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Death of a Salesman [Paperback]

Arthur Miller
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1976 Plays, Penguin

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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Arthur Miller's 1949 Death of a Salesman has sold 11 million copies, and Willy Loman didn't make all those sales on a smile and a shoeshine. This play is the genuine article--it's got the goods on the human condition, all packed into a day in the life of one self-deluded, self-promoting, self-defeating soul. It's a sturdy bridge between kitchen-sink realism and spectral abstraction, the facts of particular hard times and universal themes. As Christopher Bigsby's mildly interesting afterword in this 50th-anniversary edition points out (as does Miller in his memoir, Timebends), Willy is closely based on the playwright's sad, absurd salesman uncle, Manny. But of course Miller made Manny into Everyman, and gave him the name of the crime commissioner Lohmann in Fritz Lang's angst-ridden 1932 Nazi parable, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.

The tragedy of Loman the all-American dreamer and loser works eternally, on the page as on the stage. A lot of plays made history around 1949, but none have stepped out of history into the classic canon as Salesman has. Great as it was, Tennessee Williams's work can't be revived as vividly as this play still is, all over the world. (This edition has edifying pictures of Lee J. Cobb's 1949 and Brian Dennehy's 1999 performances.) It connects Aristotle, The Great Gatsby, On the Waterfront, David Mamet, and the archetypal American movie antihero. It even transcends its author's tragic flaw of pious preachiness (which undoes his snoozy The Crucible, unfortunately his most-produced play).

No doubt you've seen Willy Loman's story at least once. It's still worth reading. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This 50th-anniversary edition of Miller's masterpiece, which certainly is a contender for the finest American drama of the 20th century, includes the full text of the play, a chronology of its productions, photos from various stagings including the current Broadway revival, and a new preface by Miller himself, all in a quality hardcover for a reasonable price. Bravo, Penguin.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The shattering of the American dream May 1 2004
Format:Paperback
One of the most popular and famous plays of post-O'Neill theater, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is the playwright's masterpiece and a true classic not only of American drama, but also of American literature as a whole. Though it came out in the late 1940's, its universal applicability has endured throughout the ensuing decades and the play still has much to tell us today. As has been noted, 20th century American drama tended to focus primarily on the family. The family presented in Death of a Salesman -- like the families in Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof -- is, in many ways, the prototypical American family, although many would not like to admit it. Salesman's dysfunctional family preceded the rosier, harmonious families that would come to dominate 50's television; it doesn't take a prophet or even a sociologist to determine which of the two is more true-to-life. In the Loman family, we can see much of ourselves and our families -- even if it is the parts that we would rather not think about and focus on. The play also deals with the capitalist system as it stood in the middle of the 20th century; most agree that, to the extent that it has changed since then, it has only been for the worse. Willy Loman, the play's main character and the prototypical Everyman, is a victim of the dog-eat-dog world of business that is a true manifestation of "survival of the fittest": good times are forgotten; nobody cares what one has done in the past: all that matters is, What have you done for me lately? The play shows how a man -- and yes, a man: the play was written in the 1940's, after all... Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tragedy of a low man May 20 2009
By Sam TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller was written in 1949 and changed what tragedy meant. Instead of the usual fall of a man in a high position, it was about Willy Loman, a small man. The play is centered on conversation that is mostly dull. The most interesting part of it is seeing the wrong beliefs of Willy that he instils in his two boys, Biff and Happy, which greatly affect their lives in the future. Willy's interpretation of manliness and the American Dream are also the features that make this play great.

Willy Loman, 60, has been working as a salesman for many years. The company that he has been working for has taken him off a salary and placed him on commission. He hasn't been able to sell anything and is resorting to borrowing money from his only friend. His two children, Biff and Happy, are unable to help Willy pay for his mortgage and expenses. Willy feels that it his duty to provide for his family, and being unable to do so lowers his manliness.

What has happened to Biff and Happy that has made them as they are as adults? How will Willy, who is seeing hallucinations, react to his loss of manliness? How did growing up without a father or brother affect Willy? What are Willy's motives for what he does? Does Willy's belief in success as a result of being well-liked work? What dreams do the two brothers choose to follow in the end? What does `free' mean in the ending?

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5.0 out of 5 stars Missed Dreams and Unrealized Hopes March 25 2004
Format:Paperback
Money and materialism are strong themes in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". One gets a real sense of this from beginning to end. In the first scenes, already the importance and pursuit of wealth and money are key in understanding what the play is about, and we see this in the frustrated dialogue exchange between the husband and the wife. The main character (the husband) is an aging door-to-door salesman named Willy Loman, who is obsessed with the American dream of financial prosperity as epitomized through his exceptionally successful big brother, Ben, but he's hounded by bills because he doesn't make enough money on commission; he says to his wife Linda: "I just ain't makin' the sales I used to." Therefore, he's forced at one point in the play to go to Howard, his employer, for a raise to get a more convenient position at the sales firm as a desk sales clerk. But Howard doesn't believe in Willy's ability to make enough money for him and refuses to give him the job, or any raise. In fact, he fires Willy on the spot. "Go home, Willy," he says, "take a vacation", in an attempt to get Willy out of his office. Willy feels humiliated and more desperate than ever. He goes straight to his friend and neighbor Charley to borrow money but refuses to take a good job offer from him because he's too proud to be dependent on Charley for his income. "Here's the 500 dollars, Willy," says Charley, to which Willy is quick to respond: "You know I'm good for it, Charley." Willy is hounded by debt and he begins to wish he had gone to Alaska with Ben as a young man and made a fortune mining for gold, but instead he settled for the life of a salesman and its hard, unrewarding occupation. Willy is full of regret and feels he has wasted his life. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars death of a salesman Jan. 19 2004
Format:Paperback
Death of a Salesman was overall a good book. The fact that it was more modern then the other books that my class had read made it even better. The book Death of a Salesman was positive to me because I thought there were a lot of good life lessons in taught through the story.
I think the main purpose that Arthur Miller was trying to get people to notice is that the relationship between a father and a son should be close. Even though Biff loved his father, Willy he didn't recognize it until the very end of the book. As soon as Willy realized that his son loved him, he killed himself believing that Biff would benefit from the 20,000 dollars from insurance.
I have personally learned from this book how my relationship should be between my father and me. We shouldn't argue or fight all the time. We need to understand, too, that I need to live my own life. Also another main point is that you shouldn't let your parents tell you how you are going to live your life when you are at the age of 34. Neither should you be living with your parents at that age.
I would recommend this book because it teaches some good life lessons about relationships between family members. It also gives advice about how to become a good salesman. The most important thing to being a good salesman is to know people and have them like you.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars it seems good.
I've received it,it seems good.
Published 1 month ago by mochahenxiang
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to finish
The characters are one dimensional. The plot is weaved with self pity. The story has no real purpose. It's a bit disheartening hearing the praise it has gotten trough the years. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2011 by Melanie
5.0 out of 5 stars The play of the century
This play blew me away when I read it some ten years ago. And the same thing happened when I saw it on Broadway as a revival many years ago. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2005 by Starkweather,
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the term "Classic"
This play blew me away when I read it some ten years ago. And the same thing happend when I saw it on Broadway as a revival many years ago. Read more
Published on May 24 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars "Death of a Socialist Salesman" by RexCurry.net
Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman" has become a repudiation of socialism/communism. Miller intended the play as anti-capitalist propaganda, but failed. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004 by Rex Curry
1.0 out of 5 stars "Death of a Socialist Salesman" by Rex
Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman" has become a repudiation of socialism/communism. Miller intended the play as anti-capitalist propaganda, but failed. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by Rex Curry
4.0 out of 5 stars Death of the "American Dream"
This book/play was a good read, with a lot of lessons to pull from it. Your situation in life defines what lessons you will most likely pull, but all in all, most everyone can... Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2004 by JP VanderLinden
4.0 out of 5 stars Choices...
Death of a Salesman is a very practical, yet somewhat disheartening play on the true importance on what life is about. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2004 by Kristan
4.0 out of 5 stars A Picture of the New America
Arthur Miller, one of American's greatest modern playwrights, wrote Death of a Salesman during the 40s. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2004 by "bethany-mrp_drama"
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