March 16, 2004

The Life of Salesman

Ok. So. I'm sure during class today everyone talked about how crazy Willie was, and I am the first to agree. Willie was insane, in the end. However, what about his life?

In Death of a Salesman we see the end of Willie's life as a salesman. He went through his entire life just working on the road selling things to buyers, he didn't know how to do anything else. Don't you think that would make you go crazy? If a company you worked for your entire life took you off of salary and put you on commission like you were just starting out wouldn't you feel like you were unworthy? Then there is the fact that Willie and his family didn't really have any money to their names at all. Willie kept borrowing money from Charley so that Linda wouldn't know that he wasn't getting paid anymore. Then the company he worked for fired him! I feel bad for Willie, I really do. His kids thought that he was insane and wanted nothing to do with him. The people he worked for his entire life turned him away. Willie was old, tired, and worn out and people including his family turned their backs on him.

Let me make this personal for a minute. My dad recently went through something very similar at his place of work. The company he worked for came into new management and they tried to put my dad on commission. My dad has major tenure where he works considering he is now 56 and has been working there for 40 years making him the longest member still working at the company. He took the new management to court and won his case. I know that while my dad was going through that time he was a total mess, so seeing my dad I can understand what Willie was going through.

What do you guys think? Do you feel bad for Willie or do you think he was just a jerk? Why or why not?

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at March 16, 2004 6:49 PM

Do you remember Greek Tragedy? I do, and let me say that Willie is the tragic hero. I kept wanting him to succeed, and he didn't. I really felt that there was a chance for him to make something of himself, and couldn't. I had the feeling that Willie was going to kill himself, but something kept telling me that he was going to get out of the severe skid that he was in.

Posted by: The Gentle Giant at March 16, 2004 8:58 PM

Never thought of that are right though. I did feel like the was going to succeed, especially there at the end...Oh well.


Posted by: Tiffany at March 16, 2004 9:57 PM

Hey Tiff, I really think that Willy just didn't know what life was about. He was incredibly depressed, and maybe he just needed some prozac and some counseling to help him get some perspective. (Go check out my blog, too :)

Posted by: Karissa at March 17, 2004 10:32 PM

There's a whole subfield of humanities devoted to the study of medicine...

New York University's "Medical Humanities" database includes short essays on various works of literature (as well as art) that are annotated from a medical perspective. For example, here is the page on "The Yellow Wall-Paper".

I'm surprised that the NYU "Medical Humanities" database doesn't have an entry on Death of a Salesman.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 17, 2004 11:43 PM

Dr. Jerz maybe they are working on one. =) Anyways. The annotations on the page for "The Yellow Wallpaper" are very interesting. The view of a medical professional of the narrator brings new life to the story. I hope they do make annotations on "Death of a Salesman".

Posted by: Tiffany at March 18, 2004 8:46 AM

Why don't you write up some notes yourself? :)

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 18, 2004 2:42 PM

In preparation for going to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, I was reading Dennis Jerz's class blogs. When I came across yours I was very moved by the connection you made to your father's experiences. I've also been very impressed by the interaction on your class blogs. I'm a college prof and I was never able to get such good interaction going on Blackboard. So now I'm exploring how to use blogs.
At some point I may want to ask you about using your blog in a handbook (yes, I'm an author of writing handbooks--maybe you have even used one), so could you send me your email address? I don't know how to get it from this class blog!
I told Dennis I would write to you. This is the first time I have joined in on a blog.

Posted by: Ann at March 30, 2004 9:27 PM
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