Death of a Salesman, Tragic Hero. Willy Loman.

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To what extent can Willy Loman be considered a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s rules?

Arthur Miller presents his play ‘Death of a Salesman’ in the ancient form of a tragedy. Aristotle has defined his idea of the ‘perfect’ tragedy in his text, ‘Poetics’ (350 BC).Here he suggests that the protagonist must fall from an elevated social standing as a result of a “fatal flaw” within the character; the fall from the main character creates resolution to the play which is seen as just; finally, Aristotle identified that the action of the drama should take place within a 24hour timeframe. An ancient play which is believed to be the perfect tragedy is Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. ‘Death of a Salesman’ is definitely a tragic play, but is Willy Loman, the main protagonist, a tragic hero? According to Aristotle a tragic hero must possess ‘Megalopyschia’, otherwise known as an elevated status. Willy Loman is an unsuccessful salesman of the late 1940s. He is not perceived to be ‘great’ or ‘noble’ such as other characters in traditional tragedies including Oedipus Rex, Macbeth and Hamlet all of which whom are kings. Willy’s last name “Loman” can be seen as significant as it may be seen as pun (low). Arthur Miller’s intentions for doing this would be to show how he meaningfully gave his protagonist a low status and in his essay ‘Tragedy and the common man’, he argues that “the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were”. This is an element of modern tragedies, for the protagonist to be anti-heroes and of a normal social class.

Secondly, the Greek characteristic ‘Hamartia’ must be present. Willy Loman’s Hamartia is seen to be his delusions which cause his failure in life. It is his that delusions cause him to misunderstand his job and his family, getting the truth and his dream confused as one. His dream can be compared to ‘the American dream’ which is a conception that any man can become something great so long as he has confidence and...
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