Monday, February 14, 2011

Death of a Salesman

Salesmen love you when they are selling. It is hard to differentiate the mark from the love object, and sometimes the person to whom a pitch being made inspires a passion that is almost romantic. But we are all salesmen, since we all want something and are usually willing to sell part of our selves to get it. In the most basic example, a person who wants the love of another has to sell him or herself to get it. Seduction is a pitch in which both mental and physical credentials are presented for evaluation to the potential buyer. Naturally, there is a degree of reciprocity. A male, in the classical formulation, pursues a woman, but once he has succeeded in getting her attention, he must in turn be won over if the knot is to be tied. There is a famous scene in The Man With Two Brains where a beautiful prostitute opens her mouth and starts rendering Gene Chandler’s "Duke of Earl" at an ear-shattering pitch. While the knight may wear his shining armor to make his conquest, the princess he is after will have to be beautiful and not a bitch to clinch the deal. The love of a mother for her child is always looked at as a bond in which there are no quid pro quos or caveat emptors; it’s defined as unconditional love. But even the mother-child relationship partakes of salesmanship. If the mother is in fact devoted to her child, she wins the kind of adoration that James Cagney demonstrated in the famous prison mess hall scene from White Heat, in which Cagney goes berserk when he hears of his mother’s death. On the other hand, the character of Precious in the movie based on the Sapphire novel Push has an abusive mother who hasn’t fulfilled her part of the bargain, and in the end only earns her child’s scorn.

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