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Willy Loman As A Tragic Hero In Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman

1892 words - 8 pages

Willy Loman as a Tragic Hero in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Should 'Willy Loman' of Arthur Millers classic, Death of a Salesman be
regarded as a tragic hero, or merely a working-class, socially
inadequate failure? Described by Miller as a "self-destructive,
insecure anti-hero", it seems almost impossible for Loman to be what
is known as a tragic hero in the 'classical' sense, but with the
inclusion of other factors he maybe a tragic hero, at least in the
modern context, or partially suit one nonetheless.

To make the decision as to Whether Loman is a tragic hero or not, one
must define the term 'tragic hero' and reveal its development in
theatre over the course of time. The tragic hero first defined by
Aristotle in the Poetics, "...sees the rise of a noble character
(employing artistically enhanced language); presented in dramatic
form. Due to a character flaw and a seemingly unchangeable series of
events, their demise is met, resulting in a pitiable and fearful
scenario, leading to catharsis." According to Aristotle, fate and the
wish of the Gods played a large component in the falling of the tragic
hero and nothing at all could be done to stop this. On the contrary
some centuries later Shakespeare, whose collection of plays included
many tragedies, decided his plays would rely less on fate and more
blame would be attributed to the character involved and those
surrounding him. As time moved on to the 20th century Miller further
developed his own beliefs on tragedy, laying nearly one hundred
percent of the blame on the character. This was due to his disbelief
in 'forces below the surface'' but that rather forces at work, within
society, were more likely to be the cause of a victims downfall.

Willy Loman does not fit the tragic hero status but classic tragedy
does not always have to embrace the Aristotelian "fall of princes,"
idea. Although Shakespeare tends to follow this pattern; his education
may have led him to lesser liberal thinking. Miller believes it may
also include the modern common man. To relate Loman to the likes of
Lear, Hamlet, Oedipus, directly would be ludicrous but some
comparisons can be made. As Biff states Loman does follow "the wrong
dreams" but he does work and he is just able to provide for his family
and pay off the mortgage. However it is clear that even Loman's best
is not enough, this is shown by the result of the borrowing of money
from Charley. As salesmen are paid on commission Loman cannot be
faulted on this, as his age, work conditions and his mental state are
all core contributors to the fact he cannot make ends meet. The other
tragic heroes have faults of which are the trigger of their demise
i.e. Othello's jealousy. Likewise Loman has his own faults, his main
one being, and his belief in the American dream. The American dream is
a...

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