The Tragedy of "Death of a Salesman"

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In the writing world today, there are many definitions for technical terms that are used to describe certain genres of theatre, music and literature. There are romantic novels, musical dramas, and tragic plays. Tragedy is a difficult genre to pinpoint and label. The title ‘tragedy’ can be placed on virtually any piece of writing that involves a death. But it also is up to the individual as to what they believe a tragedy is defined as. The play, Death of a Salesman is not tragedy in the traditional sense of the word. This essay will discuss this idea, define tragedy hero according to historians, and broaden the definition of tragedy to fit a modern society.

A tragedy is defined as ‘a piece of literature which contains somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction’ ( This definition does not fit this play exactly, because Willy Loman is not a person of much importance. He is a typical businessman who represents a large number of people who have tried to reach the American Dream without success. This dreams had a tremendous impact on his family. They affected his interactions with his children and ultimately, ended his life. The author of this play, Arthur Miller, subtitled the play “Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem”., a website that answers questions on literature, explained this minor detail and said, “A requiem is a ceremony created for someone who has died. Usually that person is a famous or important figure. That would certainly indicate that Miller meant for the play to be a tragic commentary the effect of the American dream of success has on American soci...

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...nition of these terms. Arthur Miller, the playwright of Death of a Salesman intended this play to be a tragedy; this is what it should be interpreted as. As seen by this essay, it is clear that there is no right and true definition of the genre tragedy; it is as open to interpretation as the literature pieces are. Willy Loman represents a society striving for the American Dream, although he is of little importance in the standings of life. He is not popular or well-liked despite his hopes and dreams. He is a tragic hero who participated in the tragedy of Death of a Salesman.

Works Cited

"Is Death of a Salesman a Tragedy - Death of a Salesman Group." ENotes - Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.

Miller, Arthur. "Tragedy and the Common Man." Print.
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