Tragedy And The Common Man By Arthur Miller Essay

Tragedy And The Common Man By Arthur Miller Essay

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When tragedy as a genre was first being put to the stage in ancient Greece, it was thought to be the exclusive domain of the rich or powerful. Characters who were able to have a loftier fall from grace were thought of as being more truly “tragic” in the ancient world. Oedipus, one of the most famous tragic figures of that period, was a king by both birth and marriage, which led to his tragic end. This tradition was continued through the works of William Shakespeare, the great playwright and tragedian. Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and Macbeth were all members of their respective countries’ ruling families (this is not to mention the obviously royal King Lear). Playwright and author Arthur Miller challenged this necessity of nobility in his essay “Tragedy and the Common Man,” in which he argues that normal people are just as engaging in a tragic setting as kings were (and are, in modern performances of classic works). He argues that “in the tragic view the need of man to wholly realize himself is the only fixed star, and whatever it is that hedges his nature and lowers it is ripe for attack and examination” (Miller). In his play, Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller uses the main character, Willy Loman, as a way to criticize the American Dream, and the way it was failing those who sought it. Willy’s unhealthy attachment to his perception of the American Dream (especially what he senses as a need to be well-liked) is the cause of most of the problems in the play. It can be argued that this definitely “hedges his nature and lowers it” throughout the course of the piece.
To begin, Willy’s name is symbolic for not only his place as a common character in defiance of the typical tragic mode, but also as a critique of the American Dre...


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... nearly as well known or well liked as he thought he was. Before killing himself, Willy dreams that Biff will be amazed by how many people from how many different places would turn up to mourn him. This is in stark contrast to the actual funeral, which consists entirely of his family and Charley. After their discussion, it doesn’t matter how many people like him, so long as Biff does. Or, rather, now that everyone in his life likes him, he can die happy knowing that he can do one last “big deal” for his son.
In conclusion, Death of a Salesman is not only Arthur Miller’s critique on the crumbling structure of the contemporary American Dream, but also the proof to his theory that the “everyman” can be a tragic character. In America, the idea persists that we are all created equal, and, by this logic, we should thus be endowed with equal ability to incite pathos.

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Tragedy And The Common Man By Arthur Miller Essay

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