Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

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Arthur Miller’s drama Death of a Salesman is highly regarded as one of the best examples of a modern American play. Following the “certain private conversations” of the Loman family in New York, Death of a Salesman analyzes the detrimental aspects of pursuing the American dream while still retaining enough sentimental emotion to deliver a strong, heartfelt message on redemption. These and many other aspects of Miller’s play all culminate inside the main character, Willy Loman, in a way that makes him seem to some like a rendition of the modern tragic hero. Now viewed by many as a modern American tragedy, Death of a Salesman continues to connect with audiences but on a more emotionally established, dramatic level.

Embodying Aristotle’s qualities of a tragic hero, Willy Loman embodies the figure of such a hero so well that one critic has even described him as “our quintessential American tragic hero” and “our domestic Lear” (Oates). Much like the Aristotelian tragic hero, Willy is a character who holds power, as he is the sole worker for the Loman household despite the effort made by his two adult sons, Biff and Happy. Willy also remains noble through his experiences during the play, much like the tragic heroes of Greek drama who often struggled with imperfection. Even as Willy pleads to Howard about a potential pay raise, he admits that he “needs only fifty dollars a week to set my table,” showing both his humility and financial ambition (80). Willy’s actions are even amplified on a philosophical and spiritual basis much like those of the classic tragic heroes. Essentially a spiritual guide, Willy’s brother Ben acts as a mentor with whom Willy has delusional conversations with. In fact, the last conversation Willy has with his absent relative ends as Ben proclaims that his suicide plan is “a perfect proposition all around” (135). On the other hand, Willy is seen by some to “passively and even gladly accept the very conditions of life that will lead to his own...
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