The Presentation of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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The Presentation of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Willy Loman is presented as both a tragic hero and an unconscious
victim in "Death of a Salesman". "Death of a Salesman" is very much
based upon the American Dream, and whether we are slaves or conquerors
of this dream. This is an idea that the playwright Arthur Miller has
very passionately pursued both through Willy's own eyes, and through
his interaction with the different characters in the play.

Firstly, the definitions of a hero and a victim very much influence
the way that Willy is viewed by the audience. Miller has not used the
play to suggest that Willy Loman is an ordinary hero, but more a
tragic hero. A tragic hero, simply by definition means that the reader
already begins to see Willy in a more sympathetic light. A tragic hero
is somebody who cannot forget his past, and so is destroyed by the
consequences of his own actions.

In order to picture Willy as a victim, again one cannot think of a
regular victim, but of an ignorant victim. This would mean that Willy
was completely unaware of his role as a victim in the play. It would
also imply that Willy was not in control of his own fate.

From the beginning of "Death of a Salesman" we see Willy playing the
very victimised role of the conformer. Near the end of the first
scene, as he speaks to his sons in one of his flashbacks he says: "the
man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates
personal interest, is the man who gets ahead."

This sounds very much like a typical business ideal, and one cannot
help but feel at this stage that Willy is taking on ideas from other
people ...

... middle of paper ...

..., because he still
thinks that he can solve Biff's problems with money. On the other
hand, wrong answers do not, and should not disqualify a man from being
a tragic hero. If we see tragic heroes as being those ruled by lust,
ambition or jealousy, and fully respect these forces; why not neurotic
awareness? In some ways, don't we ourselves live by the rules of Willy
Loman - that "liked" is very different to "well-liked"? Every ordinary
person is a potential 'watered down' version of Willy. Arthur Miller
is neither blaming this solely on society, nor is he presenting a
pathetic creature who is the author of his own misfortunes.


Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Seventh Edition. X.J. Kennedy, and Dana Gioia. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1999

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