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

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

3.6 131
by Arthur Miller

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy of a salesman’s deferred American dream
Since it was first performed in 1949, Arthur Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the tragic shortcomings of an American dreamer has been recognized as a milestone of the theater. Willy Loman, the protagonist of Death of a Salesman, has spent his

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy of a salesman’s deferred American dream
Since it was first performed in 1949, Arthur Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the tragic shortcomings of an American dreamer has been recognized as a milestone of the theater. Willy Loman, the protagonist of Death of a Salesman, has spent his life following the American way, living out his belief in salesmanship as a way to reinvent himself. But somehow the riches and respect he covets have eluded him. At age 63, he searches for the moment his life took a wrong turn, the moment of betrayal that undermined his relationship with his wife and destroyed his relationship with Biff, the son in whom he invested his faith. Willy lives in a fragile world of elaborate excuses and daydreams, conflating past and present in a desperate attempt to make sense of himself and of a world that once promised so much. This Penguin Classics edition features an introduction by Christopher W. E. Bigsby.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 "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

New York Times Book Review
A contemporary classic....Listen to this album.
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.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.08(w) x 7.76(h) x 0.39(d)

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Note to Teacher



Arthur Miller was born in New York City in 1915 and studied at the University of Michigan. His plays include All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), After the Fall (1963), Incident at Vichy (1964), The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972) and The American Clock. He has also written two novels, Focus (1945), and The Misfits, which was filmed in 1960, and the text for In Russia (1969), Chinese Encounters (1979), and In the Country (1977), three books of photographs by his wife, Inge Morath. More recent works include a memoir, Timebends (1987), and the plays The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), The Last Yankee (1993), Broken Glass (1993), which won the Olivier Award for Best Play of the London Season, and Mr. Peter's Connections (1998). His latest book is On Politics and the Art of Acting. Miller was granted with the 2001 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has twice won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and in 1949 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.



Preparing to Read

  1. How is the American Dream characteristic of American ideals and philosophy? What are the differences between the materialistic and the idealistic values associated with the American Dream?

Understanding the Story

Act One

Writing Responses

Exploring Further

* included in the Viking Critical Library edition
** excerpted in the Viking Critical Library edition

What People are saying about this

Arthur Miller
The suddenness of the '29 crash and the chaos that followed offered a pure instance of the impotence of individualist solutions to so vast a crisis. As a society we learned all over again that mass social organization does not neccessarily weaken moral fiber but may set the stage for great displays of heroism and self-sacrifice and endurance.

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Death of a Salesman (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 131 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for an AP English Summer Reading assignment and quite enjoyed it. It was a bit hard to follow at first but once you get started you start to understand more. It's a sad but interesting story. Warning: It's not for light readers there is depth to it so it requires a bit of thinking on the readers part.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have seen some really bad reviews here. Some said that Death of a Salesman was the worst book ever. Now I can imagine that some may not think as highly as I do of the book, but it can never be considered the worst ever. Those people obviously do not understand the true meaning and messages of the book, the things that maake Death of a Salesman a timeless masterpiece. For you dumb shmucks out there, some thing the book was really about: communism; capitalism- in the cold and callous business world, personal connections and compassion and comprimised for profit and performace; trying to fulfill one's dreams with his children; escape from an undesirable life; sacrifice; -- just to name a few. So, before you rip on a book, or anything, make sure you fully understand it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Miller's play is an intimate study of the tragedy one family faces and their singular reaction to it. The characters are so rich in their depiction of disillusionment, and they vividly exemplify the intense desire for an easier life. I thoroughly enjoyed this play.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Death of a Saleman is an excellent play which everyone should read. I read it for my AP English and Composition class. There are many hidden facts and information which make the play more interesting and more complex then you may not see the first time you read it.
Been_There_Done_That More than 1 year ago
Valuable literary experience, but so profoundly depressing. Definitely not something to read while you're trying to enjoy a vacation. Don't read it until our current economic depression is over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though to many the play can seem dull and dreary, it cannot leave you untouched. It makes you internally search, wondering if you too are like Willy, reaching for something that will never be grasped. Willy was always searching for his own diamond, yet only in death could he find it. The play is simplistic at times, but one would have to take some serious thought in order to understand all of its aspects. You must mull over it for awhile and turn it over in your mind a few times before being able to truely understand and appreciate it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Miller's view on the American Dream symbolizes the culture of Willy Loman and how he reacts toward the different situations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller is an eye opening collision of idealism and the "American Dream" with the harsh realities of everyday life. This dramatic play gives Arthur's strong opinions on success in America. Miller's own family was successful in business and was very wealthy up until the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which left them nearly broke. This personal connection to the plot makes the emotional appeals to the audience very effective. Amidst the delusion of Willy's success as a businessman, Biff as a well-liked and respected worker, and Linda and Willy's marriage as being immaculate, the message that not everything is perfect contrasts quite sharply as we begin to discover what is wrong with Willy. When we get introduced to Willy and his family, everything appears to be very idealistic: a husband that has no problem providing for the family, two sons with a great amount of potential, and a caring wife. But as the blinds come off of the household, the vision of perfection becomes unraveled, and for the most part, what seems true proves to be the opposite. I found many of the feelings of chaos and uncertainty very relatable but also kind of terrifying. The suggestion that success can be but an illusion is a convicting one for someone who is about to go to college and begin to try succeeding in life. It is a powerful reminder that a multi-perceptive view of the world is so crucial, as Biff learns later in the play as he copes with all that has happened. Before reading this play, I had considered probably my whole life that success does not look the same to each person, but this play presented me with the possibility that failure could still be masked as success, which has made me more cautious (or knowingly daring) with the decisions I make in the future. Overall, the play was one I would love to see done onstage sometime, but also a very powerful script that will stay with me for awhile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is excellent, but the Nook rendering is very disappointing. No matter what text size I select, the formatting  is off: 1-word lines abound, the indents are off, and the reading experience is considerably compromised.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Arthur Miller describes a families desperate attempt to cling to the American dream while simultaneously bringing the utopian fantasy life crashing down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too long; Didn't read
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had read this short play and I found myself amazed at how I actually liked the plotline. It is easy to connect with the main character. Overall a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love arthur miller and love reading plays. Don't read if you're looking for something uplifting, though!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone that does not appreciate the story of the Loman family (its about the entire family, not just Willy), complain about how "boring" the story is, or fails to find any meaning in the story, is a stupid person. Plain and simple. Go read the Hunger Games or some ish. In short, everyone who rated Death of a Salesmen 1 Star was basically ranking their intelligence the same.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How the frik are you posting from 2001
emma-bear_ More than 1 year ago
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is the story of an old and increasingly unsuccessful salesman named Willie. Willie grows crazier and crazier and has more and more flashbacks to different moments in his life that he realized could have changed his entire life, if he had done one thing different. When his two sons, Biff and Happy, come to visit for a while, he becomes more depressed after seeing how much of a failure Biff is, and how seeing that no matter how many different women Happy can get, he will never be able to get a wife, or impress his father the way that Biff used to. With an emotional ending that leaves you satisfied and impressed, Death of a Salesman was a very good play.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book didnt really get my attention in the beginning, but i like that its a play
Anonymous More than 1 year ago