3 December 2010
Modern Day Tragic Heroes
Tragedy, according to Aristotle, “is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude” and causes pity and fear to be felt by the audience. With this in mind, what qualifies a character to be considered the tragic hero in this type of literature? These qualifying characteristics are defined in Aristotle’s Poetics and Arthur Miller’s “Tragedy and the Common Man”. They believe that there are several components to a tragic hero: the character must be noble or portray greatness, have a tragic flaw that causes his downfall, and the character must instill pity and fear into the audience. Two such tragic heroes in modern literature are, Willy Loman and Troy Maxson. The first characteristic that qualifies these two characters as tragic heroes is the portrayal of nobility or greatness. Aristotle believed that the hero must be noble or of a higher type, but to relate to the audience he must also be imperfect. He writes, “He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous” and be depicted “better then in real life.” Unlike Aristotle, Miller believed that a common man could make just as good a tragic hero as a man born of nobility; “The common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (“Tragedy”). For Miller, being noble is not a title bestowed upon you at birth, but a virtue in one’s own character; “The commonest of men may take on that stature to the extent of his willingness to throw all he has into the contest, the battle to secure his rightful place in the world” (“Tragedy”). Willy Loman was a man not of nobility, but a common man that depicted greatness. He was a man that, “in his human relations he had soared to what men are capable of” (Bierman). Louis Charles Stagg writes, “The play becomes the tragedy of a man with noble traits” and these traits are what makes Willy Loman great. Troy Maxson was another character that...