Saturday, December 27, 2008

Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

Couldn't get a more appropriate book for a sales guy at the end of his financial year. Drained of energy and waiting for this year to get over, to start again with clean sheets. Death of a Sales man is one of the most sold plays of Arthur Miller, released in 1949. What is surprising is that the relevance of the book at the current times.

The story and synopsis can be read here and I'm not getting into it.

There are multiple angle to this play. At one level , it is the sales man and his relationship with his employer. Despite serving him for 35 years, he is not wanted in that organisation. The same person who build their business empire in New England from scratch, was now fired for non-performance. For the sales guy, the customers with whom he has build a rapport and business are all retired or replaced by newer younger people, nullifying his influence. The old hand at the business is no more and his son who runs the company now, do not value the heritage and the people who build the company.

The other side is the strained relation between the father and son. Willy is blamed (or he takes the blame) for the failure of Biff to graduate after he flunked Maths. Biffs exposure to fathers illicit relationship with a lady in Boston, and his anger and disappointment has lead to his later failure in life. Even at 34 he is unable to settle in any job or place.

Linda, Willy's wife fit in at the perfect house-wife role. All understanding , always supportive to her husband, never complaining and always encouraging. Even when she realises that Willy's frequent car accidents are not mere lack of concentration, but a planned attempt, she does not loose her composure with him.

Willy himself is under hallucinations and day dreams. He move in and out of worlds of real and imaginary, often criticising himself on his inability to live a life like that of his now dead brother ( who comes in his dreams very often). His attempt to resurge his career is turned futile, his hopes on his sons to be own their own and support the aging parents fails , leading him to despair , eventually leading to his death.

Though written about the period 1928 and 1942, the plot is still the same. The middle class life run on mortgage payments and by the time you finished your payment, you have to start all over again. And I don't think it can end any better..
"Forgive me, dear. I can't cry. I don't know what it is, but I cant cry. I don't understand it. Why did you ever do that ? It seems to me that you're just on another trip. I keep expecting you...I search and search and search, and I cant understand it, Willy. I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there'll be nobody home. We're free and clear. We're free.. We're free..We're free."
Death of a Salesman
Arthur MillerUBS Publishers Distributors Pvt Ltd

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