Hero Analysis

1740 words - 7 pages

As the play’s titular character in Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is viewed by many as the definitive modern tragic hero of modern literature. He is a man struggling to gain upward mobility in a society designed to keep him in the trenches. The classic idea of a tragic hero is an important person who falls from a lofty seat in life. Willy, however, is just a common man trying to get to a place he can fall from. According to Arthur Miller, a tragic hero need not be a king or anyone of high rank. What’s important is the existence of the character’s “tragic flaw”, out of which creates the need to resist anything the character would consider a force attacking their being. Miller outlined ...view middle of the document...

..terribly lonely” (1488). It is obvious he is lacking in honesty and integrity, since he is known to be an adulterer. He has a need to look down on the ones who call him friend or even husband and treats them like second-class citizens by often yelling at them or receiving money that he never intends to pay back even though he is “keeping strict accounts” (1475), which shows a lack of generosity. One by one, the noble qualities of a hero are tossed out of Willy Loman’s window. Finally, Willy is not a person to emulate. He has shown what not to do, but that does not make him a hero, merely a man whose life contains a lesson and if a person takes in that lesson and applies it, perhaps that will make them the hero of their own story.
Whether Willy Loman can even be considered tragic usually depends on which version of tragedy is being discussed. The idea of tragedy for the purpose of this analysis is the “if only that one thing were different” tragedy. Take the greatest, most well-known tragedy of all; Romeo and Juliet. Their world was created, the rules were set, but all along the way, there were moments that if one thing had changed, the outcome of the story would have been different. If Tybalt hadn’t killed Mercutio, if Romeo hadn’t killed Tybalt, if the monk had stayed with Juliet, if that letter had gotten to Romeo faster and if only Romeo’s friends were in on the deception; all these little things could have changed the tragic ending. Willy Loman’s story is not that kind of tragedy. Being that he was in possession of the tragic flaw, his character and his actions were thus dictated by that flaw which in turn dictated the direction his life would go. All of a sudden, his whole life has become “inevitable.” Then a question of whether Willy’s “inevitable” life is, in itself, tragic. The answer is not in a literary sense. To put it another way, death of old age is also inevitable and while it is emotionally tragic for the ones left behind, it is a necessary and expected outcome of living a full life and therefore is not a “tragedy.”
There are those that would argue the case for Willy being a hero by virtue of him struggling to find a place in life but dying in the end. There are three rebuttals against that argument. The first is that Willy Loman’s struggle is not a true struggle, but a superficial one and therefore should be discounted. The true challenge that Willy faces is discovering his own strengths and weakness. His struggle is shallow because he is fighting everyone; his wife, his boss, his friend Charley and Biff, but never once faces off with the one person causing him the most trouble. It isn’t as though he isn’t aware that something is wrong with him as he clearly states, “I can’t seem to – keep my mind to it” (1430). A true struggle can only happen after acknowledgement of an existing problem. For the whole length of play, Willy thinks that he has been fighting against everyone because they are causing his problems. In...

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