English 1600-Spring 2011
Term Paper #1
Death of a Salesman: An American Tragedy
A greek tragedy is a story that involves a character with a tragic flaw that eventually causes and leads to their downfall. A tragic hero, according to Aristotle, is one who comes from a high background, with a high status and noble, valuable characteristics. The hero will eventually fall due to their tragic flaw, and will come to a tragic realization of the error of their ways during this process. Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller is indeed an American Tragedy, but the question is, is Willy Loman a tragic hero?
First of all, Willy Loman is not from a high background, but rather a common American man with a warped sense of his “American Dream”, including his successes and family. Willy’s problems all stem from his delusions about his life, career, and ability to be a good parent. Perhaps Willy’s tragic flaw in this play is that a man with so much potential loses everything by deluding himself into a downward spiral of failure, all the while lacking sense of reality and never accepting nor admitting to his errors.
Willy has always believed he is a well liked salesman. He said “I’m the New England man. I am vital in New England” (Miller 32). Periodically unable to maintain this image of strength, Willy despairs and pleads with successful people around him for guidance and support. Despite his efforts, it becomes clear that Willy Loman is not popular, well liked, or even good at his job. In fact, he never was. In all likelihood, he never will be. Because of his false belief about his success, Howard fired him. After he got fired Charley offered him a job, which he refuses to accept. Willy’s response to Charley’s first push to get Willy to take the job is, “I – I just can’t work for you, Charley.”(Miller 97) After Willy turns down the first offer, Charley again tries to get Willy to take the job and Willy responds by saying, “I can’t work for you, that’s all,...