“I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” ( Tragedy and the Common Man). Arthur Miller follows his Millerian conventions of tragedy in the writing of The Crucible. Often literature uses tragedy to display a depressing theme represented by the tragic hero.
Death of a Salesman, a play written in 1949, by Arthur Miller, has been Miller’s most famous work thanks to how relatable the play can be to almost every citizen in America. The play is told from the point of view of the principal character, Willy Loman. The play examines Willy’s perception of success, and the conflicts that his perception creates in his household. Having a wrong perception of likeness, lying, and cheating can lead to an individual to make decisions that can be irreversible and have many consequences. The family of Willy Loman is an example of how the life of each one of the members of the family can be defined by the mindsets of only one person.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller: Willy Loman is NOT a Tragic Hero
In The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, it is argued weather that Willy Loman is a tragic hero. There are cases for both classifications of Willy. By definition, a tragic hero is a person born into nobility, is responsible for their own fate, endowed with a tragic flaw, and doomed to make a serious error in judgment. The tragic hero eventually falls from great esteem.
So, Willy Loman, in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, is a tragic hero because of his aspirations to be great, his tragic flaws, and his tragic downfall. Tragic heroes are very important to many texts such as Willy was to Death of a Salesman. Victor Perry explains that a tragic hero, “shows a magnified version of the consequences of that fatal flaw, as a hero 's life can be 'writ large '.” Audience members can oftentimes relate to these tragic heroes which also adds to their importance. They connect the audience to the
The Sovereign and the Serf
In Tragedy and the Common Man, Arthur Miller is correct in stating that a common man is just as apt a subject for tragedy as nobles through the relatable nature between the hero and the reader. Anyone can have a fatal flaw that challenges their nature and true purpose, regardless of their social standing. Furthermore, readers can better comprehend the morals and meanings of tragedy by relating to a common hero.
From classic to modern tragic literature, the tragic heroes possess a fatal flaw with repercussions that can relate to many people. First, tragedies are diverse in the sense that the tragic heroes have traits and situations familiar to readers.
The play, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, is a powerful portrayal of a man that is fighting with illusion that he has created about his life and the delusions that haunt him at the end. The story takes us into the home of Willy Loman, an aged and weary salesman that is barely hanging on to his identity and dream. Along with Willy are his wife, Linda, and his two sons, Biff and Happy that struggle to keep as sense of family as they bitterly fight with one another. The lack of success and family are incredibly hard on Willy, as he has lived by a simple premise, a motto, to be well liked. This idea of likability filters throughout all of the other aspects of Mr. Loman’s life and as he grows older he fails to understand that he is living a lie. The illusion of self worth, through being liked, affects everything in Willy’s life from his work to the dysfunction of his family, and is the fueled by his wavering hope in the American dream.
Northrop Frye states in his book Anatomy of Criticism that the tragic hero is “on top of the wheel of fortune, halfway between human society on the ground and the something greater in the sky”. The book also declares that tragic heroes are “inevitable conductors of the power around them”, and conductors may be victims as well as instruments of destruction (website). Willy Loman, the epitome of a tragic hero, brings suffering upon not only himself, but others, including his wife and sons. Willy establishes Northrop Frye's definition of a tragic hero through the suffering of both himself and his friends and family, and this suffering contributes to the great tragic vision of the play as a whole.
Willy gets it from all sides; primarily his conflict is with Biff but also Charley, Howard, and Bernard. He is an average man who truly believes he is better than those around him, and that his sons, especially Biff, are greater still, but people, he has very little respect for, are all more successful than he is. Biff starts out like Willy perhaps but comes to the realization that being an average man is okay. Willy never comes to that conclusion; in fact he decides he is more valuable dead than alive.
In Arthur Miller’s essay about “Tragedy and the Common Man,” he argues that the common man is as appropriate a subject for tragedy as the very highly placed kings and noble men. Mankind keeps tragedy above all forms because they are given the same mental abilities as the nobles. In “Death of a Salesman”, Willy Loman is a common man and a middle class worker, enough saving to provide food for his family. So if the tragic hero can be a common man, does Willy fit in that category? Even though he is a common man he fails to live up to the standards of being a tragic hero because he never accepts nor admits to his own errors. He, therefore, loses his dignity. One of his biggest errors is his failure of be a good father.
Arthur Miller was a young adult during the occurrence of the Great Depression. This national tragedy shaped Miller’s view on human existence and showed him true human vulnerability in the modern era. The Great Depression presented Miller with the notions of how mankind attempts to compensate for our downfalls by always having security in our sense of personal dignity. From the experience of his own father losing everything in the stock market crash of 1929, Miller was inspired to write a new kind of tragedy, the tragedy of the common man. But even more than just focusing on one man and his particular problems, Miller believed every play he was writing was a commentary and criticism on societal issues. Many critics found offense in Arthur Miller’s portrayal of Death of a Salesman’s protagonist, Willy Loman, as a tragic character. These critics commented on Willy being “too little” or “too common”. It had been generally thought tragedies could only involve people of nobility or pow...