"Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller.

Essay by snelliosHigh School, 11th gradeA+, April 2003

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Is Willy Loman A Tragic Hero?


In Willy Loman's character, Arthur Miller has created a stereotypical 1930's working class male. As his name implies, he is a 'low man', an ordinary person. Some might believe that he fits all criteria, as defined by Aristotle, necessary to be considered as a conventional tragic hero. However, others may disagree, arguing that Willy's self-deception and frequent moral lapses prevent him from being recognised as the true hero of a tragedy. In my opinion, even though Willy does not have the power, dignity or influence that usual tragic heroes have, he does qualify. Willy invokes a deep emotional response, due to his ever-resistant hope and respectable motives.

For instance, Willy's relentless pursuit of success, which could be seen as naïve, has not only affected his sense of his own worth but has dominated the lives of his wife Linda and his sons Biff and Happy. This determination to succeed, in order to support his family, makes Willy appear noble and admirable; a quality of a tragic hero.

In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller is not only criticising Willy's pursuit of the American Dream and success, but is also questioning the validity of the dream itself. Willy's dreams have been impaired by the falseness of his society, shattering his life. As Willy's demise seems inevitable because of this falseness, he is made more pitiable and his situation more tragic.

Furthermore, Willy is constantly aware of other people who are successful, which renews the idea of the American Dream. For example, the fantastical character of Ben and the achievements of Howard are idealised and exaggerated. Using these as his benchmarks, Willy can never achieve the success he desperately craves. In this sense, Willy is portrayed as a tragic hero.

Willy shows a devout...