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Death of a Salesman (1948)

door Arthur Miller

LedenBesprekingenPopulariteitGemiddelde beoordelingAanhalingen
10,247100525 (3.66)251
The Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy of a salesman's deferred American dream   Ever since it was first performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman has been recognized as a milestone of the American theater. In the person of Willy Loman, the aging, failing salesman who makes his living riding on a smile and a shoeshine, Arthur Miller redefined the tragic hero as a man whose dreams are at once insupportably vast and dangerously insubstantial. He has given us a figure whose name has become a symbol for a kind of majestic grandiosity--and a play that compresses epic extremes of humor and anguish, promise and loss, between the four walls of an American living room. "By common consent, this is one of the finest dramas in the whole range of the American theater." --Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times "So simple, central, and terrible that the run of playwrights would neither care nor dare to attempt it." --Time… (meer)
  1. 20
    All My Sons door Arthur Miller (timspalding)
    timspalding: Similar, if not as good.
  2. 20
    Ons Stadje door Thornton Wilder (kxlly)
  3. 11
    De grote Gatsby door F. Scott Fitzgerald (FFortuna)
  4. 00
    A View from the Bridge door Arthur Miller (varwenea)
    varwenea: A shared thread of angst amongst the common men ties these two plays. Both leads are flawed. Both pay for their mistakes.
  5. 01
    1933 was een slecht jaar door John Fante (Babou_wk)
    Babou_wk: Le fils refuse de suivre la carrière professionnelle de son père.
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Engels (94)  Spaans (3)  Noors (1)  Frans (1)  Catalaans (1)  Italiaans (1)  Alle talen (101)
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It's impossible for me to pick a number of stars for this one. I am in complete agreement with the consensus that Death of a Salesman is a powerful play, but it was so damn depressing that to say "I liked it" (3 stars) or "I really liked it" (4 stars) would be a lie. On the other hand, saying "it was okay" (2 stars) doesn't do it justice. It may indeed qualify as "amazing," (5 stars) but I think I have to see it performed before I decide. Of course, Long Days Journey Into Night is about as depressing as it gets, and I would say that play is amazing, so who knows? Willy Loman's illusions are of a more ordinary, everyday kind than the ones the characters battle in O'Neill's play, so maybe that's what makes them so uncomfortable to read about and it may also be why he's such an iconic character. Definitely deserves a second, and probably third, read, but I need to cheer up a bit first.
  CaitlinMcC | Jul 11, 2021 |
man must confront his failure
  ritaer | Jun 6, 2021 |
A sobering reflection on the meaning of life and the pursuit of dreams. ( )
  jplumey | Feb 24, 2021 |
"… what goes through a man's mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent?" (pg. 45)

Though bleak and nihilistic, the most debilitating thing for a reader of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is its complexity. The play is essentially two scenes, each the length of an Act, in which multiple characters talk over one another (rarely being straight with each other), and in which flashbacks and delusions repeatedly bleed into the conversation. It is challenging, to say the least.

It is a play you're too busy trying to decipher to really appreciate; the sort that – in my case, at least – only becomes tolerably clear after extensive googling. It is essentially a dissection of the American Dream, and Miller does quite well at portraying the various chasers of that dream, from Willy, the titular salesman, who has been broken down by the pursuit, through to his son Biff, who wants to walk away from it altogether. Individual moments bring out the shabbiness of this increasingly sour dream, such as Willy's boss (the son of the last boss, natch) firing Willy despite decades of loyal service to the company, and doing so not without some condescension.

However, it was never clear to me (even after all that googling) quite what the play was trying to say. We are presumably meant to be critical of Willy, who has not realised in his long life that perseverance in a job he hates is not the road to success; maybe I'm weak, but I think a dues-paying sad-sack who works a job he hates in order to support his family deserves more respect than the play is willing to give him (for example, a casual affair is held against him as some unforgivable sin). Conversely, Biff is seen as the breakout hope, despite not knowing what he wants, only that he doesn't want to answer to anybody; this social ennui is understandable, but his uncannily modern attitude doesn't offer an alternative, or even seem to want to seek one.

This, perhaps, is why I struggle with Death of a Salesman; it rightly criticises the soulless grind of working, consumer-driven life, but it misaligns its targets. Whereas writers like, say, John Steinbeck would criticise the American Dream as something that had become corrupted and lost its way, Miller seems to attack it in its entirety, as though the Dream itself was wrong. To which, one response is: can you think of anything better? Miller seems to want us to discard Willy as a sucker, someone who worked hard at something useless and not hard enough at finding his true calling. Willy's worldview, that personality and connections carry the day, and hard work doesn't, is scoffed at; the neighbour's boy, Bernard, on the other hand, works hard and studies and becomes a successful lawyer.

This, to be frank, rings extremely hollow nowadays. Networking does indeed carry the day, hard work is at best contributory, and if you don't believe me, then ask the university-educated barista who brings you your coffee. As strange as it sounds, I couldn't help but look on with envy at Willy's life: a house, a regular job, a family… These would be rare treasures indeed for the current generation; we are all expected to be salesmen and side-hustlers today, without even those basic rewards and securities, sometimes without even enough to make rent. Biff is portrayed as an anomaly because he is thirty-four and hasn't made anything of himself; nowadays, it wouldn't seem remarkable at all, and rather than individuals like Willy failing to realise their calling, the system seems geared towards producing people who can be readily exploited and discarded. Death of a Salesman was a disappointment primarily because I was hoping it would have a more astute insight into the mechanisms behind this bewildering and sickening state of affairs. ( )
2 stem MikeFutcher | Sep 6, 2020 |
I distinctly remember feeling devastated when our class finished this in sixth form. ( )
  Neal_Anderson | Jun 11, 2020 |
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A melody is heard, played upon a flute.
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You don't understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life... He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back - that's an earthquake.
He's liked, but he's not well liked.
Biff : Shouldn’t we do anything?

Linda : Oh, my dear, you should do a lot of things, but there’s nothing to do, so go to sleep.
Charley : Howard fired you?

Willy : That snotnose. Imagine that? I named him. I named him Howard.

Charley : Willy, when’re you gonna realize that them things don’t mean anything? You named him Howard, but you can’t sell that. The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.

Willy : I’ve always tried to think otherwise, I guess. I always felt that if a man was impressive, and well liked, that nothing-

Charley : Why must everybody like you? Who liked J. P. Morgan? Was he impressive?...But with his pockets on he was very well liked.
Laatste woorden
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1949 stage play
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The Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy of a salesman's deferred American dream   Ever since it was first performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman has been recognized as a milestone of the American theater. In the person of Willy Loman, the aging, failing salesman who makes his living riding on a smile and a shoeshine, Arthur Miller redefined the tragic hero as a man whose dreams are at once insupportably vast and dangerously insubstantial. He has given us a figure whose name has become a symbol for a kind of majestic grandiosity--and a play that compresses epic extremes of humor and anguish, promise and loss, between the four walls of an American living room. "By common consent, this is one of the finest dramas in the whole range of the American theater." --Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times "So simple, central, and terrible that the run of playwrights would neither care nor dare to attempt it." --Time

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Gemiddelde: (3.66)
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