Sunday, December 5, 2010

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (1949)

Summary:  After working as a traveling salesman for more than twenty years, Willy Loman fights with his adult children and wonders if he was ever really good at his job or his life.
As Willy struggles to keep his job, his adult sons (Biff and Happy) attempt to figure out what they want for their own lives--as they are certainly not yet on a path to greatness.
Ultimately, after struggling to make payments on his house and life insurance, Willy commits suicide in a final attempt to provide for his family.

Thoughts:  I feel the same sort of pressure writing about this play as I felt months ago when I tried to come up with some critical reflection about A Streetcar Named Desire (which won the prize just one year before).  I have probably read this play more times than any other on the list, beginning in Mrs. Worley's twelfth grade English class.  Neal Dandade and I were cast as Willy and Linda and our classmates were forced to spend weeks listening to us likely massacre some of American drama's most famous words. 

Like several of the plays that have been awarded the Pulitzer, this play contains an element of magical realism and the physical structure of the house is central to any production.  Countless comparisons can be made between this play, Our Town and Fences.... each very different interpretations of "the American Dream."  Each play involves a physical home, children and the destruction of expectations.

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