. Yet some perceived societal pressures make it incredibly difficult for many (cue Willy, his wife Linda and Happy) to face the truth and deal with it effectively. The consumer culture then just exacerbates the situation by the protagonist feeling under increasing pressure to deliver in order to stay within hailing distance of the neighbours and society at large.

Funnily enough the book seems a perfect - fictional - complement to Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream. It is a sobering read and is likely to leave you questioning some aspects of the corporate rat race as well as of the constant self-delusion that unmade Willy Loman, as well as many others in our society.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressing but poignant, 15 Jan. 2011
By 
Mr. S. A. Brown "yentilsale1" (Kilmarnock, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I should say that I don't really read or watch many plays. The only plays I've read or seen, in fact, have been in some way related to school or university and it's the same with this one, which I studied in an English class.

I can honestly say, however, that this is the only play which has really struck a chord with me. Being brought up to believe you're destined for great things and stubbornly clinging to these dreams as the sheer mundane and unremarkable nature of your life plays out before you seems, to me, one of the most poignant topics that someone could create a piece of theatre around. Most people's lives aren't dramatic, they don't go anywhere and there are no lasting achievements. Most people's lives are like Willy Loman's: they're based on unrealistic aspirations - what someone once called "the certainty of your own vanity" - which can't possibly be fulfilled. It's the sort of idea which is almost anathema to drama (and I can certainly understand why many people find Death of a Salesman boring) but it's also a very relevant one as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know if that's the correct interpretation, if you're supposed to sympathise with any of the characters, or if technically the direction, dialogue and whatever else are of a high standard in comparison to other works; all I know is that the play had a real impact with me and that I've only ever experienced that with a handful of things I've read or watched. If other people can take a similar experience from reading this then I'd recommend it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life and Times of Willy Loman, 5 May 2003
Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," while confusing when just read through the text alone, is an awesomely crafted play that takes drama to the next level. Now being interested in plays, I decided it was time to read this one, being that this is considered a classic by many (which I could easily see why). Reading this play makes me want to write plays. Reading something like this makes me believe that I can some up with something great too. I am glad that I finally took the time to read it.
The story is about a broken-hearted salesman, Willy Loman. He is a man no longer living in the real world but is mostly trapped in his own delusional world. He can't let go of the past no matter how hard he tries, and it's eating him up inside. He wants to believe that his family is a shoe-in for greatness, no matter how lonely and sad his wife is, or how much of a player/swinger his youngest son is, or how confused and anti-business his oldest son is. You put all of this together and you get a glimpse of an American tragedy that is so powerful and sad that it makes you think these things happen all the time. From Page 1 you know it's not going to end on a happy note, but you decide to take the path anyways. And a path worth taking it is.
I admit that I was confused at certain points, because through the text alone it is very hard to separate Willy's reality from his imagination. There are places where Willy departs from reality and goes back to the past and it makes it very hard for us to figure out what is going on if we're only reading it. When I saw the movie version after reading this, I was able to appreciate the play more. I understood what confused me and I was able to figure out what was happening. Despite some confusing moments it is still a tremendous play that is very involving from start to finish. You are able to sympathize with the main character, and with the rest of the characters as well. You know a writer has done the job right when you are able to feel or care for every single character (or at least almost all of them, being there will be a few minor characters you're really not supposed to care for that much. This is something that always happens in the world of fiction and is to be expected). Arthur Miller did an amazing job of writing such a realistic and emotionally driven play. The characters were realistic as well as the dialogue.
"Death of a Salesman" is more than just simply a stunning play; it is a beautiful portrait of a family dealing with hardships and troubles. As soon as I began the play I was unable to put it down until it was finished. If you want to read a great play and are interested in great works of drama, this is the one for you.
(Note: If you are confused by the play, see the movie afterwards. It really helps.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A play for our times..., 6 Aug. 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death of a Salesman (Paperback)
Business is Business. Arthur Miller, who, among other claims to fame, was married to Marilyn Monroe, first published this play in 1949. The play was one of those "high school assignment books" that I read more than four decades ago. My copy still has its price, 95 cents, on the cover, and I found the purchase receipt from the impossibly small independent bookstore in Mt. Lebanon, where I purchased it; a store that had to meet the same fate as the play's principal character, Willy Loman: redundancy. Even though I was "forced" to read the play the first time, I retained a positive memory of it: a drama with some substance in it, but remembered little more, so I felt it was long overdue for a re-read.

The play opens with Willy Loman, a traveling salesman, who is over 60 years of age, having problems driving his automobile, an old Studebaker. Back at home, his mind clearly wanders, as he reminisces about his more youthful days. His wife, Linda, is devoted and supportive. He has two sons, Biff, age 34, and Happy, age 32, who are still trying to find their place in the world. The interrelationships within this family are the core theme of the play, but there is also the relationship to others, including his more economically successful brother and various actual and possible employers. The play is set during a time of economic boom, and a purportedly less ruthless economic system (remember those "defined-benefit" pensions?). But Willy is let go, pension-less, with that self-exonerating remark: "Business is business." (the modern version is: "are only obligation is to maximize shareholder value.")

But the play is far more than a tract against economic injustice. There is also a man's dreams and delusions concerning himself, and his hopes for his children. The reminisces repeatedly returned to Biff's high school days, with his sports achievements in football on Ebbitt's field, and I could not help think of Bruce Springsteen's song "Glory Days." Biff though, like many a child, is not prepared to assume their father's "mantle," and prefers to drift under the open skies of the American West. Loman continues to nurture his own fantasy about his importance as a salesman, but that can alternate rapidly with his insecurities, since he knows that at his age people are now laughing at him, and calling him a "walrus" behind his back.

Miller deftly packs a lot of emotion and ideas into this brief play. As indicated just above, various characters readily and quickly oscillate their positions, ideas and feelings on any given subject, from love to the prospects of economic success. Miller also does "nuance" and subtly foreshadows future events, utilizing for example a woman's stockings as a symbol for the solace Willy might find on the road. And father and son: who betrayed who? The play won numerous awards when it was first performed; it has not only withstood the test of time, it is more relevant today. And the cover of my copy of the book perfectly conveys a defeated man: seen from behind, the `40's style hat, the stooped shoulders, carrying his suitcases with the samples, shuffling along. 5-stars.

PS. After reading Miller's bio at Wikipedia, I now have placed The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts (Penguin Modern Classics) on my reading list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book gets better the more depth you go into it., 9 Nov. 1999
By A Customer
I'm learning about this play for English A-level coursework. When I had just finished reading it, I didn't like it. I found it a miserable play with a distinct lack of action.
However, as we are going into more depth about the characters and themes, I am starting to like the play. Arthur Miller has thought about every detail, and though I am not convinced about it being a tragedy, I believe it is a powerful and moving play.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars depressing genius, 15 Dec. 1999
By A Customer
This play is so depressing, for me at least, because of the universal truths so clearly expressed in what IS a tragedy of the western world. I find myself moved nearly to tears by how poignant this play is, saying more than a million plays could say in one line.
In fact I probably wouldn't recommend it, due to the effect on me, but if you want to see pure drama, this is for you
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