The Tragedy Of "Death Of A Salesman"

975 words - 4 pages

In the writing world today, there are many definitions for technical terms that are used to describe certain genres of theatre, music and literature. There are romantic novels, musical dramas, and tragic plays. Tragedy is a difficult genre to pinpoint and label. The title ‘tragedy’ can be placed on virtually any piece of writing that involves a death. But it also is up to the individual as to what they believe a tragedy is defined as. The play, Death of a Salesman is not tragedy in the traditional sense of the word. This essay will discuss this idea, define tragedy hero according to historians, and broaden the definition of tragedy to fit a modern society.
A tragedy is defined as ‘a piece of literature which contains somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction’ (enotes.com). This definition does not fit this play exactly, because Willy Loman is not a person of much importance. He is a typical businessman who represents a large number of people who have tried to reach the American Dream without success. This dreams had a tremendous impact on his family. They affected his interactions with his children and ultimately, ended his life. The author of this play, Arthur Miller, subtitled the play “Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem”. Enotes.com, a website that answers questions on literature, explained this minor detail and said, “A requiem is a ceremony created for someone who has died. Usually that person is a famous or important figure. That would certainly indicate that Miller meant for the play to be a tragic commentary the effect of the American dream of success has on American society. Consequently, since Willy is representative of many people like him and their collective dreams greatly influence American society then Death of a Salesman is truly a tragedy” (enotes.com). This play may still be labeled a tragedy despite the fact that Willy is a common man. In today’s society there are different expectations for the tragedy genre. There are not specific details that must be included in a tragedy; the literature piece simply must include a sad and sorrowful underlying theme. Death of a Salesman includes a sad and sorrowful underlying theme; Willy’s unrelenting search for the American Dream which leads to his death. In that sense, this play is a tragedy.
Tragedy is defined by Aristotle as, “the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself.” A tragedy involves scenes which arouse fear and pity for humanity and evoke these feelings in the reader. There is typically a tragic hero upon which these feelings are brought. This rank is given to the so-called nobility in the piece who desperately searches for himself to the point of death. Willy Loman is not...

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