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Encyclopedia > Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman


Cover to the Penguin Group edition Death of a Salesman may refer to: Death of a Salesman, a 1949 play by Arthur Miller which is one of his most famous and commonly revived works Death of a Salesman (1951 film), a 1951 film Death of a Salesman (1961 film) Death of a Salesman (1966 film) Death... Image File history File links Cover to the Penguin Group book of the play, Death of a Salesman. ... Penguin Group is the second largest trade book publisher in the world. ...

Written by Arthur Miller
Characters Willy Loman
Linda
Biff
Happy
Bernard
The Woman
Letta
Charley
Uncle Ben
Howard Wagner
Jenny
Stanley
Miss Forsythe
Waiter
Date of premiere February 10, 1949
Country of origin United States
Genre Drama
Setting -Willy Loman's house,
-Various places in New York and Boston
-Late 1940s

Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play by Arthur Miller and is considered a classic of American theater. Viewed by many as a caustic attack on the American Dream of achieving wealth and success without regard for principle, Death of a Salesman made both Arthur Miller and the character Willy Loman household names. It was greeted with enthusiastic reviews, received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949, the 1949 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. Death of a Salesman was the first play to win these three major awards, helping to establish Miller as an internationally-known playwright. More profoundly, the play raises a counterexample to Aristotle's characterization of tragedy as the downfall of a great man, whether through (depending on the translator) a flaw in his character or a mistake he has made. Arthur Bob Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and essayist. ... is the 41st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see Drama (disambiguation). ... This article is about the state. ... Nickname: City on the Hill, Beantown, The Hub (of the Universe)1, Athens of America, The Cradle of Revolution, Puritan City, Americas Walking City Location in Massachusetts, USA Counties Suffolk County Mayor Thomas M. Menino(D) Area    - City 232. ... The 1940s decade ran from 1940 to 1949. ... Year 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see Play (disambiguation). ... Arthur Bob Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and essayist. ... For other uses, see American Dream (disambiguation). ... The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was first awarded in 1918. ... See also: 1948 in literature, other events of 1949, 1950 in literature, list of years in literature. ... A Tony Award for Best Play has been awarded since 1947. ... The New York Drama Critics Circle is comprised of nineteen drama critics from daily newspapers, magazines, and wire services based in the New York City metropolitan area. ... A playwright, also known as a dramatist, is a person who writes dramatic literature or drama. ... For other uses, see Aristotle (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Tragedy (disambiguation). ...

Contents

Plot synopsis

The play centres on Willy, a salesman over sixty years old, who is beginning to lose his grip on reality. Willy places great emphasis on his supposed native charm and ability to make friends. According to him, he was once well known and liked throughout New England as a travelling salesman whose skills were unparalleled. His sons Biff and Happy (a nickname for Harold) were the pride and joy of the neighbourhood, and his wife Linda was picturesque, smiling throughout the day. Unfortunately, time has passed, and now his life seems to be slipping out of control. This article is about the region in the United States of America. ...


Willy has worked hard his entire life and ought to be retiring by now, living a life of luxury and closing deals with contractors on the phone—especially since increasing episodes of depersonalization and flashback are impairing his ability to drive. Instead, all of Willy's aspirations seem to have failed: he is fired from his job—which barely paid enough anyway—by a man young enough to be his son (whose father, was, in fact, a friend of Willy, and sought Willy's help in naming him). Willy is now forced to rely on loans from his next-door-neighbor Charley to make ends meet. Charley is the closest thing Willy has to a friend, but Willy still harbors jealousy and contempt toward him for being more successful. Charley even offers Willy a job after he is fired, and yet Willy is too proud to take it. None of Willy's old friends or previous customers remember him. Biff, his 34-year-old son, has been unable to 'find himself' as a result of his inability to settle down (caused by Willy constantly insisting that he needed to 'make it big within two weeks'), and Happy, the younger son, lies shamelessly to make it seem as if he is the perfect Loman son. In contrast, Charley (who, Willy tells his boys conspiratorially, is not 'well-liked'), is now a successful businessman, and his son, Bernard, a formerly bespectacled bookworm, is now a brilliant lawyer. We are told how Willy had at least one affair while out on business trips, one that Biff walked in on and discovered. This terrible ordeal broke Biff's faith in his father and sent him on a downward spiral. Willy is haunted by the memory of his dead brother Ben, who made a fortune in Africa in the gem trade. Ben then offered Willy a position overseeing some gold-rich land in Alaska, which Willy turned down (a choice he has regretted ever since). Ben has constantly overshadowed Willy, and he is in many ways the man that Willy wanted to be. Ben's approach is heralded by idyllic music, showing Willy's idolization of him, and in flashbacks we see Willy asking for Ben's advice on parenting. Depersonalization is an alteration in the perception or experience of the self so that one feels detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of, ones mental processes or body. ... A flashback is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually vivid, recollection of a past experience. ... For the fish called lawyer, see Burbot. ...


The play's structure resembles a stream of consciousness account: Willy drifts between his living room, downstage, to the apron and flashbacks of an idyllic past, and also to fantasized conversations with Ben. The use of these different 'states' allows Miller to contrast Willy's dreams and the reality of his life in extraordinary detail; and also allows him to contrast the characters themselves, showing them in both sympathetic and villainous lights, gradually unfolding the story, and refusing to allow the audience a permanent judgment about anyone. When we are in the present the characters abide by the rules of the set, entering only through the stage door to the left; however, when we visit Willy's 'past' these rules are removed, with characters openly moving through walls. Whereas the term 'flashback' as a form of cinematography for these scenes is often heard, Miller himself rather speaks of 'mobile concurrences'. In fact, flashbacks would show an objective image of the past. Miller's mobile concurrences, however, rather show highly subjective memories. Furthermore, as Willy's mental state deteriorates, the boundaries between past and present are destroyed, and the two start to exist in parallel. In literary criticism, stream of consciousness is a literary technique which seeks to portray an individuals point of view by giving the written equivalent of the characters thought processes. ... See fantasy for an account of the literary genre involving the development of common or popular fantasies. ... Bad guy redirects here. ...


The depths of the problem are gradually revealed. Willy's emphasis on being well-liked stems from a belief that it will bring him to perfect success—not a harmful dream in itself, except that he clings to this idea as if it is a life-preserver, refusing to give it up. In high school, his boys were not only well-liked but quite handsome, and as far as Willy is concerned, that's all anyone needs. He pitches this idea to his sons so effectively that they believe opportunity will fall into their laps. (In this way, Biff and Happy can be considered forerunners to the culture of entitlement.) Of course, real life is not so generous, and neither are able to hold much in the way of respectable employment. Willy witnesses his and his sons' failures and clings ever more tightly to his master plan, now placing his hopes vicariously on them: he may not succeed, but they might. His tragic flaw is in failing to question whether the dream is valid. Happy never does either; he has embraced his father's attitude, and at the end of the first act, he convinces Biff to seek financial backing in a get-rich-quick scheme. But when Biff tries to do so, he realizes his father's mistakes, and finally decides not to let Willy fall prey to the unrealistic dream again. They attack each other at the play's climax: Biff confronting Willy's neurosis head-on, while Willy accuses Biff of throwing his life away simply to hurt Willy's feelings. Despite a raggedly emotional battle of words, neither is able to make much headway, but before Biff gives up, he breaks down in tears: "Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens?" Willy is touched that Biff still cares for him after all, but fails to understand the deeper meaning of his words, and resolves to do everything possible to leave him with the right opportunities to strike it rich. The point of view that one deserves good things with little or no effort. ... Tragic flaw, derived from the Greek word hamartia, which is also translated in religious works (e. ... In modern psychology, the term neurosis, also known as psychoneurosis or neurotic disorder, is a general term that refers to any mental imbalance that causes distress, but (unlike a psychosis or personality disorder) does not prevent rational thought or an individuals ability to function in daily life. ...


As the rest of the family goes upstairs to bed, Ben reappears over Willy's shoulder. Willy proclaims that in taking his own life, the attendance at his funeral would make a show to his doubting son of how popular he was in life, and that, if handled to look accidental, the payout from his life insurance policy will allow Biff to start his own business. This final action can be viewed as his attempt to leave a tangible legacy for his family. Willy acknowledges that, "Nothing grows here anymore" and his vain attempts to plant seeds during the darkness express his desperate desire to leave something behind. The neighborhood is drawn out of bed by the roar and smash of Willy's car, despite Ben's warnings that the insurance policy won't be honored in the event of suicide. Thus Willy's grand gesture — and indeed his earlier assertion that one is often "worth more dead than alive" — leaves his family (and especially his wife, Linda) in even worse a position than before. For other uses, see Funeral (disambiguation). ... Life insurance or life assurance is a contract between the policy owner and the insurer, where the insurer agrees to pay a sum of money upon the occurrence of the policy owners death. ...


Requiem

The end of the play is a Requiem. The Requiem takes place at Willy's funeral, which is only attended by Biff, Happy, Linda, Charley, and Bernard. Nobody else turns up and this shows the reader that regardless of how well liked Willy claimed he was to his children, nobody liked or remembered him. Charley makes a very moving speech as Biff accuses Willy of not knowing what he really wanted in life; Charley explains that, as a salesman, all Willy ever got by on were his dreams, and they cannot blame him for having them. Happy insists, "Willy Loman did not die in vain", and says that he will 'fight' for Willy's, and his own corrupted version of the American Dream. At the graveyard, Biff says, "He had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong." Happy tries to defend Willy, as he cannot understand Biff's point of view. Charley is the one who is perhaps best able to defend Willy's dream, saying that, being a salesman, all he really had was a dream. Despite this, the dream was never realized, especially in death: there are no throngs of mourners to pay their respects; indeed, nobody shows up except the five closest to Willy. In the last lines of the play, Linda, unable to cry, gets on her knees for the undertaker, delivering a final brief monologue: Willy's dream of owning his own house is realized in the requiem but only after his death; Linda paid the last payment on the mortgage that morning. This adds irony to the play, and shows us that the American Dream, for many, was just out of reach; the wrong dream to aim at. The Requiem (from the Latin requiés, rest) or Requiem Mass (informally, the funeral Mass), also known formally (in Latin) as the Missa pro defunctis or Missa defunctorum, is a liturgical service of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Anglican/ Episcopalian High Church and certain Lutheran Churches in...


As a salesman, Loman produced nothing (unlike the 'masses' that only have their labor to offer), but the fruits of Willy Loman's labor - and that of every other American salesman - were hopes and dreams.


Style

The play is mostly told from Willy's point of view, and the play occasionally flashes back to previous parts of Willy's life, sometimes during a present day scene. It does this by having a scene begin in the present time and adding characters onto the stage that only Willy can see and hear, representing characters and conversations from other times and places. One example of this is during a conversation between Willy and his neighbor Charley. During the conversation, Willy's brother comes on stage and begins talking to Willy while Charley speaks to Willy. When Willy begins talking to his brother, the other characters do not understand who he is talking to and some of them even begin to suspect that he has "lost it". However, sometimes it breaks away from Willy's point of view and focuses on the other characters, Linda, Biff and Happy. During these parts of the play, the time and place stays constant without any abrupt flashbacks as usually happens while the play takes Willy's point of view.


On Stage

The original production opened on February 10, 1949 at the Morosco Theatre, and ran for 742 performances. Lee J. Cobb starred as Willy. The production won the Tony Award for: Best Play; Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Arthur Kennedy); Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielzner); Producer (Dramatic); Author (Arthur Miller); Best Director (Elia Kazan). The play won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Jayne Mansfield, a Hollywood actress once compared, in some ways, to Marilyn Monroe, performed in a production of the play in Dallas, Texas in October, 1953. Her performance in the play attracted Paramount Pictures to hire her for the studio's film productions.[1] The Morosco Theatre was a legitimate theatre located at 217 West 45th Street in the heart of the theater district in midtown-Manhattan. ... Lee J. Cobb Lee J. Cobb (December 8, 1911 – February 11, 1976) was an American actor. ... What is popularly called the Tony Award (formally, the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre) is an annual award celebrating achievements in live American theater, including musical theater, primarily honoring productions on Broadway in New York. ... Arthur Kennedy (February 17, 1914 _ January 5, 1990) was an American actor. ... Arthur Bob Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and essayist. ... Elia Kazan, (Greek: Ηλίας Καζάν, IPA: ), (September 7, 1909 – September 28, 2003) was a Greek-American film and theatre director, film and theatrical producer, screenwriter, novelist and cofounder of the influential Actors Studio in New York in 1947. ... The Pulitzer Prize is an American award regarded as the highest national honor in print journalism, literary achievements, and musical composition. ... Jayne Mansfield (born Vera Jayne Palmer; April 19, 1933—29 June 1967) was an American actress working both on Broadway and in Hollywood. ... ... Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962), was a Golden Globe award winning American actress, model and sex symbol. ... Dallas redirects here. ... For other uses, see Texas (disambiguation). ... Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American motion picture production and distribution company, based in Hollywood, California. ...


The play has been revived on Broadway three times since: For other uses of Broadway, see Broadway. ...

Circle in the Square Theater The Circle in the Square Theater is a Broadway theatre in New York City. ... George Campbell Scott (October 18, 1927 - September 22, 1999) was a stage and film actor, director, and producer. ... The Broadhurst Theatre, 2006. ... Dustin Lee Hoffman (born August 8, 1937) is a two-time Academy Award-winning, BAFTA-winning, and five-time Golden Globe-winning American method actor. ... The Eugene ONeill Theater is a Broadway theatre. ... Brian Dennehy (born July 9, 1938) is a two-time Tony Award-winning American actor who has appeared in movies, on television, and performed in live theater. ... What is popularly called the Tony Award (formally, the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre) is an annual award celebrating achievements in live American theater, including musical theater, primarily honoring productions on Broadway in New York. ... Elizabeth Franz Elizabeth Franz (born Elizabeth Frankovich on June 18, 1941 in Akron, Ohio) is an American actress of stage and television. ...

Film and television versions

Year 1951 (MCMLI) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Fredric March (August 31, 1897 – April 14, 1975) was a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor. ... Mildred Dunnock (born January 25, 1901; died July 5, 1991) was an American theater, film and television actress. ... Actor Kevin McCarthy in the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers Kevin McCarthy (born February 15, 1914 in Seattle, Washington) is an American actor. ... Cameron Mitchell (November 4, 1918 – July 6, 1994) was a well-loved American film and television actor with close ties to one of Canadas most successful families, and considered, by Lee Strasberg, to be one of the founding members of The Actors Studio in New York City. ... Stanley Roberts (born February 7, 1970 in Hopkins, South Carolina), is a former American professional basketball player who was selected by the Orlando Magic in the 1st round (23rd overall) of the 1991 NBA Draft. ... László Benedek (March 5. ... Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture has been awarded annually since 1944 by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. ... Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are the most prominent and most watched film awards ceremony in the world. ... The Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role is one of the awards given to actors working in the motion picture industry by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; nominations are made by Academy members who are actors and actresses. ... The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor is one of the awards given to male actors working in the motion picture industry by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; nominations are made by Academy members who are actors and actresses. ... The Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role is one of the awards given to actresses working in the motion picture industry by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; nominations are made by Academy members who are actors and actresses. ... Charles Rosher the first recipient in 1928 The Academy Award for Best Cinematography is awarded each year to a cinematographer for his work in one particular motion picture. ... The Academy Award for Original Music Score is presented to the best substantial body of music in the form of dramatic underscoring written specifically for the film by the submitting composer. ... Year 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1966 (MCMLXVI) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display full calendar) of the 1966 Gregorian calendar. ... Lee J. Cobb Lee J. Cobb (December 8, 1911 – February 11, 1976) was an American actor. ... Gene Wilder (born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933) is an American actor who is best known for his role as Willy Wonka, his collaborations with Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein, and his four movies with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, See No Evil... Mildred Dunnock (born January 25, 1901; died July 5, 1991) was an American theater, film and television actress. ... James Farentino (born February 24, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American actor. ... Karen Steele (b. ... George Segal George Segal (born February 13, 1934) is a well-known Jewish American film and stage actor who was born in Great Neck, Long Island, New York. ... Alex Segal (July 1, 1915- August 22, 1977 ) was an Emmy Award winning American television director, television producer and film director. ... Year 1968 (MCMLXVIII) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Heinz Rühmann The title of this article contains the character ü. Where it is unavailable or not desired, the name may be represented as Heinz Ruehmann. ... This article is about the year. ... Dustin Lee Hoffman (born August 8, 1937) is a two-time Academy Award-winning, BAFTA-winning, and five-time Golden Globe-winning American method actor. ... Kate Daphne Reid (4 November 1930 – 27 March 1993) was a Canadian actress. ... John Gavin Malkovich (born December 9, 1953) is an Academy Award-nominated American actor, producer and director. ... Stephen Lang (b. ... Charles Durning Charles Durning (born February 28, 1923 in Highland Falls, New York) is an American actor of stage and screen, born to an impoverished Irish American Catholic family, which he left as soon as possible to ease the financial pressure on his mother. ... Volker Schlondorff Volker Schlöndorff (born in Wiesbaden, Germany on March 31, 1939) is a Berlin-based German filmmaker. ... Year 1996 (MCMXCVI) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display full 1996 Gregorian calendar). ... Warren Mitchell (born 14 January 1926) is an English actor. ... Rosemary Harris (born September 19, 1930[1] in Ashby, Suffolk, England) is an Academy Award nominated English actress and a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame. ... Iain Glen as Dr. Sam Isaacs in Resident Evil: Apocalypse Iain Glen (born on 24 June 1961 in Edinburgh, Scotland) is a Scottish film and stage actor. ... Owen Teale (born 20 May 1961) is a Welsh actor. ... Year 2000 (MM) was a leap year starting on Saturday (link will display full 2000 Gregorian calendar). ... Brian Dennehy (born July 9, 1938) is a two-time Tony Award-winning American actor who has appeared in movies, on television, and performed in live theater. ... Elizabeth Franz Elizabeth Franz (born Elizabeth Frankovich on June 18, 1941 in Akron, Ohio) is an American actress of stage and television. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Howard Witt is an American character actor. ... For other persons named Richard Thompson, see Richard Thompson (disambiguation). ... Year 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Big Fish is a 2003 fantasy drama film, directed by Tim Burton and written by John August. ... Timothy Tim William Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an Academy Award-nominated American film director, writer and designer notable for the quirky and gothic atmosphere of his films. ...

References

  1. ^ Va Va Voom by Steve Sullivan. General Publishing Group, Los Angeles, California, Page 50

Bibliography

  • Sandage, Scott A., Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, (Harvard University Press, 2005)
  • Foster, Richard A Smolen, "Confusion and tragedy: the failure of Miller's 'Salesman." in Two Modern Tragedies: Reviews and Criticisms of 'Death of a Salesman' and 'Streetcar named Desire', Ed. John D. Hurell. Scribner's, 1961, pp. 82-8

External links

  • Death of a Salesman on Internet Broadway Database
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Death of a Salesman

  Results from FactBites:
 
Death of a Salesman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1677 words)
Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play by Arthur Miller and is frequently considered a classic of American theater.
Death of a Salesman was the first play to win these three major awards.
Willy longs to achieve great things as a salesman and to be remembered after his death, and tries to instill this hope in both of his sons.
The Hypocrites |  DEATH OF A SALESMAN  by Arthur Miller (2717 words)
Doors are the motif of choice in Sean Graney's moving, provocative and startlingly successful revival of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." As Graney imagines it, these hunks of varnished wood — which clutter a stage at the Athenaeum Theatre — are apt markers for the tragic life of Willy Loman.
Arriving onstage just seven months after the death of Arthur Miller, Graney and his always surprising company, the Hypocrites, prove that there is still much to be learned from a classic, and that the more you examine this defining work, the more remarkable and soul-scouring it appears to be.
Rejecting the tradesman's flannel shirt for the salesman's gray flannel suit, he abandons the promise of fulfillment on the frontier (the life his brother, father and son chose which he seems destined for too).
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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