“Death of A Salesman” – Second Impressions

What I remember from Death of a Salesman is mostly what I remember from the movie version of the play rather than the written version, and in the movie version I mostly remember Willy as volatile and someone who easily lost his temper.  So after reading the play for a second time, it’s nice to remember Willy and his family as more than just a delusional guy with a dysfunctional family.

One of the reasons I thought Willy and his family are delusional is due to the fact that they are overly confident.  Willy is very confident about his skills as a salesman with quotes like “I’m the New England man, I’m vital in New England,” and thanks to him, his sons are confident regarding their skills and capabilities as well.  However, this time I noticed waaay more. Although Willy may often be cocky, he also has quite a few of his insecure moments, more than I remembered.  For example, Willy very worriedly asks Ben if he’s raising his sons right and is concerned about their future, specifically Biff’s.  Another example that I didn’t notice last time is that Willy even sometimes doubts his abilities as a salesman and worries about how to pay the bills and face Linda.  This definitely makes me sympathize with him more compared to last time when I criticized him for not being able to provide for his family.  I specifically felt more bad for him than last time when Willy was turned down by his boss and not even taken seriously when Willy was literally pouring his heart out about his inspiration for becoming a salesman in the first place to his Howard who probably couldn’t care less.

Among the many things that literally seemed to pop up the second time while reading the play, like the huge amount of stage directions or the way Willy, unlike his usual self, initially behaved and spoke like a puppy compared to his much younger but confident boss, Howard, the thing which stood out the most to me was Willy’s relationship with his father.  At first, I had always thought that Willy respected and admired Ben, his older brother, but now I realize that he felt the same for his father too or possibly even more.  This is because of instances such as when Willy insists on Ben telling his sons about their father or when he reminisces about his self-reliant family and the handymen that they were.  I think Willy then used those same ideals with his sons.  Basically, I realized that the strong father-son-relationship between Willy and Biff probably didn’t just come out of nowhere, but instead could’ve been influenced by the same admiration/love Willy had for his father (and for his brother Ben too???).  Also, based on the fact that during their conversations Happy often would often attempt to voice his opinion to either try to please or praise Willy and Biff, means that Happy is probably also part of the “admiration” circle since he, the neglected son, still loves and looks up to both Willy and “the old Biff” very much.

Another thing that came to light was my change in opinion about the relationship between Willy and Linda.  I never understood and still don’t understand exactly why Lind still continues to love Willy the way that she does.  However, while reading it for the second time, instead of viewing Linda as Willy’s abused wife who’s being taken advantage of, I literally viewed her as his mother who loves and nurtures Willy, the child, with patience and receives his anger and frustration with a calm and understanding attitude.  The way Linda and Willy behave with each other reminds me of them as a couple with more of a mother-son-relationship rather than a husband-wife-relationship.

Overall, not only reading the play for the second time seem a lot shorter, I also saw the softer and more distressed side of Willy which was quite different to my memories of him as just being a confused, frustrated, and unappreciative old man. Even though this time I already knew what was going to happen, I definitely found it a lot less boring or dry because I spent more time focusing on WHY (instead of what) the characters, specifically Willy, did what they did or said what they said.  Reading the play for a second time helped and revealed a lot more than I honestly expected it too, and I’m interested in seeing what more “revelations” will be in store the third time around.

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