(Not quite a review of the play)
I was stunned. Amid those heart-wrenching scenes, I sat there on the bleacher with tears welling up in my eyes. Every line struck me. Willy Loman’s retrospection as he struggles with his dementia haunted me in way that it bombarded me with questions about my own life. My own decisions. My role as a son and as a member of the society. Most of all: my identity.
Arthur Miller’s play Death of A Salesman transcends beyond time periods and socio-cultural boundaries. With Rolando Tinio’s Filipino translation Pahimakas Sa Isang Ahente, Miller’s work continues to challenge society as it struggles with issues of capitalism and materialism. This time, Tinio employed the word Pahimakas which means “Last Farewell” and changed the preposition “Ng” (or Of) to “Sa” ( or For), a metaphorical take on Willy Loman’s plight and tragic demise. Pahimakas Sa Isang Ahente gives tribute to the salesman, who despite his impending debacle, leaves us questioning our very own selves and the roles we play in this society.
The three and a half hour duration, I must say, was life-changing. Admittedly as a Lit major, I knew little about the play since we never delved into discussing it thoroughly. I read the script and knew its historical background, but watching the play for the first time, took me to a new dimension. It became more alive, the tragedy almost unbearable. And the theme – compelling.
On what makes one successful
I silently chuckled and smiled every time the characters blurted out how success and fame are measured by how much a person earns and possesses. Every time Willy Loman compares his life with his friend Charlie, I cringed at the thought that materialism can be overpowering. Sometimes we get uneasy when our neighbors have acquired a new television or a new refrigerator. Or our friends flaunt a new iPhone model. We want to keep up with them. More so, competition becomes prevalent between families when it comes to their children. For example, after Bernard leaves, Willy asks his sons Biff and Happy if Bernard is “well liked” at school. The two answers Bernard is liked but not well liked. He may be good at math but the two believe they would be even more successful than Bernard because they are “well liked.”
I am my father’s son
The father-and-son relationship is very apparent in the play. The scenes between Will and Biff carried me away, pondering on my own relationship with my father. Most fathers, I think, have expectations for their children. I believe that they too have dreams for their sons. How many of us dare to sit down with our dad and have a heart-to-heart conversation with him? There were quite remarkable scenes between Will and Biff and Happy that touched me the most. I loved every confrontation and the ego battle between father and son. I loved the restaurant scene where Happy persuaded Biff to tell their father about the latter’s meeting with Oliver.
Doing your job
How do we acquire material comforts in life? Is it by intelligence alone? Or is it by the like-ability of a person? In Pahimakas Sa Isang Ahente, Will Loman’s take on success depends on personal attractiveness. That’s why, when Bill asks Oliver for a business plan, Will advises his son not to crack any jokes, and then to lighten the mood by telling funny stories, etc. Sometimes, it seems that Will’s belief is superficial. It makes us think about the meaning of hard work in achieving one’s dream. It is not enough that we are “well liked” but doing our job efficiently can be a key to success. It’s quite a cliche, but true.
Identity and memory
Our struggles and issues in life reveal our identity. In Will’s case, he tried to deny his incompetence as a salesman by creating dreams and ambitions that did not and would never happen. Worse, he depended on his past and selected those events that had made him feel successful. Will ended up remorseful and blamed everyone for his failure as a salesman. The passage of time and the transition from past to present and back tied up the pieces together. I understood Will Loman more and his decisions that lead to his impending doom. I think that the theme of identity aside from the social relevance of the play is crucial. Most of the scenes rely on Will’s memory which surfaced his regret and longing to make things fall into place.
Pahimakas and me
Witnessing the play acted out by veteran actors (Nanding Josef as Willy Loman, Gina Pareno as Linda Loman, Yul Servo as Biff) and even had the chance to take pictures with them, I felt lucky that I decided to buy the ticket for the last show. I did not miss the opportunity to be moved by Miller’s classic work which we had slightly discussed in class. Rolando Tinio’s translation brought the play closer to the audience, and despite being “American” in its context, is still relevant because of its universal themes. Yes, my tears did well up. And the rest of the audience I think ( I heard snuffles). In the middle of the play, something crossed my mind. I suddenly missed home. I became like Biff Loman. His anagnorisis was just enthralling. “Habang tumatakbo ako mula eleventh floor, bigla akong napahinto…” Watching the play made me ponder how much I miss home. How much I wanted to go home. But work is here. And in here, in this jungle, you need to prove yourself. Make people like you. But then again, are these enough? In this society where power and money matter, it is possible that some of us who don’t know how to wade through the rough waters may be trapped. Someday, when we grow old, our actions today may haunt us in the future.