On Thursday, the 17th of May; in english class, Mr. Macknight said, “In order to prepare for your exam, you must read Death of a Salesman, not just once. 2 times? You manage to reach the benchmark. 3 times,” he made a gesture with his hands, “is the minimum for you to get a good grade. Long time ago…” Mr. Macknight starts his story telling. 5 minutes later, Mr. Macknight ends the story, “And guess who got the best marks for the test? The student that read all day about Shakespeare got the best marks! So 3 times,” he made the same gesture again, “3 times is the minimum. read more if you like.” He handed us the books. “You know, I had this student in 2010 that found and posted an old jpeg picture of ‘How to Open a Book’ on my Facebook wall, and I got lots of comments saying, ‘Yes, I remember this!’ They remember clearly how…” I said, “Book yoga!” Aaron looked at me and said in a annoyed tone, “… Seriously?”
So we had to read this book. Right.
A few hours quickly passed as I read the book. The sky grew dark and I turned on the lights. I knew the characters well enough that I focused more on the stage directions and the descriptions of places. I saw things I didn’t see previously. The moment I opened the book I was greeted with an one-and-a-half-page introduction. And a flute. I thought for a moment, how incredible it must be, for music to paint pictures in our minds of “grass and trees and the horizon“.
The first thing I picked up on the second-time reading was dreams. There are different dreams occurring in the play. Willy has a dream, a goal in life to be successful. He dreams about the past, recalling the joy. The house has “an air of the dream cling[ing] to the place, a dream rising out of reality.” This made me think: what are the realities and what are the dreams in the play? Is the American Dream unrealistic? Willy’s dream is to become successful and well-liked and rich.
By reading it second time, I realised how many lies Willy told, how he tricked Linda, Biff and Happy into believing everything Willy says. He tells them he earned lots of money, but in reality, he did not; he told them he was well-liked, but in reality, he is not; he is not just fooling them, he is fooling himself to believe he was earning lots of money and he was well-liked.
As I read up to page 38, where Ben comes in, I pick up this detail that I have’t noticed before. “BEN’s music is heard“. What kind of music fits with Ben? What would the tempo be like? Mysterious, slow or bright? What would the timbre be like? Crisp, smooth or subtle? As I turned the page, with so many questions lingered in my mind, I spotted something else, “New music is heard, a high, rollicking tune.” right after Ben mentioned that their father played the flute. Does this suggest Willy’s childhood is a happy one, a lively one? Music has not just come up three or four times, but more than ten times in the play.
Page 21: When Biff overhears Willy talking to himself, “Music insinuates itself as the leaves appear.”
Page 29: When Linda compliments Willy about him being the ‘handsomest man in the world’, “Music is heard as behind a scrim, to the left of the house, the WOMAN, dimly seen, is dressing.”
Page 55, ACT TWO “Music is heard, gay and bright. the curtain rises as the music fades away.”
Page 66: Howard is talking to Willy about his job, when Howard exits, “Now the music is heard – BEN’s music – first distant, then closer, closer.”
Page 70: When Willy finished talking with Charley and starts shouting at himself, “The music rises to a mocking frenzy.”
Even till the last sentence of the play, the music of the flute is heard, “Only the music of the flute is left on the darkening stage as over the house the hard towers of the apartment buildings rise into sharp focus.”
Throughout the whole play, lighting and music play a MAJOR role. The audience/reader cannot visually see music, therefore they can use their imagine things that are not onstage, for example, the dream that clings to the place. The lighting emphasises these thoughts. For example, in the last sentence of the play, “only the music of the flute is left” may suggest that Willy’s dream has not faded (for Happy is pursuing the dream after his father), although his life has ended (“darkening stage“). The “sharp focus” on the “tall towers of the apartment buildings” remind the audience/reader of what reality actually is, not the small dreamy house isolated in the middle of it all.