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Death of a Salesman
DeathOfASalesman.jpg
2nd edition cover (Viking Press)
Written by Arthur Miller
Characters Willy Loman
Linda Loman
Biff Loman
Happy Loman
Date premiered 10 February 1949
Place premiered Morosco Theatre
New York City
Original language English
Subject The waning days of a failing salesman
Genre Tragedy
Setting Late 1940s; Willy Loman's house; New York City and Barnaby River
IBDB profile

Death of a Salesman 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. The play ran for 742 performances, winning both the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The original production was directed by Elia Kazan with Lee J. Cobb starring in the leading role of Willy Loman.

The play attempts to raise a counterexample to Brittany's's characterization of tragedy as the downfall of a great man: though Loman certainly has Hamartia, a tragic flaw or error, his downfall is that of an ordinary man (a "low man"). Like Sophocles' Oedipus in Oedipus the King, Loman's flaw comes down to a lack of self-knowledge; unlike Oedipus, Loman's downfall threatens not the city but only a single household. In this sense, Miller's play represents a democratization of the ancient form of tragedy; the play's protagonist is himself obsessed with the question of greatness, and his downfall arises directly from his continued misconception of himself--at age 63--as someone capable of greatness, as well as the unshakable conviction that greatness stems directly from personal charisma or popularity.

Contents

Plot summary

Willy Loman returns to his home in Brooklyn one night, exhausted from a failed sales trip. His wife, Linda, tries to persuade him to ask his boss, Howard Wagner, to let him work in New York so that he won’t have to travel. Willy says that he will talk to Howard the next day. Willy complains that Biff, his older son who has come back home to visit, has yet to make something of himself. Linda scolds Willy for being so critical, and Willy goes to the kitchen for a snack. As Willy talks to himself in the kitchen, Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is also visiting, reminisce about their adolescence and discuss their father’s babbling, which often includes criticism of Biff’s failure to live up to Willy’s expectations. As Biff and Happy, dissatisfied with their lives, fantasize about buying a ranch out West, Willy becomes immersed in a flashback to when he was younger. He praises his sons, now younger, who are washing his car. The young Biff, a high school football star, and the young Happy appear. They interact affectionately with their father, who has just returned from a business trip. Willy confides in Biff and Happy that he is going to open his own business one day, bigger than that owned by his neighbor, Charley. Charley’s son, Bernard, enters looking for Biff, who must study for math class in order to avoid failing. Willy points out to his sons that although Bernard is smart, he is not “well liked,” which will hurt him in the long run. A younger Linda enters, and the boys leave to do some chores. Willy boasts of a phenomenally successful sales trip, but Linda coaxes him into revealing that his trip was actually only meagerly successful. Willy complains that he soon won’t be able to make all of the payments on their appliances and car. He complains that people don’t like him and that he’s not good at his job. As Linda consoles him, he hears the laughter of his mistress. He approaches The Woman, who is still laughing, and engages in another reminiscent daydream. Willy and The Woman flirt, and she thanks him for giving her stockings. The Woman disappears, and Willy fades back into his prior daydream, in the kitchen. Linda, now mending stockings, reassures him. He scolds her mending and orders her to throw the stockings out. Bernard bursts in, again looking for Biff. Linda reminds Willy that Biff has to return a football that he stole, and she adds that Biff is too rough with the neighborhood girls. Willy hears The Woman laugh and explodes at Bernard and Linda. Both leave, and though the daydream ends, Willy continues to mutter to himself. The older Happy comes downstairs and tries to quiet Willy. Agitated, Willy shouts his regret about not going to Alaska with his brother, Ben, who eventually found a diamond mine in Africa and became rich. Charley, having heard the commotion, enters. Happy goes off to bed, and Willy and Charley begin to play cards. Charley offers Willy a job, but Willy, insulted, refuses it. As they argue, Willy imagines that Ben enters. Willy accidentally calls Charley Ben. Ben inspects Willy’s house and tells him that he has to catch a train soon to look at properties in Alaska. As Willy talks to Ben about the prospect of going to Alaska, Charley, seeing no one there, gets confused and questions Willy. Willy yells at Charley, who leaves. The younger Linda enters and Ben meets her. Willy asks Ben impatiently about his life. Ben recounts his travels and talks about their father. As Ben is about to leave, Willy daydreams further, and Charley and Bernard rush in to tell him that Biff and Happy are stealing lumber. Although Ben eventually leaves, Willy continues to talk to him.

Back in the present, the older Linda enters to find Willy outside. Biff and Happy come downstairs and discuss Willy’s condition with their mother. Linda scolds Biff for judging Willy harshly. Biff tells her that he knows Willy is a fake, but he refuses to elaborate. Linda mentions that Willy has tried to commit suicide. Happy grows angry and rebukes Biff for his failure in the business world. Willy enters and yells at Biff. Happy intervenes and eventually proposes that he and Biff go into the sporting goods business together. Willy immediately brightens and gives Biff a host of tips about asking for a loan from one of Biff’s old employers, Bill Oliver. After more arguing and reconciliation, everyone finally goes to bed.

Act II opens with Willy enjoying the breakfast that Linda has made for him. Willy ponders the bright-seeming future before getting angry again about his expensive appliances. Linda informs Willy that Biff and Happy are taking him out to dinner that night. Excited, Willy announces that he is going to make Howard Wagner give him a New York job. The phone rings, and Linda chats with Biff, reminding him to be nice to his father at the restaurant that night. As the lights fade on Linda, they come up on Howard playing with a wire recorder in his office. Willy tries to broach the subject of working in New York, but Howard interrupts him and makes him listen to his kids and wife on the wire recorder. When Willy finally gets a word in, Howard rejects his plea. Willy launches into a lengthy recalling of how a legendary salesman named Dave Singleman inspired him to go into sales. Howard leaves and Willy gets angry. Howard soon re-enters and tells Willy to take some time off. Howard leaves and Ben enters, inviting Willy to join him in Alaska. The younger Linda enters and reminds Willy of his sons and job. The young Biff enters, and Willy praises Biff’s prospects and the fact that he is well liked.

Ben leaves and Bernard rushes in, eagerly awaiting Biff’s big football game. Willy speaks optimistically to Biff about the game. Charley enters and teases Willy about the game. As Willy chases Charley off, the lights rise on a different part of the stage. Willy continues yelling from offstage, and Jenny, Charley’s secretary, asks a grown-up Bernard to quiet him down. Willy enters and prattles on about a “very big deal” that Biff is working on. Daunted by Bernard’s success (he mentions to Willy that he is going to Washington to fight a case), Willy asks Bernard why Biff turned out to be such a failure. Bernard asks Willy what happened in Boston that made Biff decide not to go to summer school. Willy defensively tells Bernard not to blame him.

Charley enters and sees Bernard off. When Willy asks for more money than Charley usually loans him, Charley again offers Willy a job. Willy again refuses and eventually tells Charley that he was fired. Charley scolds Willy for always needing to be liked and angrily gives him the money. Calling Charley his only friend, Willy exits on the verge of tears.

At Frank’s Chop House, Happy helps Stanley, a waiter, prepare a table. They ogle and chat up a girl, Miss Forsythe, who enters the restaurant. Biff enters, and Happy introduces him to Miss Forsythe, continuing to flirt with her. Miss Forsythe, a call girl, leaves to telephone another call girl (at Happy’s request), and Biff spills out that he waited six hours for Bill Oliver and Oliver didn’t even recognize him. Upset at his father’s unrelenting misconception that he, Biff, was a salesman for Oliver, Biff plans to relieve Willy of his illusions. Willy enters, and Biff tries gently, at first, to tell him what happened at Oliver’s office. Willy blurts out that he was fired. Stunned, Biff again tries to let Willy down easily. Happy cuts in with remarks suggesting Biff’s success, and Willy eagerly awaits the good news. Biff finally explodes at Willy for being unwilling to listen. The young Bernard runs in shouting for Linda, and Biff, Happy, and Willy start to argue. As Biff explains what happened, their conversation recedes into the background. The young Bernard tells Linda that Biff failed math. The restaurant conversation comes back into focus and Willy criticizes Biff for failing math. Willy then hears the voice of the hotel operator in Boston and shouts that he is not in his room. Biff scrambles to quiet Willy and claims that Oliver is talking to his partner about giving Biff the money. Willy’s renewed interest and probing questions irk Biff more, and he screams at Willy. Willy hears The Woman laugh and he shouts back at Biff, hitting him and staggering. Miss Forsythe enters with another call girl, Letta. Biff helps Willy to the washroom and, finding Happy flirting with the girls, argues with him about Willy. Biff storms out, and Happy follows with the girls.

Willy and The Woman enter, dressing themselves and flirting. The door knocks and Willy hurries The Woman into the bathroom. Willy answers the door; the young Biff enters and tells Willy that he failed math. Willy tries to usher him out of the room, but Biff imitates his math teacher’s lisp, which elicits laughter from Willy and The Woman. Willy tries to cover up his indiscretion, but Biff refuses to believe his stories and storms out, dejected, calling Willy a “phony little fake.” Back in the restaurant, Stanley helps Willy up. Willy asks him where he can find a seed store. Stanley gives him directions to one, and Willy hurries off.

The light comes up on the Loman kitchen, where Happy enters looking for Willy. He moves into the living room and sees Linda. Biff comes inside and Linda scolds the boys and slaps away the flowers in Happy’s hand. She yells at them for abandoning Willy. Happy attempts to appease her, but Biff goes in search of Willy. He finds Willy planting seeds in the garden with a flashlight. Willy is consulting Ben about a $20,000 proposition. Biff approaches him to say goodbye and tries to bring him inside. Willy moves into the house, followed by Biff, and becomes angry again about Biff’s failure. Happy tries to calm Biff, but Biff and Willy erupt in fury at each other. Biff starts to sob, which touches Willy. Everyone goes to bed except Willy, who renews his conversation with Ben, elated at how great Biff will be with $20,000 of insurance money. Linda soon calls out for Willy but gets no response. Biff and Happy listen as well. They hear Willy’s car speed away.

In the requiem, Linda and Happy stand in shock after Willy’s poorly attended funeral. Biff states that Willy had the wrong dreams. Charley defends Willy as a victim of his profession. Ready to leave, Biff invites Happy to go back out West with him. Happy declares that he will stick it out in New York to validate Willy’s death. Linda asks Willy for forgiveness for being unable to cry. She tells him the final payment on the mortgage was made that day. She begins to sob, repeating “We’re free. . . .” All exit, and the flute melody is heard as the curtain falls.

Style

The play is mostly told from Willy's point of view, and it shows previous parts of Willy's life in his time shifts, 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. Many dramatic techniques are also used to represent these time shifts. For example, leaves often appear around the current setting (representing the leaves of the two elm trees which were situated next to the house, prior to the development of the apartment blocks). Biff and Happy are dressed in college football sweaters and are accompanied with the "gay music of the boy's". The characters will also be allowed to pass through the walls that are only obeyed to in the present as told in Miller's stage directions in the opening of ACT 1:

Whenever the action is in the present the actors observe the imaginary wall-lines, entering the house only through its door at the left. But in the scenes of the past these boundaries are broken and characters enter or leave a room by stepping 'through' a wall onto the forestage.

However some of these time shifts/imaginings occur when there are present characters onstage, one example of this is during a conversation between Willy and his neighbor Charley. During the conversation, Willy's brother Ben 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, at times 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 stay constant without any abrupt flashbacks as usually happens while the play takes Willy's point of view. Willy dies self-deceived.

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. 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.

Productions

The original production won the Tony Award for: Best Play; Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Arthur Kennedy); Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner); Producer (Dramatic); Author (Arthur Miller); Best Director (Elia Kazan). The play won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Jayne Mansfield 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 play has been revived on Broadway three times since:

It was also part of the inaugural season of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Adaptations

In 1951, it was adapted by Stanley Roberts into a film which was directed by László Benedek who won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Fredric March), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Kevin McCarthy), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mildred Dunnock), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

  • 1961: En Handelsresandes död starring Kolbjörn Knudsen - directed by Hans Abramson (in Swedish)
  • 1968: Der Tod eines Handlungsreisenden starring Heinz Rühmann and directed by Gerhard Klingenberg
Television

Awards and nominations

Awards
  • 1949 New York Drama Critics' Circle Best Play
  • 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
  • 1949 Tony Award for Best Play
  • 1984 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival
  • 1984 Tony Award for Best Reproduction
  • 1999 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play
  • 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Play

References

  1. ^ Va Va Voom by Steve Sullivan. Loved the book Group, Los Angeles, California, Page 50

Further reading

  • Hurell, John D. (1961). Two Modern American Tragedies: Reviews and Criticism of Death of a Salesman and A streetcar Named Desire. New York: Scribner. pp. 82–8. OCLC 249094. 
  • Sandage, Scott A. (2005). Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 067401510X. 

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Arthur Miller article)

From Wikiquote

I regard the theater as a serious business, one that makes or should make man more human, which is to say, less alone.

Arthur Asher Miller (17 October 191510 February 2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and author.

Contents

Sourced

By whatever means it is accomplished, the prime business of a play is to arouse the passions of its audience so that by the route of passion may be opened up new relationships between a man and men, and between men and Man.
  • I have made more friends for American culture than the State Department. Certainly I have made fewer enemies, but that isn't very difficult.
    • After being refused a passport for his supposed disloyalty. The New York Herald Tribune (31 March 1954)
  • I know that my works are a credit to this nation and I dare say they will endure longer than the McCarran Act.
    • The New York Herald Tribune (31 March 1954)
  • The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.
    • Harper's (August 1958)
  • The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism.
    • Collected Plays (1958) Introduction, Section 1
  • My conception of the audience is of a public each member of which is carrying about with him what he thinks is an anxiety, or a hope, or a preoccupation which is his alone and isolates him from mankind; and in this respect at least the function of a play is to reveal him to himself so that he may touch others by virtue of the revelation of his mutuality with them. If only for this reason I regard the theater as a serious business, one that makes or should make man more human, which is to say, less alone.
    • Collected Plays (1958) Introduction, Section 2
  • By whatever means it is accomplished, the prime business of a play is to arouse the passions of its audience so that by the route of passion may be opened up new relationships between a man and men, and between men and Man. Drama is akin to the other inventions of man in that it ought to help us to know more, and not merely to spend our feelings.
    • Collected Plays (1958) Introduction, Section 7
  • I cannot write anything that I understand too well. If I know what something means to me, if I have already come to the end of it as an experience, I can't write it because it seems a twice-told tale. I have to astonish myself, and that of course is a very costly way of going about things, because you can go up a dead end and discover that it's beyond your capacity to discover some organism underneath your feeling, and you're left simply with a formless feeling which is not itself art. Its inexpressible and one must leave it until it is hardened and becomes something that has form and has some possibility of being communicated. It might take a year or two or three or four to emerge.
    • "The State of the Theatre" an interview by Henry Brandon in Harpers 221 (November 1960)
  • A play is made by sensing how the forces in life simulate ignorance — you set free the concealed irony, the deadly joke.
    • "The State of the Theatre" an interview by Henry Brandon in Harpers 221 (November 1960)
  • A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.
    • As quoted in The Observer [London] (26 November 1961)
  • The best of our theater is standing on tiptoe, striving to see over the shoulders of father and mother. The worst is exploiting and wallowing in the self-pity of adolescence and obsessive keyhole sexuality. The way out, as the poet says, is always through.
    • National Observer (20 January 1964)
  • I think now that the great thing is not so much the formulation of an answer for myself, for the theater, or the play — but rather the most accurate possible statement of the problem.
    • National Observer (20 January 1964)
The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.
  • The job is to ask questions — it always was — and to ask them as inexorably as I can. And to face the absence of precise answers with a certain humility.
    • National Observer (20 January 1964)
  • It is always and forever the same struggle: to perceive somehow our own complicity with evil is a horror not to be borne. ... much more reassuring to see the world in terms of totally innocent victims and totally evil instigators of the monstrous violence we see all about us. At all costs, never disturb our innocence. But what is the most innocent place in any country? Is it not the insane asylum? These people drift through life truly innocent, unable to see into themselves at all. The perfection of innocence, indeed, is madness.
    • "With respect for Her Agony — but with Love" in LIFE magazine (7 February 1964)
  • The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.
    • Commenting on After the Fall (1964) in The Saturday Evening Post (1 February 1964)
  • Certainly the most diverse, if minor, pastime of literary life is the game of Find the Author.
    • Life (7 February 1964)
  • A playwright ... is ... the litmus paper of the arts. He's got to be, because if he isn't working on the same wave length as the audience, no one would know what in hell he was talking about. He is a kind of psychic journalist, even when he's great.
    • Paris Review (Summer 1966)
  • Success, instead of giving freedom of choice, becomes a way of life. There's no country I've been to where people, when you come into a room and sit down with them, so often ask you, "What do you do?" And, being American, many's the time I've almost asked that question, then realized it's good for my soul not to know. For a while! Just to let the evening wear on and see what I think of this person without knowing what he does and how successful he is, or what a failure. We're ranking everybody every minute of the day.
    • Paris Review (Summer 1966)
  • If you complain of people being shot down in the streets, of the absence of communication or social responsibility, of the rise of everyday violence which people have become accustomed to, and the dehumanization of feelings, then the ultimate development on an organized social level is the concentration camp... The concentration camp is the final expression of human separateness and its ultimate consequence. It is organized abandonment.
    • Paris Review (Summer 1966)
  • You specialize in something until one day you find it is specializing in you.
    • The Price (1967)
  • When irrational terror takes to itself the fiat of moral goodness somebody has to die. ... No man lives who has not got a panic button, and when it is pressed by the clean white hand of moral duty, a certain murderous train is set in motion.
  • The task of the real intellectual consists of analyzing illusions in order to discover their causes.
    • As quoted in Federalism and the French Canadians (1968) by Pierre Trudeau, p. 175
  • I understand his longing for immortality … Willy's writing his name in a cake of ice on a hot day, but he wishes he were writing in stone.
  • He wants to live on through something — and in his case, his masterpiece is his son… all of us want that, and it gets more poignant as we get more anonymous in this world.
    • On Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, as quoted in The New York Times (9 May 1984)
  • The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental. It's so much like life.
    • The New York Times (9 May 1984)
  • The number of elements that have to go into a hit would break a computer down…. the right season for that play, the right historical moment, the right tonality.
    • The New York Times (9 May 1984)
  • In the theater, while you recognized that you were looking at a house, it was a house in quotation marks ... on screen, the quotation marks tend to be blotted out by the camera. The problem was to sustain at any cost the feeling you had in the theater that you were watching a real person, yes, but an intense condensation of his experience, not simply a realistic series of episodes. It isn't easy to do in the theater, but it's twice as hard in film.
  • If I see an ending, I can work backward.
    • The New York Times (9 Feb 1986)
  • A playwright lives in an occupied country… And if you can't live that way you don't stay.
    • The New York Times (9 Feb 1986)
There's too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him. Of defining him rather than letting him go. It's part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad.
  • Well, all the plays that I was trying to write … were plays that would grab an audience by the throat and not release them, rather than presenting an emotion which you could observe and walk away from.
    • The New York Times (9 Feb 1986)
  • I figure I've done what I could do, more or less, and now I'm going back to being a chemical; all we are is a lot of talking nitrogen, you know...
    • Leo in I Can't Remember Anything in Danger: Memory! : Two Plays (1987)
  • The Crucible became by far my most frequently produced play, both abroad and at home. Its meaning is somewhat different in different places and moments. I can almost tell what the political situation in a country is when the play is suddenly a hit there — it is either a warning of tyranny on the way or a reminder of tyranny just past.
    • Timebends : A Life (1987)
  • My argument with so much as psychoanalysis is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness, when in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know have come out of people's suffering; that the problem is not to undo suffering or to wipe it off the face of the earth but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to cure ourselves of it constantly and avoid it, and avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call "happiness." There's too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him. Of defining him rather than letting him go. It's part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad.
  • I was very moved by that play once again when the Royal Shakespeare Company did a production that toured the cathedrals of England. Then they took it to Poland and performed it in the cathedrals there, too. The actors said it changed their lives. Officials wept; they were speechless after the play, and everyone knew why. It was because they had to enforce the kind of repression the play was attacking. That made me prouder than anything I ever did in my life. The mission of the theater, after all, is to change, to raise the consciousness of people to their human possibilities.
  • If I have any justification for having lived it's simply, I'm nothing but faults, failures and so on, but I have tried to make a good pair of shoes. There's some value in that.
    • Marxism Today (January 1988)
  • Without alienation, there can be no politics.
    • Marxism Today (January 1988)
  • I'm the end of the line; absurd and appalling as it may seem, serious New York theater has died in my lifetime.
    • The Times (11 January 1989)
  • That is a very good question. I don't know the answer. But can you tell me the name of a classical Greek shoemaker?
    • His reply to a shoe manufacturer who had asked why Miller's job should be subsidized when his was not, as recounted at a London press conference. The Guardian (25 January 1990)
  • An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.
    • As quoted in "Cold War Ghosts" by Victor Navasky in The Nation (16 July 2001)
  • I don't know a critic who penetrates the center of anything.
    • As quoted in "Arthur Miller, Moral Voice of American Stage, Dies at 89" by Marilyn Berger in The New York Times (11 February 2005)
  • Don't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.
    • As quoted in Finding Your Bipolar Muse : How to Master Depressive Droughts and Manic Depression (2006) by Lana R. Castle, p. 258

Death of a Salesman (1949)

  • They don't need me in New York. I'm the New England man. I'm vital in New England.
    • Willy Loman
  • I simply asked him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?
    • Willy
  • I've always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all I've done is to waste my life.
    • Biff
  • I'm very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don't seem to take to me.
    • Willy
  • Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never get out of the jungle that way.
    • Ben
  • I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.
    • Linda
  • A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man.
    • Linda
  • Personality always wins the day.
    • Willy
  • Everybody likes a kidder, but nobody lends him money.
    • Willy
  • Sit down, Willy.
    • Charley
  • 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.
    • Charley
  • You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.
    • Willy
  • After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.
    • Willy
  • Work a lifetime to pay off a house — You finally own it and there's nobody to live in it.
    • Willy
  • Ben, that funeral will be massive! They'll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old-timers with the strange license plates — that boy will be thunderstruck, Ben, because he never realized — I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey — I am known, Ben, and he'll see it with his eyes once and for all.
    • Willy
  • Spite, spite, is the word of your undoing!
    • Willy
  • You cut your life down for spite!
    • Willy
  • Why am I trying to become what I don't want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!
    • Biff
  • Isn't that — isn't that remarkable? Biff — he likes me!
    • Willy
  • Nobody dast blame this man. Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. 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. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you're finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.
    • Charley
  • And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. 'Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?
    • Willy
  • Wonderful coffee. Meal in itself
    • Willy
  • Nothing's Planted, I don't have a thing in the ground.
    • Willy

Tragedy and the Common Man (1949)

The New York Times (27 February 1949)
I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing — his sense of personal dignity.
  • In this age few tragedies are written. It has often been held that the lack is due to a paucity of heroes among us, or else that modern man has had the blood drawn out of his organs of belief by the skepticism of science, and the heroic attack on life cannot feed on an attitude of reserve and circumspection. For one reason or another, we are often held to be below tragedy — or tragedy above us.
  • I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing — his sense of personal dignity. From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his "rightful" position in his society.
    Sometimes he is one who has been displaced from it, sometimes one who seeks t attain it for the first time, but the fateful wound from which the inevitable events spiral is the wound of indignity and its dominant force is indignation. Tragedy, then, is the consequence of a man's total compulsion to evaluate himself justly.
  • Only the passive, only those who accept their lot without active retaliation, are "flawless." Most of us are in that category.
    But there are among us today, as there always have been, those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them, and in the process of action everything we have accepted out of fear of insensitivity or ignorance is shaken before us and examined, and from this total onslaught by an individual against the seemingly stable cosmos surrounding us — from this total examination of the "unchangeable" environment — comes the terror and the fear that is classically associated with tragedy. More important, from this total questioning of what has previously been unquestioned, we learn.
The thrust for freedom is the quality in tragedy which exalts. The revolutionary questioning of the stable environment is what terrifies.
  • The tragic right is a condition of life, a condition in which the human personality is able to flower and realize itself. The wrong is the condition which suppresses man, perverts the flowing out of his love and creative instinct. Tragedy enlightens — and it must, in that it points the heroic finger at the enemy of man's freedom. The thrust for freedom is the quality in tragedy which exalts. The revolutionary questioning of the stable environment is what terrifies.
  • Above all else, tragedy requires the finest appreciation by the writer of cause and effect.
    No tragedy can therefore come about when its author fears to question absolutely everything, when he regards any institution, habit or custom as being either everlasting, immutable or inevitable. In the tragic view the need of man to wholly realize himself is the only fixed star, and whatever it is that hedges his nature and lowers it is ripe for attack and examination.
  • There is a misconception of tragedy with which I have been struck in review after review, and in many conversations with writers and readers alike. It is the idea that tragedy is of necessity allied to pessimism. Even the dictionary says nothing more about the word than that it means a story with a sad or unhappy ending. This impression is so firmly fixed that I almost hesitate to claim that in truth tragedy implies more optimism in its author than does comedy, and that its final result ought to be the reinforcement of the onlooker's brightest opinions of the human animal.
    For, if it is true to say that in essence the tragic hero is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity.
  • The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy. Where pathos rules, where pathos is finally derived, a character has fought a battle he could not possibly have won. The pathetic is achieved when the protagonist is, by virtue of his witlessness, his insensitivity, or the very air he gives off, incapable of grappling with a much superior force.
    Pathos truly is the mode for the pessimist. But tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them, and in them alone, lies the belief — optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man.
    It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time — the heart and spirit of the average man.

The Crucible (1953)

There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
Act I
  • Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!
    • Abigail Williams
  • Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I'll cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again.
    • John Proctor
  • A child's spirit is like a child, you cannot catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back.
    • Rebecca Nurse
  • We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone.
    • Reverend John Hale
  • There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
    • Mrs. Ann Putnam
  • I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more.
    • John Proctor
  • Hale: Here is all the invisible world, caught, defined, and calculated. In these books the Devil stands stripped of all his brute disguises. Here are all your familiar spirits — your incubi and succubi; your witches that go by land, by air, and by sea; your wizards of the night and of the day. Have no fear now — we shall find him out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face!
    Rebecca: Will it hurt the child, sir?
    Hale: I cannot tell. If she is truly in the Devil's grip we may have to rip and tear to get her free.
Act II
I have seen too many frightful proofs in court — the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!
  • Proctor: You will not judge me more, Elizabeth. I have good reason to think before I charge fraud on Abigail, and I will think on it. Let you look to your own improvement before you go to judge your husband any more. I have forgot Abigail, and —
    Elizabeth: And I.
    Proctor: Spare me! You forget nothin' and forgive nothin.' Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven months since she is gone. I have not moved from there to here without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!
    Elizabeth: I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John — only somewhat bewildered.
    Proctor: Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer!
  • I'll plead no more! I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!
    • John Proctor
  • I like it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man. I'll not conceal it.
    • John Proctor
  • Theology, sir, is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small.
    • John Hale
  • Though our own hearts break, we cannot flinch; these are new times, sir. There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respect and ancient friendships. I have seen too many frightful proofs in court — the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!
    • John Hale
  • Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem — vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant's vengeance! I'll not give my wife to vengeance!
    • John Proctor
  • Now hell and heaven grapple on our backs and all our old pretense is ripped away. Aye, and God's icy wind will blow.
    • John Proctor
Act III
  • We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • A person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time — we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • Hale: There is a prodigious fear of this court in the country —
    Danforth: Then there is a prodigious guilt in the country. Are you afraid to be questioned here?
    Hale: I may only fear the Lord, sir, but there is fear in the country nevertheless.
    Danforth: Reproach me not with the fear in the country; there is fear in the country because there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country!
    Hale: But it does not follow that everyone accused is part of it.
    Danforth: No uncorrupted man may fear this court, Mr. Hale!
  • In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims — and they do testify, the children certainly do testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confessions. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point. Have I not?
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud — God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!
    • John Proctor
  • You're pulling heaven down, and raising up a whore!
    • John Proctor
Act IV
  • It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it. I beg you, woman, prevail upon your husband to confess. Let him give his lie. Quail not before God's judgment in this, for it may well be God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride.
    • John Hale
  • John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept!
    • Elizabeth Proctor
  • Danforth: Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?
    Proctor: I mean to deny nothing!
    Danforth: Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let —
    Proctor: [With the cry of his whole soul] Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
  • I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!
    • John Proctor
  • Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption!
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • He have his goodness now, God forbid I take it from him!
    • Elizabeth Proctor

After the Fall (1964)

  • Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action?
    • Foreword
  • I am bewildered by the death of love. And my responsibility for it.
    • Quentin in After the Fall (1964) Act II
  • I saw clearly only when I saw with love. Or can one ever remember love? It's like trying to summon up the smell of roses in a cellar. You might see a rose, but never the perfume. And that's the truth of roses, isn't it? — The perfume?
    • Quentin in After the Fall (1964) Act II
  • I think it's a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one's self. One day the house smells of fresh bread, the next of smoke and blood. One day you faint because the gardener cuts his finger off, within a week you're climbing over corpses of children bombed in a subway. What hope can there be if that is so? I tried to die near the end of the war. The same dream returned each night until I dared not to go to sleep and grew quite ill. I dreamed I had a child, and even in the dream I saw it was my life, and it was an idiot, and I ran away. But it always crept onto my lap again, clutched at my clothes. Until I thought, if I could kiss it, whatever in it was my own, perhaps I could sleep. And I bent to its broken face, and it was horrible ... but I kissed it. I think one must finally take one's life in one's arms.

The Ride Down Mount Morgan (1991)

  • I love her too, but our neuroses just don't match.
    • Lyman speaking of his wife to his lawyer, Act 1
  • Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
    • Act 1
  • Look, we're all the same; a man is a fourteen-room house — in the bedroom he's asleep with his intelligent wife, in the living-room he's rolling around with some bareass girl, in the library he's paying his taxes, in the yard he's raising tomatoes, and in the cellar he's making a bomb to blow it all up.
    • Lyman, Act 2

Quotes about Miller

  • The greatest playwright of the 20th century.
    • Vaclav Havel, as quoted in "Broadway lights go out for Miller" BBC News (11 February 2005)
  • Writing meant, for him, an effort to locate in the human species a counterforce to the randomness of victimisation.
    • Salman Rushdie, as quoted in "Broadway lights go out for Miller" BBC News (11 February 2005)

External links

Wikipedia
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Wikipedia

Simple English

Death of a Salesman is a 1949 tragedy play which was written by Arthur Miller.

The characters

Willy Loman - Willy is the main character of the play. He is 63 years old and he is a terrible salesman. He has a flawed vision of the American Dream that if someone is "well liked", they can succeed. He often cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. He does not like change and he often day dreams about the past. He tries several times to kill himself so that the insurance money can go to his children.

Linda Loman - The wife of Willy. She gives the family strong emotional support during the tough times when the family needs it the most. She defends her husband Willy when her children start complaining about him.

Biff Loman - Biff is the 34 year old son of Willy and Linda. He was well liked during high school, but he did not graduate. During high school, he developed a habit of stealing things (his father supported it), which would later get him fired from several jobs. Biff eventually realizes that Willy's vision of the American Dream is wrong and he often argues against him. He wants to go out west to Texas and start a farm.

Harold Loman - Harold is usually called by his nickname "Happy" (the word happy is used with sarcasm. Happy has always lived in the shadow of his older brother, Biff, who was more popular and likable than he is. His parents (Linda and Willy) usually do not pay attention to him and act like he is invisible. Happy believes in Willy's incorrect vision of the American Dream and is at risk of becoming just like his father.

The Woman - The woman is Willy's mistress. While Biff and Happy were in high school, Willy Loman cheated on his wife and had a relationship with the woman.

Charley - Charley is one of Willy's only true friends. Charley offers Willy a job, but Willy refuses. He felt bad for Willy's bad financial situation, so he gives Willy money each week that Willy pretends is his pay.

Bernard - Bernard is the son of Charley. While Bernard was in high school, Willy made fun of him for studying too hard and said that he was "liked, but not well liked". Bernard became a successful lawyer who got to argue a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ben - Ben is Willy's brother who passed away. Willy in his daydreams sees Ben as a person who entered the jungles of Africa at age 17, and came out of Africa as a very rich man.

Theme

The theme of Death of a Salesman is Miller's criticism of capitalism and he tries to express that the American Dream does not happen to everybody. He also tries to express that being well liked isn't enough to succeed, because success requires skill also.


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