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Can Willy Loman Be Considered A Tragic Hero?

1482 words - 6 pages

Can Willy Loman Be Considered A Tragic Hero?

Whether Willy Loman can be considered a tragic hero has long been
debated between critics. Ever since Miller produced the play, people
have discussed whether Willy’s status was high enough for his fall to
be considered tragic, or whether Willy can be seen as an altogether
modern tragic hero, I will be looking at both these views taking into
consideration critics views and also adding my own thoughts.

Tragedy has its origin in ancient Greece. In his Poetics Aristotle
defined a tragedy as portraying a serious, complete and important
action involving pain or destruction and shows the fall of an
important person from happiness and prosperity into misery and
catastrophe. The problem with this view is that some believe it cannot
be used to define modern tragedies as many things have changed and are
no longer relevant since Aristotle’s time of ancient Greece.

Critics such as Bier man, Hart and Johnson1 believe that Willy Loman
can be seen as a tragic hero, they have described death of a salesman
as “a tragedy set in our own time, played out on our own scene, in our
own language”. The fact that the play is modern, helps us to identify
with Willy Loman and therefore it affects our emotions more, there is
more of a connection between ourselves and the character, the fact
that we feel more emotion brings us closer to classical tragedy for
example catharsis. There are many factors throughout the text, which
show connections to the modern world, the references to insurance
payments, front porch, refrigerator, Chevrolet and the tennis are
reflective of contemporary society. These things make the play seem
far more realistic to the audience as they can relate to these
factors.

“The great tragedies…relate to the greater causes of mankind, but
because Willy has no intensity in his living but only shallowness and
false aspirations he is not a hero”, Bierman, Hart and Johnson1 have
said that they agree Willy does not link the ‘greater causes’, but
this is reflective of our modern life and therefore we can find that
we can identify with him. If Willy’s shallowness/ false aspirations
are tragic flaws then he needs to be a tragic hero.

In the text his false aspirations are shown, “He had the wrong
dreams. All, all wrong”. The fact that Willy is shown throughout the
text to value popularity and personal attractiveness over morality
shows his shallowness. Many critics argue that Willy isn’t of high
enough status to have that great a fall. As shown, “He never grows to
heroic stature”. Even the characters name itself, Willy Loman
(Low-Man) implies that he has a low status. However in the text, Biffs
speech suggests that Willy doesn’t need to be of huge stature to be
tragic, “You’ve just seen a prince walk by. A fine troubled prince. A
hardworking, unappreciated prince”. Linda also says with a lot of
emphasis, “He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a
human...

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