‘Willy Loman Is an Anti-Hero and an “Ordinary Man” Who Chased the Wrong Dreams.’ in Light of This Statement, How Are His Death and the Play Itself a Tragedy?

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  • Topic: Tragic hero, Tragedy, Drama
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  • Published : April 14, 2013
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‘Willy Loman is an anti-hero and an “ordinary man” who chased the wrong dreams.’ In light of this statement, how are his death and the play itself a tragedy?

Aristotle states that a tragic hero should have a high status in society whilst wielding some sense of nobility. The character must also have greatness and be of noble stature which should be apparent in the play. The protagonist of the play, Willy, is not obviously shown to have such qualities which could make him an anti-hero. However, there were those who feel that Aristotle’s definitions of tragedy are outmoded and more modern ones should be applied for a modern society. Modern tragedy has been defined as, “ordinary people in a tragic situation” which Miller’s play does as Willy is shown to be an ordinary man who has been caught in the system which leads to his tragic downfall. Conversely, some critics believed that due to the holocaust, “the tragic proposal seemed, perhaps ‘simply presumptuous – this making so much out of one death when we know it is meaningless’”. However, this argument does not really carry weight as nothing can compare to the holocaust. Also the unnecessary loss of even one life should still be seen as a tragedy due to the impact it has on family and friends which Miller highlights throughout. Also, Miller may be using Willy to represent a whole stratum of society misled by the capitalist spin on the American dream which shows that his play could be seen as a tragedy on a more universal scale.

Miller uses Willy as a device to expose the American dream in a negative light, counter the optimistic aspects that the dream entailed: guaranteed success and a better life. By creating Willy as a tragic hero, he showed the less publicised unsuccessful outcomes of the American dream. The founders of the American dream stated that with hard work and ambition you could succeed. However, this had been twisted due to the consumerist society in which Willy lived, thus sparking Willy’s false...
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