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The Tragic Flaws in Oedipus Rex and Death of a Salesman


"Oedipus Rex" and "Death of a Salesman" are two examples of tragedies. In these two plays the characters are good, but not perfect, and their misfortunes are the result of their tragic flaws.

Blindness and vision are used as motifs in the play "Oedipus Rex," which are also the tragic flaws of the hero. Vision refers to both literal and metaphorical blindness. The frequent references to sight, light, eyes, and perception are used throughout the play. When Oedipus refuses to believe Tiersias, Tiersias responds by saying "have you eyes" and "do you not see your own damnation?" Tiersias also says "those now clear-seeing eyes shall then be darkened." The reference to sight has a double meaning. Oedipus is famed for his clear-sightedness and quick comprehension. He was able to "see" the answer to the Sphinx's riddle, yet ironically, he lacks the ability to see the truth about his own identity. Oedipus has become the very disease he wishes to remove from Thebes.

In "Death of a Salesman," Willy Loman is the opposite of the classic tragic hero. Unlike Oedipus, Willy is a ordinary man. His name implies he is a "lowman" whose dreams and expectations have been shattered by the false values of thesociety he has put his faith into. This simple characteristic makes him a tragic hero like "Oedipus Rex."

Willy is blind to the reality around him. This blindness, is his tragic flaw like that of Oedipus Rex. Willy is a dreamer who is unable to face the realities of a modern day society. Willy builds his whole life around the philosophy that if a person is well likedand good looking, he will be successful. Willy says to Biff, "I thank Almighty God that you are both are built like Adonises." Later, Willy makes the comment, "Be liked and you will never want." His need to be well liked is so strong that his choices throughout his life, and his blindness to the reality around him, prevents Willy from realizing his dreams and values were flawed.Because of his unwillingness to change, Willy dies at the hands of his own tragic flaw.

In both plays we have sympathy for both tragic heroes, but at the same time, we know that their downfall is brought about by their own tragic flaw. Blindness is not always the loss of sight, it is also not being able to see.

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