An essay on whether willy loman in death of a sales man is truly a tragic hero or not

Essay by tigerdolphin January 2004

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Is Willy Loman a tragic hero?

According to the definition of tragic hero by Aristotle, the main points that need to be considered are 1. Noble birth. 2. Noble characteristics. 3. Position of power. 4. A single flaw. 5. A complete downfall. 6. That downfall caused by the single flaw. 7. A recovery. 8.The story must cause the reader/listener to feel: a) pity (for the downfall) b) awe (at the recovery) c) fear (that they may face a comparable downfall and be unable to recover.)

The first criterion for a tragic hero is hamartia, or a tragic flaw in the character's personality that brings about their downfall. Willy Loman definitely does possess a tragic flaw, and in his case it is pride. Loman cannot accept that he is a terrible salesman, a substandard provider, and suffering from mental illness. He borrows money every week from Charley, so that he can tell his family stories of his successful sales trips.

And yet he will not accept a job from charley though he is fired.

A tragic hero must have a mix of both good and bad qualities, predominantly good, so that they are more of a character that readers could relate to. Willy is a hard worker, although a bad salesman. He wants the best for his family. However he does have a few bad qualities in this story. For example, "the woman" who was with Willy when biff entered the hotel room. This affected both his children because seeing this, Biff turned worse and happy turned worse trying to be like Biff

Aristotle also believed that a tragic hero must be a character that readers would be inclined to have both pity for and concern for the character's well being. This is definitely a factor in this story.