Is it bad that I’m currently hating my F2F book club read? Yes, hate (Ride the Wind). So in an effort to procrastinate I thought I would sneak in this short play and cross a book of my classics list! That’s much more fun than reading about stuff that, well, I don’t want to read about. :)
I have heard so much about this play but really knew nothing about it before I picked up my copy. Death of a Salesman is the story of Willy Loman, an aging traveling salesman who is trying to keep up with the battles that face him once he has arrived home from his latest business trip. He is behind in his finances, his wife fears for his sanity, and his children have lost respect for him through the years–and to top it all off he just been in another car “accident.” Willy, though, is trying to live the dream that anyone can control his own fate. Has the dream, though, gotten out of hand and consumed him?
I feel pretty ambivalent toward this play. I didn’t love it or hate it and it was a really quick read (2 Acts and 1 short finale). I think there are a lot of things in the play that many of us could relate to–especially at times when it seems we are working our tails off for…what? At one point in the play, Willy’s son Biff tells his brother:
“Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still–that’s how you build a future” (22).
And over fifty years later this still rings true.
The play isn’t very flashy or fancy. There aren’t necessarily different scenes in the two acts, but there are a number of flashbacks of different conversations Willy has had over the years regarding prospecting with his brother Ben in Alaska, different people Willy has come into contact along the way–especially in relationship his children. I would love to see the play acted to see how all of these different parts are transitioned–especially as at times the flashbacks seemed more like delusions that Willy was having while still in the present.
Bottom line: Like I said before, I’m pretty ambivalent about this book but I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking to fit something short in between books or really wants to experience this classic American play first hand. I don’t think you’ll be sorry you did.