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Willy Loman, the Modern Hero in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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In Arthur Miller’s essay “Tragedy and the Common Man”, a picture is painted of a “flaw-full” man, known as the modern hero of tragedies. Miller describes what characteristics the modern tragic hero possesses and how he differs from the heroes depicted by classic Greek playwrights such as Sophocles and Aristotle. In order to understand how drastically the modern hero has evolved, one must first understand the basic characteristics that the heroes created by Sophocles and Aristotle encompass. The Greek tragic heroes, otherwise known as the protagonists, illustrated by tragic Greek playwrights, were never normal people. All heroes were citizens of high class, such as princes. This was due in part because plays were seen as a luxury for refined citizens. Aristocratic citizens did not want to pay to watch plays about the peasants of society. They wanted to relate to the characters; therefore, all heroes of Greek tragedy were elite members of society. An additional distinguishing factor of the Greek heroes dealt with their morality. A tragic hero of this time could not be someone who was morally dislikable, because the audience would not be able to relate to the character. If the protagonist was morally dislikeable, the play’s spectators would cheer during times of character turmoil and would be displeased when the character was in good fortune. Instead, the hero would have to be someone who fell in the middle of the morality spectrum. Midrange was identified as a person who was fairly decent and good, but who could make mistakes that would be considered wrong. A character painted in this light was easily relatable; therefore, the audience would become attached to the character, allowing them to feel the hero’s pain or joy. Most impor...

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...ot to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”

Willy’s heroism in the face of his life’s mediocrity exemplified his unwillingness to remain inactive while his life slowly crumbled before him. Willy’s death may not have secured him is dignity or everlasting admiration, but he died the death of a salesmen, and for that, what more could he have asked?

Works Cited

Gioia, Dana, and X.J. Kennedy. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.

Miller, Arthur. "Death of a Salesman." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. Joseph Terry. New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2007. 1764-1832. Print.

Miller, Arthur. "Tragedy and the Common Man." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. Joseph Terry. New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2007. 1833-1835. Print.
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