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Tragic Hero in A Death of a Salesman

The Death of a Salesman is play written by Arthur Miller that touches upon the analysis of the downfall of an ordinary man. The play submits a more democratic interpretation of the ancient form of the tragedy where the main hero is in decline since he harbors misconception pertaining to his incapability of greatness. The protagonist, the salesman Willey Loman, is depicted as a tragic hero in classic tradition of ancient Greece. The play also reveals post-war imaging of the American dream by which Loman is extremely obsessed with the achievement of the “right” life.

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Willey Loman, a sixty-three-year-old salesman, is helpless when facing the failure. He rejects to recognize the possibility of it thus flashbacking to the past in order to find the actual reasons of his downfall. Loman searches any hints for the moment when he chose the wrong path. He is constantly asking himself: “When the hell did I lose my temper? I simple him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?” (Miller, 15). The renunciation of reality and time did allow him to recognize the fact that he should accept his age and to fight against the time.

The time perceived by Willey Loman allows the reader to witness the contrast between the present and the past that simultaneously emerge in his life. Moreover, the past becomes his imaginary present whereas the real present does not exist. His memories, which are enhanced by the characters in the play, create a negative emotional charge that hampers much his perception of time. This confrontation proves that Willey subjectively treats the events so that the audience may differentiate the difference between the truth and a truth, as Willey sees it.

Regret for lost time makes Loman lose his mind and condemn the younger generation that reminds him about the time that had slipped away through his fingers. Biff Loman, the eldest son of the salesman, only evokes his pipe dreams and detached him from reality. Being a father, he expresses his resentment when his sons live against his expectations. He is reluctant to understand his children’s problems thus concentrating only on his own ones.

The materialistic outlook on the happiness destroys Willey Loman. Originated from the lowest working class, he is doomed to be a failure since his distorted vision of success prevents him from realizing the moral values and the real concepts of a happy life. That situation is aggravated by the capitalistic world he lives in where there is no place for clear virtues. In that regard, the writer argues that Loman is a tragic hero and the play itself is a tragedy since tragic hero usually sacrifices himself to order to save his dignity and self-respect. Therefore, Miller considers the protagonist tragic owing to Loman’s unwillingness to accept the real vision of success.

To enhance the pessimistic motives in the play the author fills it with symbolism and impressive description suggesting the Loman’s actual existence beyond the tangible reality. Hence, in the play the writer introduces the subjective world imagined by the protagonist regarding it as an objective expression of the world. The mixture of realistic and nonrealistic elements gives the reader a better idea about the moral state of the hero.

The assumption arising from the above is that Willy is not a model of a classic tragic hero; he is much closer to a concept of contemporary tragic figure that embodies all the vices a human might possess. Hence, the tragic status acquired to Willey Loman makes possible to consider himself unlucky. Instead of doing something, he claims he is not gifted and therefore he is not apt to earn money. Moreover, the protagonist ignores the opportunity to gain money and since he is mostly concentrated on the pessimistic results.

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The pessimistic motives in the play also constitute the tragic fate of the protagonist. In the end of the play, Willey dies, as it is a logical outcome of classical tragedies. Nevertheless, with the help of the death he confirms his own visions of the true values in his life. He dies to obtain the insurance payment since, as he believes, money is the only value that worth living. Still, the hero is tragic indeed since his death is the sacrifice for he his beliefs that betrayed him.

In conclusion, the story uncovers the truth as the writer sees it. Regarding this play is a real tragedy as Willy Loman fails to perceive that the happiness has not material basis but moral. The refusal to overcome the barrier of misunderstanding separates him from his own family and makes him unhappy and solitary. Moreover, all deeds accomplished by him make him feel guiltier. His fidelity to the American dream involves him in to the illusion where other characters are wealthy since they have luck and talent. Willey is assured that he is deprived of that since he does not deserve that. The distance between the reality and Willey’s recollections helps to be aware the veritable tragedy of the character’s downfall.

Works Cited

Miller, Arthur Death of a Salesman. US: Viking Press, 1964.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 7). Tragic Hero in A Death of a Salesman. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/tragic-hero-in-a-death-of-a-salesman/

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Tragic Hero in A Death of a Salesman'. 7 November.

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