Print Сite this

Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”


In the two plays, “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman” there are many parallels. One major parallel is courage and cowardice. The main characters of both plays are classic tragic men, and the themes center around the wisdom to see the truth and the courage to face it. Oedipus has the courage not to take the easy way out, while Willy Loman commits suicide rather than admit he is a failure. In “Oedipus Rex” Jocasta takes her own life, which was permissible for women in Greek tragedies since they were allowed weakness. In “Death of a Salesman” it is Linda Loman who has the courage to persevere. Though both of the courageous characters, Oedipus Rex and Linda Loman, have many faults, lack of courage is not one.

Our experts can deliver a customized essay
tailored to your instructions
for only $13.00 $11.05/page
308 qualified specialists online
Learn more

Main body

Oedipus is proud and arrogant, thinking he is even above the gods, so he fails to ask for wise council at a critical time when he is told by the oracle of his future fate. Linda Loman, on the other hand, continues to support her husband in spite of all his faults. She even shames the boys after they mistreat Willy so badly at the restaurant, and she might have spoken up sooner and asked Willy what was wrong, but she was raised not to question. Oedipus is fated to suffer greatly long before he is born, because his father, Laius, is cursed and he, like his son, thinks he can avoid his fate through his own willpower. He continues to share a bed with his wife, even though the oracle predicted he would father a son who would kill him. Once he and Jocasta became drunk and a son was the result, the foolish man sent someone else to murder the child in order to prevent the curse from being fulfilled. Jocasta was possibly a little less than maternal in not objecting to this. However, because Laius did not take responsibility himself for dispatching his son, the boy is spared and does, indeed, kill his father.

The death of Laius was also not an act of cowardice, though it was an act which could have been avoided if Oedipus had not been so arrogant and proud, as he could easily have let the other man pass first. Just as Laius did not avoid sleeping in the proximity of his wife, Oedipus did not avoid killing men, and both their fates were sealed by their arrogance. It is said that both he and his father helped to fulfill the curse by the very acts with which they thought they could avoid it. In his own way, Willy Loman was also arrogant, but he never showed much courage. He never had the courage to face the truth of the lives and talents of his children, much less his own. He lived in ignorance and delusion because he could not face the truth. He could not even face the truth that the world had changed and left him behind, even though he had the proof of it whenever he looked around at how his house had become surrounded by skyscrapers so that no sun penetrated to the yard. Instead, he planted a garden. When he finally had to see that his boys were not the great successes he had pretended they were and that he was also a failure, he could not face the future and committed suicide, thus taking away the only thing Linda ever wanted.

When Oedipus finally is confronted with the truth, and he discovers that Jocasta has committed suicide he faces up to it. He blinds himself in sheer horror of seeing his parents in Hades. He vows to try to make amends by living out his life as a poor blind beggar. He truly sees the truth, where Willy never did. While Willy Loman leaves his wife and children without thinking about what they want or need, Oedipus thinks very much about his children. He knows that the boys will be ok, but he fears that the girls could be turned out into the street and that nobody will ever marry them, because their blood is tainted. So he begs his brother-in-law/uncle to care for them and demands to be exiled to the desert. However, Creon has to remind him that he no longer has any say in what will be done, and sends him inside until he hears from the god what to do with Oedipus. Even to the last, Oedipus is not defeated: he clings to power.


These two tragedies are centered around the themes of courage, cowardice, emotional blindness, and wise vision. Oedipus is blind from the beginning, though he has eyes that can see. When he finally sees truthfully and acquired true vision, he blinds himself in expiation. Willy Loman is blind from begging to end. He never sees the truth of his life, and he stays true to the character when he runs away and kills himself. He must have known he was not facing the truth, but he ignored it rather than face up to making some change.


Miller, Henry, 1951?, Death of a Salesman, The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Web.

Sophocles, 2008, Oedipus Rex, f. Storr translator, The Internet Classics Archive. Web.

On-Time Delivery! Get your 100% customized paper
done in
as little as 3 hours
Let`s start

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2021, September 25). Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, September 25). Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”.

Work Cited

"Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”." StudyCorgi, 25 Sept. 2021,

* Hyperlink the URL after pasting it to your document

1. StudyCorgi. "Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”." September 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”." September 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”." September 25, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Heroes and Cowards in “Oedipus Rex” and “Death of a Salesman”'. 25 September.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.