Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 2/5 stars.

When I finished reading this book in my AP Literature class, I literally cheered, clapped, and high-fived my friends sitting next to me. The cycle of complete despair had been broken! My soul could now sing a song of optimism and joy!

Before I read this book, I still had a sliver of doubt in my mind. The doubt that I should include a myriad more classics to my reading list, that my brain would rot and rupture under the strain of contemporary fiction.

No. Just, no. The reason I’m giving Death of a Salesman two stars is that there is some meaning behind it, if you look deeply enough. It also is not absolute trash. And yet, there are a lot of books that I’ve read that are not even considered close to high literature that surpass this one in their quality.

It’s not like I hate literature (which in itself is a subjective term.) I loved Jane Eyre. To Kill a Mockingbird. Wuthering Heights. But this book made me want to slap someone – especially Willy Loman – and storm off in a dramatic fit of frustration. Every time my teacher praised a certain phrase or bit of writing, I would mentally shake my head. Not because I don’t respect my teacher, but because I could not fathom why he thought the writing in this book was extraordinary at all. Maybe I’m simply unaccustomed to the play format, but I was not impressed.

Both the story and the characters were horrendous. I understood, almost appreciated, and in the end abhorred the plot and its unsatisfying portrayal of a tragic hero/failed American dream. None of the characters earned any empathy. Willy was pathetic – not in a mean way – Biff and Happy were hopeless, and Linda was way too blind and bland. I hated how Linda put up with Willy’s abuse and even enjoyed it to an extent. That’s how it is in some abusive relationships, but how Arthur Miller made it look in this play upset me.

Overall, not recommended. Glad I can finally move on to something else.

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13 Comments

Filed under 2 stars, Book Reviews, Books

13 responses to “Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

  1. Some would say a reaction, even one of abhorrence, deems work a pice of art. It is indifference which makes something, well nothing. Thanks for your honesty.

    • I take your meaning, though with these characters I did not truly care about them. They were so boring and pitiful (I’m sorry if that sounds too harsh, I hope it doesn’t) that I badly wanted to move on to another novel. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. I read this play years ago and I don’t remember much about it. I don’t remember hating it, but then again, I like the play format. I love dialogue, and I like that plays are almost all action without a lot of poetic descriptions (although those can be wonderful, too).

    Anyway, I have to re-read this play for a class in about a month, so maybe I will have a more insightful response when I do. However, I will say that you don’t need to necessarily like characters for them to have a purpose and be interesting. There are plenty of characters whom I might not like if they existed in real life, but are enjoyable on paper.

    • Your enjoyment of the play format will probably make you like this more than I did, once you re-read it. I agree that characters don’t have to be likeable to have purpose or be interesting, but in this book I found the characters to be dull and miserable, even if they did represent more than who they just who they were at the plot level. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Aw, we’re gonna have to disagree on this one, my friend. I’m a huge Arthur Miller fan! On the other hand, I tend to always go for the “high literature” genre, and you’re definitely more broadly read, in terms of genre, than I am, so we definitely have different, well, file folders, if you will!

    • Aw, your incorporation of “file folders” in your comment made me experience a severe pang of nostalgia for gov school! And it’s okay, we can agree to disagree on this one, though you are definitely more well-read in terms of literature than I am. I do want to read The Crucible though, would you recommend it?

      • I absolutely will forever and ever recommend The Crucible. Even if you hate it, it is applicable to almost any topic that a timed writing/standardized test can give you, so I would seriously suggest it, if only for the utilitarian concerns.

        However, I will say that when my AP Lang class read it, we actually listened to the Broadway recording, which is absolutely the most phenomenal voice recording–so that definitely is a part of why I loved it so much. I had friends who read it straight and enjoyed it, but the kids who listened to it completely fell in love with how brilliant Miller is. I am a fervent believe of the idea that plays should be listened to or seen, not just read.

        File Folders ❤

        • Oh my gosh, brain fart, I actually watched a movie version of the Crucible last year in AP Lang! For some reason that didn’t occur to me… still, perhaps I’ll read it before the AP exam in May. I’m not an audiobook kinda guy but because of your recommendation I’ll try it out.

          • Yeah I personally don’t do audio books either, I like to project my own inflection on the character rather than having someone do it for me– more room for interpretation, but my exception is plays because I don’t think they are meant to be straight up read.

            Did you see the Daniel Day Lewis version? I love it! They edited a little bit, but not too much. However, if you didn’t really like the movie, the play is super super similar, so I don’t know how you’ll enjoy that.

            • I did see the Daniel Day Lewis version! I liked the movie, and I teared up at the grotesque ending. You make a good point about plays not meant to be only read, as they are written for stage, I suppose. I am learning from the literary master Roshni, woo!

  4. Cathal

    Don’t sit on the fence, Thomas. Tell us what you really think!

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