Overweening pride and a haughty personality are faults of conscience according to what Aristotle perceives to be a characteristic of a tragic hero. Driven by partial-realizations, Willy Loman was a man whose miserable reality of his life was distorted and that led down to his mortal sacrifice for his family. Aristotelian law on the nature of tragedy takes the entire plot as the beginning, middle, and the end of the tragedy (Raymond 1). When filing in the requirements of a tragic hero, Willy’s downfall was flawed from the start for not being able to attain a realistic point-of-view, but overall, the climax of the tragedy is centered on the second act in the restaurant. Willy’s pride and dignity is transferred to his son, Biff.
In fact, this downfall is caused by an error or a flaw in his character not by a vice or depravity. It can be said that Oedipus is a tragic hero because he has all the previous mentioned characteristics…(Glassberg)”. Oedipus was considered to be a good man in the beginning, but because of his tragic flaws this lead him to his downfall. He went from happiness to being miserable when he found out the
Tragic Heroes in Oedipus the King and Death of a Salesman The tragic hero is defined by Aristotle as "a great man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake” (Aristotle n. pag.). There are a few principles that Aristotle believes to form a tragic hero: the protagonist should be a person of power and nobility, who makes a major error in judgment and eventually comes to realization of his or her actions (Aristotle n. pag.). In Arthur Millers’ play, Death of a Salesman, he has twisted Aristotle’s belief of a tragic hero, and has created his own.
Even though fate victimizes Oedipus, he is a tragic figure since his own heroic qualities, his loyalty to Thebes, and his fidelity to the truth ruin him. In The Poetics, the greatest statement of classical dramatic theory, Aristotle cites Oedipus as the best example of Greek tragedy. According to Aristotle, Oedipus is a tragic hero because he is not perfect, but has tragic flaws (hamartia). Aristotle points out that Oedipus' tragic flaw is excessive pride (hubris) and self-righteousness. Aristotle also enlightens certain characteristics that determine a tragic hero.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary tragedy is a serious piece of literature typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror. Miller’s explains that a tragic hero does not always have to be a monarch or a man of a higher status. A tragic hero can be a common person. A tragedy does not always have to end pessimistically; it could have an optimistic ending. The play Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, is a tragedy because it’s hero, Willy Loman, is a tragic figure that faces a superior source, being the American dream and the struggle for success.
Brutus is a tragic hero because he is of high political standing, a poor judge of character and is enlightened of his mistakes. Throughout the tale of Julius Caesar's assassination we are able to view into a window of Brutus's life and watch as the Republic unravels. Flaws are what transform characters into tragic heroes. All tragic heroes possess a unique and individual flaw that brings their downfall. Shakespeare illuminates the flaw of Brutus as his uncanny ability in poor judgment and faulty reasoning that leads him to make the decisions he does.
A tragic hero brings his own demise upon himself due to a crippling character flaw. Willy Loman from “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller satisfies the criteria for a tragic hero because his pride leads to his downfall. Despite not being a man of high estate, Willy’s readiness to “lay down his life” (miller criticism) makes him a prime example of a modern tragic hero. Willy’s pride inhibits the success of his family by feeding his egotistical nature, idealism, and false value system. Willy eventually addresses these negative traits he possesses and sacrifices himself for his family, thus satisfying Death of a Salesman as a tragic play.
In Arthur Miller essay “Tragedy of the common man “he states “I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for a tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (Miller 1). Willy Loman is a tragic hero, just Oedipus, who to Aristotle was the perfect example of a tragic hero. Willy has many of Aristotle principles, Willy was the middle kind of personage, and he has a “tragic flaw” that ended up in his downfall. The fact that Willy was not nobility, does not take away the feeling of pity and fear, in fact it strengthen those feelings. In his book The Poetics, Aristotle states that a tragic hero cannot be neither good nor bad, a tragic hero must be “The intermediate kind of personage, a man not pre-eminently virtuous and just”(84) .
His external force is the change in the nature of business: success through reputation no longer holds true, eventually leading to Howard firing Willy. The last element is that Willy died with the fatal event of his suicide due to the fact that he believed it was a last resort towards his dream. Through the use of these characteristic and thematic elements, Miller is able to craft, to an extent, Willy into a tragic hero whose death was the consequence of his delusions of his dream. Willy Loman’s delusional dream continuously brings him into the past because he cannot accept that conditions of his current life. Willy incorrectly thinks that “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it — because personality always wins the day”, which is absolutely not true and causes him to be a poor role model for his children (Miller 65).
According to Aristotle, a tragic hero character can be defined to be of noble status, but not necessarily virtuous. There is some aspect of his personality that he has in great abundance but it is this that becomes his tragic flaw and leads to his ultimate demise. However, his tragic ending should not simply sadden the reader, but teach him or her a life lesson. In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby is the tragic hero who portrays the corruption of the American dream through his tragic flaw. His devastating death at the end of the novel portrays the dangers of centering one’s life on money and other materialistic things and warns the reader not to follow his foolish steps.