Is Willy Loman a Tragic Hero?
A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in language with pleasurable accessories, each kind brought in separately in the parts of the work; in a dramatic, not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions.” (Imgram Bywater: 35).
The play ‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller discusses the story of Willy Loman, a sales man who has to visit many different cities for his job. Willy, who used to be a famous and successful salesman, has somehow lost the karma. He is going through a phase of his life which cannot be regarded as anything else but tragic. A phase in which Willy has been facing failures and his family life as well as social life are not going too well. The story revolves mainly around a family which has seen the all the ups of the life and were now going through the downs. Willy Loman is the head of the family and once a successful salesman was going through the phase which had affected all his family including his wife Linda and his two sons Biff and happy. Biff and happy were once very good students at school but due to Willy’s lack of interest in their studies and encouraging them take more part in sports rather than studying helps them in nothing but to drop out of the school.
Willy had lost his job and his son Biff couldn’t get the business deal he proposed push them into an argument which takes Willy into a flashback where he sees his son catching him with a young girl on a sales trip and this increases Willy’s depression and makes him realize that his sons do not love him or care for him anymore. On the other side Willy’s family is worried for him as he had been trying to commit suicide before and all of them were too afraid to confront him or to ask him the reason for his depression. His sons knew that he had been going through a phase of degeneration as they had seen him talking to himself and his imaginary brother. That night after the argument Willy comes back home and Biff, while trying to get things back to normal with his father ends up in another argument.
“I am not a leader of men, Willy, and neither are you. You were never anything but a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them! I’m one dollar an hour, Willy! I tried seven states and couldn’t raise it. A buck an hour! Do you gather my meaning? I’m not bringing home any prizes any more, and you’re going to stop waiting for me to bring them home!” Biff says this to Willy while arguing with him. Willy is shocked that Biff thinks so lowly of himself not realizing that what Biff says is true” 9Arthur, Death of a Salesman 1949)
Willy stills thinks after the argument that his sons love him and they do care for him but he also realized that it was too late for him to do anything for him so as a last gesture he smashes his car and commits suicide but tragically his funeral was attended by no one but his family and his brother Charlie.
“As a general rule, to which there may be exceptions unknown to me, I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing–his sense of personal dignity. From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggles that of the individual attempting to gain his “rightful” position in his society.” (Arthur Miller 1949)
As Miller’s essay clearly signifies the definition of tragedy and its occurrence in human life, we can say that the character of Willy Loman in his play ‘Death of a salesman’ is surely tragic. He laid down his life to save his dignity as he clearly knew there was nothing he could do for his family but to give them the money of his insurance by crashing his car and committing suicide. The tragedies of Willy Loman were evoked by the presence of his two sons with him who were also not very happy with their lives and seemed to be blaming their father for not guiding them to the right path and telling them the difference between right and wrong. Hence in the light of miller’s essay ‘Tragedy and the Common man” and Aristotle’s poetics Willy Loman’s character in the play can be regarded as a tragic hero who had seen everything and his life ended because of nothing but failures
“Death of a salesman” by Arthur Miller
Tragedy and the Common Man” by Arthur miller