Tragic Heroes in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House

Tragic Heroes in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House

Length: 1701 words (4.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Tragic Heroes in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House


Dramatists such as Aristotle started to write a series of plays called tragedies. They were as follows: the play revolved around a great man such as a king or war hero, who possessed a tragic flaw. This flaw or discrepancy would eventually become his downfall. These types of plays are still written today, for example, Arthur Millers "Death of Salesman" and Henrik Ibsens "A Dolls House." "Death of Salesman" shows the downfall of the modern tragic hero, Willy Loman, a middle class working man. Nora, in "A Doll's House" displays that characteristics of a tragic hero, in that she shows potential for greatness, but is stifled by her society. Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman" and Nora in "A Dolls House" are two perfect examples that illustrate a tragic hero.


In "Tragedy and the Common Man", Arthur Miller discusses different criteria and definitions for tragedy as they apply to the common man. Miller's ideal tragic hero is one who "is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality," and when approached with a struggle, "demonstrating the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity." A tragic hero is willing to takes on the role of what makes the audience accept him as a hero when by his own virtue is worthy of their attention and perhaps respect. Miller's common man, Willy, fought the battle of life, by trying to make the best of what he was given, and by living life the only way he knows how, being a traveling salesman. Being prideful, and at times stubborn man, he loses some opportunities to better his life along the way, partly because of his pride, and partly because of the American lifestyle, Willy is still attempting to support his family, even at age sixty. Though we think of Willy as a classic tragic hero, his life is more pathetic and saddening than inspiring. His name implies he is a "low man", an ordinary man, whose dreams and expectations have been shattered by the false values of society he has put his faith in. His problems stem from his own delusions which result of his failure to succeed in life. Willy's obsession and lack of insight thwart all his relationships and cause him to betray his own set of values. His loyal wife supports him in both his fantasies and failures and her life seems to be entirely absorbed into his. Unable to achie...


... middle of paper ...


...n his world" (Para 14, Miller). Finally in the end, she begins to realize that her whole life has been a lie. Nora's rebellion was deliberate and well planned. She knew what was expected of her and she still did what she thought was right in her own mind. These qualities lie at the heart of Nora's heroic character. For Nora's heroically brave personality shows her confidence in herself and her absolute refusal to live a life where she is not in control of her actions. She flouted society's laws, worked hard, and is now about to reap the success of the action by handing over the final payment.

     In conclusion, Willy Loman and Nora are two ideal examples of tragic heros. Both Ibsen and Miller have showed how the common man such as Nora in 'A Dolls House' and Willy Loman in 'Death of Salesman' have emerged as a tragic heroes.

Works Cited:

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House. In Four Major Plays. Trans. James McFarlane and Jens Arup. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Seventh Edition. X.J. Kennedy, and Dana Gioia. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1999. 1636-1707

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Essay

- Societal appearance and acceptance is an utmost characteristic an average individual tends to underestimate. It may seem as if individual morals go against the social appearance, but in value, individuals perceive a need for an appearance to convey a sense of belonging. Within two diverse yet similarly realist drama's, A Doll’s House and Death of a Salesman societal appearance’s stands above all else. Henrick Ibsen's A Doll's House embarks on the gender fitting and domesticity of the Victorian Era at its worse as Nora Helmer's unrealistic marriage falls within her grasps, leading to rebellion....   [tags: A Doll’s House Essays]

Powerful Essays
1445 words (4.1 pages)

Essay on Deception of Family in Death of a Salesman and A Doll’s House

- Arthur Miller's classic American play, Death of a Salesman and Henrik Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House, expose dysfunctional families and behaviors. In these plays, the themes of innocence, guilt and of truth and are considered through the eyes of deception. Both plays tell us that most of us choose to play roles and deceive, not only those immediately, but distantly around us. In Death of a Salesman the father passes deception to his boys the next generation. A Doll’s House Shows deception in a whole different way....   [tags: Literary Analysis ]

Powerful Essays
1227 words (3.5 pages)

Essay Defying Social Constraints in A Doll's House

- I really liked this play along with the other ones we have read in class. However, this plays seems to stand out to me because it takes a feminist point of view. It is always good to go inside the role of a woman and see how they feel and act upon their own thoughts. Good literature helps us to learn about how other people think and act. Moreover, when we can relate the characters actions to our lives or the world around us the meaning is more personal and beneficial. For some reason, I feel like many women out there really do feel like Nora....   [tags: European Literature]

Powerful Essays
541 words (1.5 pages)

Pressure to Conform in Miller’s Death of A Salesman and Ibsen’s A Doll House

- Pressure to conform to the societal norms of a culture can often be so weighty that those who balk against it are likely to be crushed. Usually the world wins in a very few cases though, the individual comes out the victor, beating the odds, a stronger human being as a result. In the case of Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, the world devours Willy Loman in his search for the American Dream. It broke him down and eventually destroyed him. Nora Helmer, of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House, was also consumed by the world, but after being broken, fought her way free and defeated society’s expectations of her....   [tags: compare contrast essays]

Powerful Essays
1062 words (3 pages)

Willy and Nora in A Doll's House Essay

- Willy and Nora in A Doll's House Henrik Ibsens, A Doll House, is about how a family, particularly Nora Helmer, deals with an old secret that is about to become known to her husband Torvald Helmer. At the start of the play Nora is talking with Torvald. Nora begins to acting like Torvald's "little squirrel" in attempt to get money from him. At that time it is not known what she wants the money for, but Nora says it was for Christmas presents. The actual reason for the money is so she can pay on her little secret....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
604 words (1.7 pages)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller Essay

- The Crucible by Arthur Miller Arthur Miller was an American playwright who was born in 1915. He grew up in New York to a Jewish family. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1938 where he began to distinguish himself as a playwright. His first plays were Honors at Dawn (1936) and No Villain (1937) which won the University of Michigan Hopwood Awards. His Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer prize in 1949. Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953 during the McCarthy period when Americans were accusing each other of Pro-Communist beliefs....   [tags: The Crucible Arthur Miller Essays]

Powerful Essays
2316 words (6.6 pages)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller Essay

- The Crucible by Arthur Miller The play begins in a small town during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The play takes place in Salem, Massachusetts. The event takes place in the Puritan society. The community is portrayed as superstitious and gullible. The Crucible is based on a true story so the setting is real. Act 1 The Crucible starts out in the bedroom of Betty Parris, the sick daughter of the towns preacher Samuel Parris. The village people began to spread the rumor that witchcraft is the cause of Betty‘s illness....   [tags: Arthur Miller Crucible Play]

Free Essays
1029 words (2.9 pages)

Comparing Shakespeare' Julius Caesar, Ibsen's A Doll's House, and Miller's Death of a Salesman

- Tragedy's Problem From Shakespeare' Julius Caesar to Henrik Ibsen's A Dolls House, problem plays have taken form in character, plot, and even setting.  It is not necessary for a problem play to be considered a problem play just because it was not written in the time period of when problem plays were formed.  Arthur Miller disproves this theory and successfully wrote a problem play in the modern time period; his play was Death of a Salesman.   The timely struggles that characters such as Willy Loman face, eventually lead to a major personal problem that, in this case, leads to death.  Problem plays deal directly with social and professional issues.  Death of a Salesman is a prime example o...   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Free Essays
1138 words (3.3 pages)

Gender in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and Churchill´s Cloud Nine

- In my essay I’ve decided to examine how gender is presented on stage in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and Churchill’s “Cloud Nine”. More specifically, I will be looking at how both playwrights express the gender role of patriarchy in their male characters, Willy Loman and Clive. Gender, unlike the biological differentiation of sex, is a social condition that forms the basis of being a “male” or “female”. The role of patriarchy, as described by (renown feminist) Gerda Lerner, is “the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family” (1)....   [tags: patriarchy, father, son]

Powerful Essays
1283 words (3.7 pages)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller Essay

- Arthur Miller based The Crucible upon the seventeenth century witch hunts that took place in the community of Salem – a small Puritan colony near Boston, Massachusetts. At that time Salem was a theocracy in which Christian moral was interpreted by the citizens as supreme. Miller this play as an allegory for Senator Joe McCarthy and his notorious “Red Scare” hearings of the twentieth century which accused many high-profile Americans of being dissident communist. In both situations people were being accused of heinous crimes with not much proof....   [tags: Salem Witch Trials, Analysis]

Powerful Essays
802 words (2.3 pages)