Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140481341
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/20/1976
Series: Plays, Penguin Series
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 18,839
Product dimensions: 5.04(w) x 7.73(h) x 0.26(d)

About the Author

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.

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Note to Teacher

 

ABOUT ARTHUR MILLER

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.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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. 146 reviews.
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
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
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.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Willy Loman, an aging traveling salesman has managed to convince himself and his family that he is a big success, though all evidence points to the contrary. It appears Willy has never stopped to ask himself whether he's cut out to be a leader, or what motivates his mad desire for success, but it quickly becomes clear that he has sacrificed his mental health in the process of trying to attain the American Dream. His grown sons are torn between the desire to be like their father, as is the case of the youngest, Happy, who opts to pursue his father's dream and try to become the success Willy never could be, and Biff, his firstborn who is happiest working on a ranch under the blue skies, though he knows his father sees that option as a failure. Biff struggles and tries to satisfy Willy's desire for him to be a businessman, only to find bitter disappointment in the process.The Willy of "now" is more and more prone to losing himself in reveries of the past, when life was full of promise and the boys looked up to their father as a hero. But much has happened since then, and much has been left unsaid, and soon Willy is confronted by the present, which bears no resemblance to the reality which he has conveniently fabricated for himself in order to survive...
aethercowboy on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Willie Loman is a salesman. He travels more than he'd like. He doesn't do as well as he'd wish. He's generally disappointed with his life. When his sons visit for a few days, Willie slips into a reminiscent mode, in which he relives past events, and spends a lot of time talking with his recently deceased older brother.This concerns the Lomans, and they try to help. But at the same time, Willy's two sons learn a lot about their father from his flashbacks. Some things good, but other things bad.The play itself is masterfully written by Arthur Miller, playwright of other notable works, including The Crucible and All My Sons. Miller masterfully paints a picture of a salesman, down on his luck, dissatisfied with life, and at the end of his rope, resorting to crazy (both highly irrational and legitimately insane) means to cope with his wasted life.The play is both beautiful and tragic, wonderful and horrible, showing the dichotomy of visceral real life. Showing you a world that's too real, and too sad. Showing you a world that makes you glad it's not happening to you.If you enjoy dramatic writings, then you must read Death of a Salesman. If you read it in school and HATED it, then you MUST reread it. Don't worry about extracting and dissecting during your reading. Enjoy, let yourself get wrapped up in its words. But don't get in too deep. Be careful not to get in too deep.
jacketscoversread on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I think I would¿ve enjoyed seeing Death of a Salesman performed in person, rather than reading the script. This is supposed to be one of the best American plays ever written and my friend, Helen, assures me that seeing it onstage is a very different experience. {And, hopefully, one better than watching the movie.}My English class read the script aloud and I was disappointed. Helen and two other friends of mine cried at the end of the script, so I know I was supposed to sympathize with the characters. Yet, in order to sympathize with them I¿d have to like them and that didn¿t really happen. Willy refused to admit the truth, his sons were morons, and Linda was so utterly useless that I described her as ¿little more than a talking prop¿ to my English class. My teacher, and my friends, were not pleased with my declaration. ¿I don¿t say he¿s a great man. Willie 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 in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.¿ {pg. 40}I understand the point of the play. I understand it¿s supposed to make you feel sympathetic for the characters when they painfully become victims of the American Dreams. But I liked the idea more than the actual execution.Still, Death of a Salesman did make me feel as though I understand others better. I understood the family even when I didn¿t like them or agree with them. ¿After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.¿ {pg. 76}
Carmenere on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Mini-Review:In Arthur Millers play [Death of a Salesman], Willy Loman is portrayed as a pathetic braggart, transparent, insecure, delusional, lying philanderer who believes that to get ahead in life one only needs to be ¿well-liked¿. He drives all along the Eastern corridor of the United States selling his product to buyers who he believes like him but only seem to tolerate him. It is the 1940¿s yet he has not had any professional achievements since his great sales record of 1928. He is no longer on salary, only commission. He is painfully in debt and he and his wife Linda live paycheck to paycheck. Yet he continues on with his false belief that he¿s achieved his American Dream or ¿.is it a nightmare? It appears that either through genetics or learned behavior his sons, Hap and Biff, have become¿¿..nothing! Perhaps it is because their father/son relationship resembles more frat house brothers misbehaving rather than a father teaching his sons the truth about life, about honesty and sincerity. But these boys¿er¿men in their mid-thirties, are adrift with no direction and no idea what they want from life. Biff knows he wants to work out west but the payback is small, Hap is making a decent living but he is unfulfilled and lonely. Mr. Miller does a splendid job creating conflict and tension. His Willy Loman may play your heartstrings or he may repulse you as he did me. Miller also invites discussion as to what is of utmost importance in one¿s own American Dream. I see why so many young adults read this in high school, it asks the big questions and introduces thoughts for reflection. No need to hard sell me on this one.
jaystew on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The fictional play about the Loman family who live in a house in Brooklyn. Willy and Linda have two sons named Biff and his younger brother Happy. Neither son is a real success in life yet, and Biff especially is not satisfied with his life. The play deals with Willy, a salesman, trying to achieve happiness and wanting his sons to make him proud and be successful. This slowly leads him to go crazy and end his own life. The story looks into the idea of the American dream and what it really is that brings happiness. Very good story and a very important play.
reddragon3668 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
There are some Pulitzer Prize winning novels or plays that are difficult to understand how they garnered such attention and acclaim. Not so, with this drama by Arthur Miller. There are great depths of meaning composed within this drama. While often interpreted as speaking to the myth and oftentimes futility of the American dream, I think the drama speaks to so much more. The ghetto of one's own mind and thinking can become a very dark place. In the main character of Willy Loman, MIller illustrates how retreating into one's own mind can be a very limiting and treacherous existence. Loman has created for himself a world and an opinion of himself that does not exist. He is also stuck in the past, governed by illusions of the past that were inconsistent with reality. The whole of this family's existence was based upon the refusal to see life as it really was. They were content to live in deception, unwilling to face the world honestly. This unwillingness to embrace reality eventually led to Loman's demise, not able to see and be content with life as it really was. There are so many points that are borne out in this drama that one could concentrate upon. Since this is a short review, I do not have the time to dwell upon all of them. Two things, however, do come to mind and I will briefly point them out. One, as seen in the relationship between Loman and his son Biff, it is plainly obvious that one can not always live up to the expectations of others. By all accounts, Loman was a good father; Biff was a good son. Both had a respect and love for the other that fueled admiration, which, unfortunately, led to unrealistic expectations. Due to this, Biff was forever changed by the confrontation of his father's humanity. This destroyed Biff's belief in the goodness and immutability of his father, which ultimately colored Biff's world. Putting people on pedal-stools never ends well. Realizing that the people around us are human and capable of moral turpitude will go a long way towards warding off disillusionment. Second, the only successful character in the story is Uncle Ben. His "...when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich." indicated that life requires risk. Being unwilling of taking such risk in life can be stifling. Loman remained in the confines of what he considered safe, and in the end, he led a very unfulfilling life. Not going with Ben, or taking the many chances he was offered to go to Alaska, was something Loman regretted his entire life. Lastly, Death of a Salesman possesses the quality that makes literature and the classics live. The ability to speak to multiple layers of life, remaining relevant in any age or climate, will sustain these as priceless treasures. This is a drama that I will read again and again. I can only hope that by listening to its message, I can avoid some of the pitfalls that made this drama tragic.
lizzy-x on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A truly sad story, but one that appealed to me. Well-written and heartwrenching, it is very easy to see why Death of a Salesman is considered a classic. It is about the premature death that comes about when oen deludes oneself into believing something that simply isn't true.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I'd heard this play referenced so many times but still knew almost nothing about it. Well, imagine George Costanza if he wasn't played for laughs and had two kids who idolized him and believed all his bullshit. It'd be the saddest thing in the world. In that sense--the pathetic self-inflicted grinding up of a mediocre man determined to appear great--the fact that when greatness is all you value, all else is ashes, and the only other alternative is cutting off your nose to spite your face--this is true tragedy. It's also, of course, a parable on post-industrial capitalism--we can't build our lives on anything real anymore: it's all smoke and mirrors, networking and marketing. Willy Loman thought there was room for the human subject and human sympathy in the machine. He was a positivist in a decentered, structuralist system. He, and his family, paid the price.
It's just gotten worse, too, you know. They had the "installment plan"--we have "financing", or more likely we just throw everything on our credit cards and pretend like it's already paid for. We are liars within liars, and we'll never be exposed like Loman was--because as long as we're not exposed, but live in fear of it, we can go on consuming, feeding the machine. Capitalism thrives on people who are afraid and have something to prove, and crave the esteem and love of others. Be brave, and love who you are yourself.
amandacb on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This play seemed quite revolutionary and interesting when I read it in my Intro to Drama class in undergrad studies, but now it seems overdone. I am probably just jaded, though. :) If you are looking for deep thoughts, this play might not be it. However, I think I read it (and watched it) in the perfect spot--as an introduction to drama. No more, no less.
NativeRoses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
See Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross for a modern update to this classic.
ForBrotherGrover More than 1 year ago
There are perhaps two plays you may be required to read by Arthur Miller in high school: The Crucible and Death of a Salesman. After having read Death of a Salesman, I can now say that I think Death of a Salesman comes out on top. It’s not just better than The Crucible, but is a play that every high school class should read and examine to fully honor this great classic. Arthur Miller tells the story of an old, dying salesman who is haunted by his unattainable dreams and his untold past. Not only is Willy Loman an interesting character, but all the characters are intriguing as they work together to create a story that we can delve into quickly. Perhaps what helps us to appreciate and connect with the characters is in large part thanks to Miller’s seamless transitions to scenes from the characters’ past. We see them interact at many different levels, and we see how their past decisions affect not only their future, but their self-concept as well. As I watched this characters interact, I became quickly attached to them and to the decisions that would eventually determine their ends. Each character carried with them an important lesson that we can learn, and apply in our own lives. The most important lesson I learned in this story is to chase our dreams, but not allow our dreams to make up for our present. I would recommend this book to anyone, it is full of great dialogue and it is an interesting read.
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.
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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.
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