I went to see Death of a Salesman in London on Saturday. It was a great production with Brian Dennehy tremendous as Willie Loman. I’ve not seen it on stage before and it was a treat to come to it with fresh eyes.
Loman is the archetype of the man who didn’t get Kipling’s advice about not making dreams your master. This, Miller spells out for us, is the trouble with being a salesman. Loman is a furious meaning-maker, lurching from wild despair to naive optimism and unable to make any real connection with those he loves. He loses touch with reality, his life becoming a confused mixture of hallucinations, punctuated by shocking interruptions from the real world around him – ranging from the breakdown of his fridge to the intrusion of his adoring son into his tryst with his mistress.
In Loman’s world, the heavily advertised product ought to be the most reliable but his car and his fridge, you might say his life, prove otherwise. It’s a biting counterpoint to what I might call the dream of the American dream.
It’s a good reminder not to confuse our experience with our interpretations of it. There’s not so very much that we really know for sure, and getting to stuck to our interpretations can be a source of a lot of pain…