We as readers have too often become one-sided on a particular topic and failed to consider other possibilities. Even today, over fifty years after Arthur Miller's essay Tragedy and The Common Man; we still associate tragedy with the highborn and their plights. However, Arthur Miller stimulates our minds by explaining that a tragic hero can and should include the common man. He defines a tragic hero as one who attempts to "gain his 'rightful' position in his society" and in doing so, struggles for his dignity.
"...From this total onslaught by an individual against the seemingly stable cosmos...from this total examination of the unchangeable environment comes the terror and the fear that is classically associated with tragedy."
Miller explains that a tragic hero is created when he begins to observe the harmonious universe and realizes that he cannot change this balance, because he starts to panic and worry about what his purpose is in life.
By fearing displacement, the next step taken by the tragic hero according to Miller would be a struggle to "evaluate himself justly". Willy measures his success with Biff's and we can see that towards the end of act one. He agrees to see Howard (his boss) about the raise only after Biff promises to attempt to get his life back in order. At the end of the first act, we see that Willy has struggled to gain his position in the world through his son's popularity, now that he realizes he could never be a successful salesman again. Even Linda tries to convince the reader of Willy's effort when she explains to him about Biff, "I think if he finds himself, then you'll both be happier."(P 15) Willy then confronts Howard about his need for more money and reminding him of his once winning personality, "Howard, I never asked a favor of any man...Your father came to me the day you were born and asked me what I thought of the name Howard..." (p 80). He starts to show his need for his dignity, which is an important aspect of a tragic hero according to Miller's definition.
He shows embarrassment when Howard criticizes him. He refuses a job offer from his friend Charley. All these factors lead to his downfall, as the reader can now clearly understand why
In that definition of the tragic flaw lies a sense of optimism, an adjective not usually given to tragedies. Arthur Miller feels that they should be considered optimistic in that a tragedy "reinforces the onlooker's brightest opinions of the human animal". His essay is the perfect accompaniment to one of his greatest works. Truly,