Modern Tragic Hero Essay

Modern Tragic Hero Essay

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Death of a Salesman, considered as Author Millers most accomplished and successful plays, features the life of Willy Loman, a delusional salesman with a grandiose plan to live the American dream. As a result to the tragic events of Willy Loman’s life starting with his father’s abandonment, and ending with his suicide, Willy Loman never lives the life he has always dreamed. Although, arguably discredited as a tragic hero, Willy Loman attains the qualities essential to credit him as a tragic hero of modern times.
Whether or not Willy Loman is a tragic hero in Death of a Salesman’s has been a subject of controversy since the play’s first production. Traditional Aristotelian perception of a tragedy asserts that a tragic hero must be of noble descent by birth or soul (Nienhuis 2). However, Author Miller’s essay “Tragedy and the Common Man,” appeals the Aristotelian view, and insists “the flaw, or crack in the character, is really nothing—and need be nothing, but his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity.” Miller declares that in all tragedies a hero reflects a tragic flaw that need not come only through noble descent but through a fight to stay in one’s position. In the present time, traditional tragedy fails to evoke emotions based on a lack of first-hand experience with heroes of noble rank. Thus, the rank of a character “no longer raises our passions, nor our concepts of justice,” as it would have previously because we do not live in a time ruled by kings and queens (Miller, Tragedy, and the Common Man 3). Today emotions are evoked through the pain and suffering of the common man because as times change so do the persons that people can relate to....


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... considered pathetic. Nevertheless, Willy’s suicide cuts the deep into the emotions causing a feeling of sorrowfulness on his behalf because he vigorously tried to provide a great life for his family and never could.
In a final analysis, Willy Loman misses the mark, and does not fit Aristotle’s strict definition of a tragic hero. Despite the ancient definition of a tragic hero, Willy Loman appeals to our emotions, has several tragic flaws, and partially realizes his wrongs. Thus, Willy Loman is a common tragic hero in the present time. Times have drastically changed since Aristotle, and it is time for a change in how a tragic hero is perceived. Arthur Miller provides perfect justification for a common tragic hero he states, “I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (Miller, Tragedy, and the Common Man 3).

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