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Analysis of Whether Willy Loman is a Tragic Hero in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

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Throughout history, literature and the way people interpret literature has changed dramatically. Different genres of plays including romance, action, and even heartbreaking tragedies that touch the reader’s heart have been shared for thousands of years. One of the most popular genres would be tragedies. A tragedy, as described by Aristotle, is a story that follows a protagonist who, over time, causes his own downfall because of his tragic flaws. However, times have changed and the way that critics interpret tragic pieces may differ than the way we used to back in the day. One of the most debated literary pieces is the play Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller. There is a constant debate regarding the main character, Willy Loman, and whether or not he should or shouldn’t be considered a tragic figure.

Willy Loman shouldn’t be considered a tragic figure because he does not have the characteristics and the right qualifications. Tragedies have been shared and told for thousands of years. They would always start off with the main character who is doomed from the beginning. Fate and their own free will lead that protagonist to his/her own destruction. However, throughout the story, the character would learn a valuable lesson about themselves by learning from their mistakes and their tragic flaws. Unlike many popular tragedies such as Hamlet and Oedipus Rex, it is argued that the main character in Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, is a tragic figure. However, Willy shouldn’t be considered a tragic figure because he wasn’t born with doom riding on his shoulders. His fate wasn’t written in stone. Willy’s actions and his tragic flaws are the reasons as to why he died. Willy chose to ignore the people that wanted to help him and he chose to be stubborn and act “childish and stupid”. Throughout the play, Willy’s only friend and neighbor Charley reaches out to him and offers him a job. The job is closer to home and easier for him to do because of Willy’s old age. However, Willy’s ego was soaring high and he replied with “What the hell you offering me a job for?… Quit insulting me”. If Willy accepted the job he wouldn’t have to lie about the money and it would have resulted in him and Linda living an easier life. If he was to be a tragic figure, fate would have caused his misfortune not his idiotic actions. The first characteristic of being a Aristotelian tragic hero is to be of noble birth. Willy is not born as a noble and is just a common man. However, he aspires to be noble and rich just like his brother Ben. It could be said that Willy Loman is a tragic figure, arguing that times have changed and that in order for the reader to connect to the character, he must be a common man.

The reason as to why Willy must be a common man is because the readers won’t be able to connect to a rich man unless them, themselves are rich. Arthur Miller, the author of Death of a Salesman, wrote himself that “that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were.” He wrote this to show that back in the day being noble and seeing kings was a common occurrence. However, now that times have changed there aren’t as many kings and nobles as there used to be. So as a result, in order for the readers to connect to the play, Willy should be a common man. However, just because times have changed doesn’t mean that a definition of a word should change as well. Tragedies have been around for centuries, and the definition of the word shouldn’t change because than it wouldn’t be a unique for of literary genre anymore. It would just be a constantly changing word. For example, if people were to change to meaning or name of a word or object because it is used in a new way, languages would constantly be changing. The word ‘horse’ for example, the words has stayed the same for generations but the usage of the animal has changed in more ways than one. So just because times have changed the meaning of a word shouldn’t either. And that goes back to the fact that wanting to be noble and being noble is two different things. Just because Willy thrives to follow the American Dream and become successful like his brother, it doesn’t change the fact that he wasn’t born as a noble.

In every tragedy, there is a major flaw that the main character possesses. It can range from greed, to being lustful, and selfishness. In Death of a Salesman, Willy’s hamartia is his inability to be satisfied with what he already has and chases his unrealistic fantasy. He believes that he doesn’t have to work hard for the American Dream in order for it to happen, he believes that he is entitled to it just because he lives in the United States. Although Willy does have a tragic flaw that helps lead him into his own destruction, Willy doesn’t learn a valuable lesson from it. In tragedies, both the protagonist and the readers must learn a valuable message that they can incorporate into their own lives. However, in Death of a Salesman the readers are stuck to really think about the message. And even if they learn something from Willy’s mistake, Willy didn’t learn anything himself. Willy literally dies as a selfish man. He thought that he was sacrificing himself to get insurance money, however at the same time he mostly wanted to show off to Biff that people will show up to his funeral. He wanted to show his son that he is admired by others and that his life wasn’t a complete lie. This shows that he wasn’t taught anything and his suffering only brought more suffering to others. In conclusion, Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is not a tragic figure. This is because he was not born of noble status and doesn’t even act like it. He is unrealistic and selfish. He is filled with tragic flaws that help drive him into destruction, however Willy was taught nothing throughout the entire play. Willy died as a liar and a selfish man who only cared about the thoughts of others instead of what actually mattered.

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Analysis Of Whether Willy Loman Is A Tragic Hero In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-whether-willy-loman-is-a-tragic-hero-in-arthur-millers-death-of-a-salesman/
“Analysis Of Whether Willy Loman Is A Tragic Hero In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman.” GradesFixer, 10 Dec. 2020, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-whether-willy-loman-is-a-tragic-hero-in-arthur-millers-death-of-a-salesman/
Analysis Of Whether Willy Loman Is A Tragic Hero In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-whether-willy-loman-is-a-tragic-hero-in-arthur-millers-death-of-a-salesman/> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2021].
Analysis Of Whether Willy Loman Is A Tragic Hero In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Dec 10 [cited 2021 Dec 9]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-whether-willy-loman-is-a-tragic-hero-in-arthur-millers-death-of-a-salesman/
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