Death of a Salesman (February 10, 1949)
I remember studying this play in high school. Even then, it seemed very old-fashioned. Set in the 1940’s, it chronicles the decline and fall of one man, Willy Loman, as he looks back on his life and the way things turned out. And he is full of regrets. (I wonder from where Arthur Miller got his inspiration.)
He is 63 years old and unstable, insecure, and self-deluded. Willy tends to re-imagine events from the past as if they were real. He vacillates between different eras of his life. Willy seems childlike and relies on others for support, coupled with his recurring flashbacks to various moments throughout his career. His first name, Willy, reflects this childlike aspect as well as sounding like the question “Will he?” His last name gives the feel of Willy’s being a “low man”, someone who will not succeed; however, this popular interpretation of his last name was dismissed by Miller.Wikipedia
Since I first saw the film of the play, starring Fredric March, I have always wondered what it would be like to be in one’s senior years and looking back on one’s past. Well, now I know.
Willy’s sons are Biff and Happy. Isn’t it funny that the name Biff should reoccur in “Back to the Future”? Happy’s proper name is Harold, but I suppose for shorthand purposes, Miller called him Hap, as in haphazard. Of all the characters in the play, he was the most positive, anyway.
Linda, Willy’s long-suffering wife, seems to be a bit of a doormat. I would imagine that Edith Bunker, Archie’s wife, in “All in the Family” was based on her. In those days, ‘girls was girls and men was men.’ Wives mostly stayed at home and tended the hearth (where the heart is).
The play was depressing then and it’s depressing now. As a message to the world, it’s a salutary tale. But was the world paying attention?
Due to the ultimate success of the play, I think the American public did pay attention…
I got the brainwave to raise the chart for the debut of the play on Broadway at about 5 o’clock this morning. I wasn’t sure what I’d see, but I was reasonably secure in the thought that the play’s lasting influence on society would be there, somehow.
There are five inconjuncts, two of which form a Yod pointing at the Sun.
Sun Inconjunct Moon
This aspect suggests that there is a subtle conflict going on inside you that may sometimes create emotional problems. The Sun signifies your conscious personality, the way in which you act and the kinds of activities that you like to get involved in. The Moon signifies the emotional and less conscious side of you. It indicates the habits that take over when you are not acting consciously and feelings that come up from deep inside you. The inconjunct aspect between the Sun and Moon means that the Sun part of your personality is quite different from the Moon part, and it may be hard for you to relate them to each other. It is as if you are divided in two, so that whenever you have to make an important decision, especially one that involves your feelings, the different sides of your personality want to go in opposite directions. You sometimes find it difficult to decide if you like something or if you want to take part in some activity.
Sun Inconjunct Ascendant
Your relationships with other people can be very intense. While you are young, they may be quite difficult, because you feel that others will accept you only if you deny yourself in some way. Or you may constantly feel you should put off doing what you want in order to do what you have to do. Usually your ideas about what you have to do come from the people around you. Also, contacts with other people will frequently force you to make serious, major psychological changes. Difficulties in your relationships with friends and family are signs of profound internal changes.
Mercury Inconjunct Saturn
This aspect can have several different meanings. First of all, you may have hidden fears that are difficult to express, but they cause you to do things that others can’t understand. These may include fear of the dark or of certain places or people. Or this aspect can mean that you often feel depressed and sad for no apparent reason. You tend to see the serious side of life, and it weighs on you more than on most people.
Venus Inconjunct Saturn
This aspect means that your family may make you feel that you are unworthy of love. Unless you are given a great deal of love while you are young, you will be attracted to cold and unfeeling people when you are an adult. Such people are an outward expression of your inner feeling of unworthiness.
Even without any pressure, you are likely to be more disciplined that most people your age. You don’t go overboard in anything, and you feel strongly that your worth depends on what you do and how much you accomplish.
Jupiter Inconjunct Midheaven
Later in life, you will enter a critical period when your need for personal satisfaction and freedom force you to change jobs or even careers. When you have learned more about the world, you will understand how to make changes intelligently, but now you should discipline your Jupiterian drive for freedom and learn what you need to know to take over your own destiny. You should learn as much as possible about any subject or skill that will make you more aware of the larger world. Travel or foreign study would be beneficial, if that is possible. The more you know about how you fit into the larger scheme of life, the easier it will be to make the right decision when you have to change to a more rewarding and personally satisfying course.
Honestly, I had no idea that this chart would describe Loman’s life in such graphic detail. But why am I surprised? All aspects of life are displayed, even in Broadway plays from the mid-20th century. Willy Loman, as he himself pointed out was “worth more dead than alive.”
The traveling salesman, who used to go door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners, magazine subscriptions and insurance policies, died in the 1950’s,