Tragic Hero in Relation to Willy Loman

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The Aristotelian definition of tragedy is that a tragedy is the imitation in dramatic form of an action serious and complete, with incidents arousing pity and fear wherewith it effects a catharsis of such emotions. The chief characters are noble personages and the actions they perform are noble actions.


In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is the proclaimed “hero” of the story, a common salesman, whose life is slowly unravelling due to his failure at the American dream of commercial success.


Willy Loman is a character who emulates certain features of being a hero, but cannot completely fit the archetype.

Main Point: The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness. If the hero’s fall is to arouse in us the emotions of pity and fear, it must be a fall from a great height.


Willy Loman is not a man of noticeably noble stature but “It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time—the heart and spirit of the average man.” Arthur Miller is saying that since in our time we don’t worship kings anymore, we turn to look at the common man as our heroes in our everyday lives.


Some people believe that since Willy gives himself completely to his own personal struggle, that the intensity of his struggle/passion lifts him to a higher level (making him noble).


"So long as the hero may be said to have had alternatives of a magnitude to have materially changed the course of his life, it seems to me that in this respect at least, he cannot be debarred from the heroic role." (“Introduction to Collected Plays”)


"Although he has neither social nor intellectual stature, Willy has dignity, and he strives to maintain this as his life falls apart around him." (Abbotson 36)


Outside Support: Willy Loman indeed makes himself a tragic hero of sorts by his abundant capacity for suffering in the present action; by his fine resentment of slights, by his battle for self-respect, and by his refusal to surrender all expectations of triumph for, and through, his son. Willy is passionately unwilling to resign himself to failure and the cheat of days. His very agony gives him tragic stature within the recognizable world of middle-class realities, and it is surely true that the tragic hero is not tragic by status prior to his action in a play. Tragedy is no one's prerogative; it is, rather, earned damnation and redemption. The tragic hero makes himself tragic—by his struggle and suffering. (Gassner)


Text Support: I’m fat. I’m very-- foolish to look at, Linda. I didn’t tell you, but Christmas time I happened to be calling on F.H. Stewarts, and a salesman I know, as I was going in to see the buyer I heard him say something about-- walrus. And I--- I cracked him right across the face. I won’t take that. I simply will not take that. But they do laugh at me. I know that. (Death of a Salesman 37)


“[a] hero becomes one who safeguards his or her individual integrity at almost any cost” (Nafisi)


“Willy Loman represents the downfall of the american dream as it is traditionally viewed. The american dream is essentially a flawed concept, and Loman shows this in devastating fashion. He buys into the commercialism of society (buying appliances he cannot afford), only to find that when items are paid off, they no longer work. Loman does not see any error in his ways, fails to understand his crippling money problems, and when, in short monologues he admits defeat, he falls into a fantasy of the past. The past not being better, but being further from the desperate truth that he has no money, no prospects, and that the shining light of his son has fallen into the same fate.” (yahoo answers) (this will have to be put into my own words like extremely)


"It is easy to pity and even love Willy, who is our father, brother, cousin, friend. But never me." (Cohn)...
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