Arthur Miller, the author of the essay titled “Tragedy and the Common Man” examines the definition of tragedy. Miller was also the playwright of “Death of a Salesman” which psychologically exploits a common man attempting to encapture the American dream. Miller’s theory pushes the limitation on the ideal of a tragic hero examined in these two pieces of literature. The following paragraphs will evaluate characteristics of a protagonist character named Willy Loman, examining his status in society, shortcomings and his choice to sacrifice his own life for his dignity.
A common man is someone who lacks a distinguishable rank or status, shows emotion and is deemed ordinary by society. Miller states “[the] common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (Tragedy and the Common Man). He examines all aspects of the common man as being deemable of the title of a tragic hero. Nobility is not a required aspect of a tragic hero. If that were true, all suffering would only relate to those with higher status which is not the case as defined by Miller. Common men experience the dreaded feeling of comparing oneself to those who they are surrounded by, Willy is no exception as he is a common man. Willy can often be seen comparing himself to other successful people, such as his older brother Ben a successful businessman. It is especially apparent that Willy compares parenting of his eldest son Biff to Charley 's son Bernard when he asks Charley: “And you never told [Bernard] what to do, did you?”( Death of a Salesman 1255). Willy asks this as he learns that Bernard has reached success in his life and is on his way to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Desp...
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...moment. After a incoherent conversation with his dead brother Ben he asks: “Can you imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in [Biff’s] pocket?” (Tragedy and the Common Man 1276). Willy sees this as an opportunity to allow his dignity to survive through Biff’s success if he were to receive twenty thousand dollars.
When compiled the definition of a tragic hero and the protagonist character Willy Loman, both created by Arthur Miller are seemingly fixated on expressing the true meaning of a tragic hero. The characteristics of the average, the struggles faced by all force only a tragic hero to regard their sense of dignity by committing the irreversible decision of death to protect it. With an expanded interpretation on the meaning of a tragic hero anyone has the potential to be a tragic hero, yet only few choose to question what is in front of them.
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