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Why should he be considered as a tragic hero? A tragic hero is one with the loyalty to die for a belief, but also someone who has a tragic flaw or constraint that defines him as a character and allows a tragedy to occur. The Aristotelian idea is that a tragic hero must be one of noble birth and must have certain characteristics before they can be considered as one; harmartia,peripetia and anagnorsis Miller argued time as evolved alongside people - "we no longer live in an era dominated by kings and queens so maybe our definitions of tragedy should change too." Changes to the characterization of a "modern tragedy" will also mean changes in the ideals for a "modern tragic hero." Despite many critics having said that Willy Loman doesn't qualify as a tragic hero Miller challenges them with one of his works "tragedy of the common man" where he clarifies that Death of a Salesman has an emotional impact on the audience that is so great that it corresponds to a Greek tragedy. However, Miller's concerns seem to be that of how the tragedy will impact a modern society and how they will interpret it.
I'm inclined to agree with the ideals of the critics that Willy Loman is not a tragic hero, even his name is an indication of his status within society; Loman-lowman further insisting that he is a mere commoner and doesn't have the status or ability to be considered a tragic hero as he is not one of noble birth. However I have to agree that he is indeed a tragic hero and suggest that even though he is without great intellect he was very self aware- he realized the fact that his life was unnecessary and meaningless so he took it upon himself to end it. Willy's tragic flaw is his interpretation of how to attain success and the American Dream.
"He is liked, but he's not well likedâ€¦ Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want."(Act 1) In this statement made towards Biff and Happy, Willy portrays his naive perspective on gaining material wealth. Fixated on his childish superficial qualities, Willy doesn't understand that hard work and patience are the keys to success, not being "well-liked." "He was eighty-four years old, and he'd drummed merchandise in thirty-one statesâ€¦he'd go into his roomâ€¦and pick up the phone and call the buyers, and with out ever leaving his room, at the age of eighty-four, he made his living. And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could wantâ€¦Do you know? When he died-and by the way he died the death of a sales man, in his green velvet slippersâ€¦ hundreds of salesman and buyers were at his funeral." Willy's admiration of Dave Singleman's popularity and ease of success further illustrates his obsession with being "well liked."
Willy Loman was greatly by his big brother Ben and his accomplishments and in his own way strived to be just like him "The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into the jungle and comes out, the age of twenty-one, he's rich." (Act 1) Ben had set the standards so high for him that his American Dream became the very thing that led to his destruction.
Willy's relationship with Ben sets the stage for his idealistic view of the business world. Willy is convinced that a life in business will lead to wealth. We have also seen that this flawed view of the world becomes a reason for him to treat Linda in a disrespectful manner; this gives us the incentive that the relationship between Willy and Linda needs to be examined, this exemplifies the ultimate result of Willy's passionate faith in the business philosophy.
It seems that Willy did not just adapt Ben's ideas for financial success but also his attitude towards Linda. At particular scenes of Ben's appearance he always mocks her concerns over Willy accompanying him to Alaska. Linda's concerns are dismissed as petty worrying from a woman who has no idea of how to make money. But regardless of how she is treated she stands by him and remains loyal to him and protects him ". I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."(Act 1) From this quotation we can ascertain that Linda is aware of the troubles her husband is facing and she wants those around him to become aware of it as well and be of help to him.
When willy realises that the American Dream has betrayed him he tries to advance himself but he is humiliated and made a mockery of by his young boss; his godson. He goes to ask for a raise but he is fired instead to which he replies outraged "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit."(Act 2) He is basically telling Howard that once someone outlives their usefulness you can't just cast them aside like they're nothing. "Only those that have a true understanding of the business world succeed in it. Willy is not one of those people, thus he fails at business. What is worse is that he brings his inadequate understanding of business home and applies it to the detriment of those he loves. Miller set out "to show the truth" about the dangers of applying the business ethic to family life and succeeds at making his point" (Arp and Johnson 1631). This is suggesting that his delusions and misconception of himself is what makes him so tragic.
Willy is forced to face his failure of philosophy. His inability to do so until the very end of his life creates the dreamy delusions of the attainability of the American Dream that Willy is relegated into believing in.