Willy Loman Is Not A Tragic Hero Essay

Throughout the course of the drama, Willy Loman, a delusional salesman sinks lower into his depression and confusion, until he eventually ends his life. There has been much discussion on whether 'Death of a Salesman' is a tragedy, and if Willy is a tragic hero. Many critics question the supposedly tragic elements of the drama, citing Aristotle's definition of tragedy, and Shakespearean examples. Willy is often compared to King Lear, however it is often suggested that his misfortune pales in comparison to the well known tragic heroes. Arthur Miller considered Willy a tragic hero and as author, his opinions should be taken into account. Willy evokes pity and fear from the audience, and suffers due to his own fatal flaw, or hamartia, which Elia Kazan, the first director of 'Death of a Salesman', believed to be "neuroses and anxiety."

Literary critic, Professor Harold Bloom claims that Willy Loman is not a tragic hero by Aristotelian standards because he "does not fall from a great height, nor does he come to any realization of his complicity in the event."

Traditionally tragic heroes are men of high standing, princes, kings and generals, who fail and eventually die due to a fatal flaw, or hamartia. Aristotle would not have considered 'Death of a Salesman' a tragedy, because a tragedy must show a person who is worth serious attention. Willy Loman, an 'Everyman', is not worth the attention given him. However, as Miller himself pointed out, Shakespearean and Greek Tragedies were "enacted by royal beings but… apply to everyone in similar emotional situations." In the past stories had been written about characters of high standing, that were looked up to by the general public. Arthur Miller asked the important question, why? Why does a story have to be about someone who, buy...


Common Man as Tragic Hero in Death of a Salesman Essay

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Common Man as Tragic Hero in Death of a Salesman

What is tragedy? While the literal definition may have changed over the centuries, one man believed he knew the true meaning of a tragic performance. Aristotle belonged to the culture that first invented tragic drama – the ancient Greeks. Through this, he gave himself credibility enough to illustrate the universally necessary elements of tragic drama. In The Poetics, Aristotle gives a clear definition of a tragedy, writing that it is “an imitation, through action rather than narration, of a serious, complete, and ample action, by means of language rendered pleasant at different places in the constituent parts by each of the aids [used to make language more delightful], in which…show more content…

The fall of a king or a man of great power served as the basis for Aristotle’s perfect tragedy. As centuries have passed, however, the world has evolved into a place with very few kings, but does this mean the modern experience is devoid of tragedy?

With his 1949 play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller proved such was not the case. The story of traveling salesman Willy Loman, his feeble relationship with his eldest son, and his professional failure demonstrated that tragedy could be translated into the modern world. Although Death of a Salesman holds true to many aspects of the Aristotelian ideal with its linear plot and ultimate resolution, Arthur Miller did successfully challenge the definition of one of the philosopher’s tragic elements – that of the Tragic Hero.

The character of Willy Loman is true to his allegorical name. He is a “low man.” He is far from being a king or a nobleman, or a modern equivalent, such as a successful politician, a wealthy CEO, or a much-admired celebrity. He lives in a small, unassuming home, works at a tedious and under-appreciated job, and has difficulty listening, understanding, and relating to his sons. By Aristotle’s definition, he is the kind of person whose story, if it were recognized to exist at

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