Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two by Arthur Miller

By Arthur Miller

The tragedy of a customary American--a salesman who on the age of sixty-three is confronted with what he can't face; defeat and disillusionment.

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Additional resources for Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem

Sample text

As Miller is apt to remind actresses in rehearsal, Linda is tough. She is a fighter. Willy is prone to bully her, cut off her sentences, reconstruct her in memory to serve present purposes, but this is a woman who has sustained the family when Willy has allowed fantasy to replace truth, who has lived with the knowledge of his suicidal intent, who sees through her sons’ bluster and demands their support. In part a product of Willy’s disordered mind, in part autonomous, Linda defines herself through him because she inhabits a world which offers her little but a supporting role; she is a committed observer incapable, finally, of arresting his march toward oblivion, but determined to grant him the dignity which he has conspired in surrendering.

LINDA: He was crestfallen, Willy. You know how he admires you. I think if he finds himself, then you’ll both be happier and not fight any more. WILLY: How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week! LINDA: He’s finding himself, Willy. WILLY: Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!

The question which confronts him now is whether that life will be saved by making Willy confront the reality of his life or by substantiating his illusions. To do the latter, however, would be to work against his own needs. The price of saving Willy may thus, potentially, be the loss of his own freedom and autonomy. Meanwhile the tension underlying this central conflict derives from the fact that, as Miller has said, “the story of Salesman is absurdly simple! ” (Theater Essays, 423) Miller may, in his own words, be “a confirmed and deliberate radical” (Conversations, 17), but Death of a Salesman is not an attack on American values.

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