“The Death of a Salesman” Comparison of Play and Movie

Updated May 5, 2022

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“The Death of a Salesman” Comparison of Play and Movie essay

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Reading a play is quite different from watching a movie based on it. This is because, a play is meant to be performed on stage, in front of a live audience. The visual and audio aspects of the movie greatly separate it from its written form. Therefore, the perspective of a reader is quite different from that of a viewer. In the movie based on the play ‘The Death of a Salesman’ is different from the play in many ways. Despite most of the dialogue being word-for-word, the movie consists of inevitable variations from the play.

Reading the play was a different experience from watching the movie. For someone who does not generally read plays, the most challenging part of reading is visualizing the scene and actions. With such popularity of movies, we have become used to watching drama on screen, without having to worry about picturing anything. Everything is on screen, and whatever is on screen is all there is. This limitation also affects regular play readers to some degree. Not everything written in the play can be pictured the way the writer intended. Movies do seem to do a better job at meeting the writer’s expectation of how he wishes the play to be presented. However, movies come with a limitation of their own, which is that they are created from the director’s vision. Unlike in a live play that is being performed on stage, actors have little or no control on the characters. A movie lacks multi perspectives and is defined to a single one, which is that of the director. The movie based on ‘Death of a Salesman’ has an altered beginning. It starts off with Willy Loman driving and suddenly stopping, whereas in the actual play, it begins from when he gets home and explains to his wife about what happened on his way to the trip. The description of his house, the overshadowing apartment buildings and the blue lighting from the sky as well as the orange glow have been skipped in the beginning of Act I. The dialogue is almost entirely same throughout the movie except for some omissions. The lines that mention Happy’s friend who built an estate have been omitted. Many of the deleted lines hold little significance to the overall story. However, some of those lines do carry important information about the personality of certain characters. In the play, Linda is seen as a strong woman who cares for and looks after Willy. Upon Willy’s request, Linda hums to him in bed, much like a mother sings her baby to sleep. In the movie, however, she agrees to sing but doesn’t. Instead, Willy kisses her on the forehead, portraying him as the comforting one. There are some adjustments made in the movie, perhaps in order to offend the public. In one of his flashbacks, Willy tries to explain to Linda why he was unable to make a lot of sales on his trip, and mentions his inability to impress his buyers. In the play, one of his reasons for this is that he is fat. In the movie, he says he is short.

The music also helps differentiate the movie from reading the play. The movie certainly has an advantage in this aspect. Hearing the music is quite different than imagining it. Unless the reader is a musically trained person, imagining the suggested musical tunes is greatly ineffective compared to actually hearing them. The play starts with a tune played on a flute. In the movie, other instruments accompany the flute. The harmony works great in manipulating the viewer’s mood and emotions. It works well to generate sympathy for Willy after his death. However, in some instances, the music works against the movie. For example, in the restaurant scene, the music slightly distracts the viewer from the seriousness of the conversation between Willy, Biff and Happy. This does not happen when reading the play. The loudness and softness of the characters’ voices also helps express their feelings. Willy’s jarring shouts and yells convey his frustration. Sounds appeal to the viewer’s senses.

Some of the characters also seem different from the play. When reading the play, I had pictured to look older than what Hoffman appears in the movie. I thought of him as more grumpy but less annoying. I also imagined him to be less mentally stabled. He is a hallucinating delusional after all. I pictured Biff with a better-built physique and more of an alpha-male. Charley, who is supposed to be a slow speaker, isn’t so at all. The settings of the movie greatly resemble that of the play. One difference is that it has an extra dimension in it. Often, motions in the play are referred to having two directions, namely ‘right’ and ‘left’. Howard moves away, ‘to the right’, meaning the right side of the stage. In the play, the angle is not the one that an audience would view from. Therefore, directions are not just right and left, much like in real life.

To conclude, reading the play was wholly different from watching the movie. Factors such as different perspectives, actions, imagination, visual and audio effects, etc. all act to create two different experiences. Even though the movie cannot replace the original play, which is should not, it certainly is an interesting.

“The Death of a Salesman” Comparison of Play and Movie essay

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“The Death of a Salesman” Comparison of Play and Movie. (2022, May 05). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-death-of-a-salesman-comparison-of-play-and-movie/


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