Common Man Tragedy in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

Common Man Tragedy in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

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The idea of dramatic tragedy is a classical one, discussed in Aristotle's Poetics. Before it can be established as to whether Miller really has written a tragedy or not, the very concept of tragedy must be investigated. Aristotle asserted, 'Tragedy is a representation, an imitation, of an action.1? He went on to outline the common features tragic drama must have. Tragedy has six elements, which, in order of importance, are: plot, character, thought, music, language, and spectacle. The plot requires peripeteia, anagnorisis, and cathartic effect. It must take place in one day, in one setting, with a unity of plot (i.e. all tragic, no comic subplot). The character must be ?good? (there is some debate as to the vague nature of this word), be 'true to type', be consistent in behaviour, be a great man (that is, to be representative of a whole society), and have one single tragic flaw. Thought is exactly that; the ideas that the speakers express in language. Music is also self-explanatory. As for language and spectacle, the development of these is the perpetual instinct of drama to struggle closer and closer to real life.

Willy Loman's character does adhere to the tragic hero guidelines to a certain extent. Rather than being a man who is a representative of a society, he represents society. His allegorical name of 'Loman' or 'Low-man' allowed Miller to twist the formula somewhat. He is true to type in that he dreams the American Dream, and subscribes to the desire for money and material possessions in capitalist society. Whether Willy is a 'good' man is debatable; his affair would indicate that he is not, his wife dotes on him, and Biff is crushed by the discovery of the mistress, so much so that he loses all faith in his fa...


... middle of paper ...


...illy is a victim of the society in which he lives, or a victim of his own poor judgement. ?Willy is not simply a victim of that success-mongering culture. Miller wishes us to see that Willy accepts the success value all too easily and completely. The play suggests that, along with our pity for Willy, we take a critical attitude.8?

Bibliography:

BROWN, J. R. and HARRIS, B. (1974) American Theatre ARNOLD

DOWNER, A. S. (1975) American Drama and Its Critics CHICAGO

KERNAN, A. B. (1967) The Modern American Theater SPECTRUM

KRUTCH, J. W. (1967) American Drama since 1918 BRAZILLER

LUCAS, F. L. (1972) Tragedy ? Serious drama in relation to Aristotle?s Poetics CHATTO & WINDUS

PORTER, T. E. (1969) Myth and Modern American Drama WAYNE

SCANLAN, T. (1978) Family, Drama, and American Dreams GREENWOOD

WILLIAMS, R. (1969) Modern Tragedy CHATTO & WINDUS

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