• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Are Willy Loman and Oedipus Rex true tragic heroes?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The tragic hero should be the kind of hero in whom we can all see ourselves, and whose struggle we identify with. Neither Oedipus nor Willy is such a character: both are so hell-bent on following what is shown to be a clearly mistaken path of action that we cannot share in their suffering or misfortune. I do not believe that we cannot see or identify with either Willy or Oedipus' character. I think that both characters show both the best and worst aspects of humanity. Oedipus especially has admirable qualities that we as an audience would aspire to. It is interesting to note the opening: it is the only surviving Sophocles' play to open with such a mass dramatic scene. This was more common in dramatists such as Aeschylus' work. Sophocles' openings were usually more quiet and private. The scene opens with Oedipus addressing Thebes, and shows a paternalistic side to Oedipus. Firstly, the staging would have helped to enhance this paternalism - Oedipus is on the stage, raised above the orchestra where the chorus would stand, speaking down to them dominating the space. He refers to Thebes as 'My children' which suggests that although he is an authority figure, he is concerned about his people, and is compassionate. It is rare in Greek tragedy for rulers to address their people in this way. In the rest of his opening speech Oedipus is comforting and devoted. A modern audience would especially admire Oedipus for this, and this would help us identify with Oedipus. The ancient Greeks would also have likened him to their great, grand, ruthless but democratic leader Pericles - which would have increased their identification. Oedipus also has a degree of empathy: 'You suffer; yet, though sick, not one of you Suffers a sickness half as great as mine' This empathy shows a humane caring side despite his elevated status he is not at all different from his people. ...read more.

Middle

and woe for my misery' . In joining the chorus in song meter, he expresses with a new level of emotion and sympathy with humanity. This is in stark contrast to his previous commanding distance and he can now identify and stand beside mere mortal man - which he is himself. I think this is one of the most important parts of the play with regards to Oedipus being presented as a hero. We can identify with him because even if he did pursue a 'hell-bent' path he made it out alive - and can now empathise with the rest of humanity. A tragic hero must encounter a tragedy - or else they are not heroic, and I definitely can say Oedipus encounters a tragedy. Oedipus does not flinch or hide away from what he has dome - he speaks clearly 'And she that bore me has borne too my children'. This admittance and courage shows the endurance of the human spirit, Oedipus transcends suffering. The audience will feel a degree of optimism for humans - all is not lost in Oedipus Tyrannus. Oedipus, unlike before, now accepts his destiny 'My fate must take the course it will' and accepts it quietly and calmly. The audience do not see the common self-pity of the protagonist in this tragedy unlike others - e.g. Lear in Shakespeare's King Lear. Oedipus remains a tower of strength. Oedipus here highlights the best qualities found in humans. Aristotle stated that it is the quality of the hero's response to the peripeteia and the manner in which he confronts it that determines his essential worth as a tragic hero and gives him ultimate tragic status. Oedipus, in coming through the dark night of the soul, confronts his destiny with courage and bravery. This is echoed in Willy Loman, who never gives up his dream of success for him or his son Biff. ...read more.

Conclusion

We see however, later on in the play, that his attempts to kill himself are not because he is admitting failure, but to gain �20,000 in life insurance in order for Biff to become successful: 'It's twenty thousand dollars on the barrelhead. Guaranteed, gilt-edged, you understand?' he tells Ben in a fictional episode. Ben uses the sinister metaphor: 'The jungle is dark but full of diamonds, Willy' to describe Willy's suicide. This is perhaps a point in the play were I do agree with the expressed view 'hell-bent' on following a mistaken path. Willy has such determination that he will end his own life to secure some sort of success. I feel that here the audience would find it hard to identify with this - most of us would never go this far, and I think most of us would realise how success is not the most important thing in life. For Willy though, it is what he has based his whole life on, and like Oedipus, he wants to preserve that honour. Miller states that 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'. This perfectly describes Willy, and so, even if we cannot perhaps identify specifically with his struggle, we are still in the presence of a tragic hero. We could ask however, does Willy need to lay down his life for his personal dignity? It doesn't matter what we think, because for Willy, this is the only way to. I feel that Willy's path is certainly more hell-bent than Oedipus' in that Willy never gains self-knowledge or approaches an anagnorisis of what he truly is, Biff sadly states in the Requiem 'He never knew who he was'. Whereas Willy dies perhaps in vain, Oedipus survives the dark night of the soul, and accepts his destiny. This could be why audiences more readily see Oedipus as a tragic hero whom we can see the best and worst of ourselves in. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Other Criticism & Comparison section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Other Criticism & Comparison essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    The English Patient

    5 star(s)

    British Intelligence knew about Alm�sy's affair with Katharine the whole time. They thought Clifton's death in the plane crash was suspicious. The English had been waiting for Alm�sy in Cairo, but finally captured him in El Taj. Caravaggio explains to Alm�sy his own role in the war.

  2. Explore how 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' and 'Never Let Me Go' present the effects of ...

    Each novel gives the reader a totally different emotional journey through the lives of its respective characters. 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' is a story of a great many variations in mood. For example, we first meet Father Arsenios, the 'walking human globe', in a comedic context, with his huge mass being amazingly lifted onto the wall.

  1. Comparison between The Tell-tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and Misery by Stephen King.

    In misery what are also used to emphasize a point are superlatives like "in the grip of the greatest terror he had ever known". This superlative highlights how bad the experience was for Paul. I believe that The Tell-Tale Heart's use of repetition is more effective than Misery because not

  2. The enticing themes of human desires and dreams in the city acts as a ...

    to the idea of Marxism, where society within a city is split into two consolidating against the American Dream. The city is ambiguous - it has great control and authority over its inhabitants, casting an unforeseeable spell upon them, changing them into "animals" or villains.

  1. madness through king lear, the fool and edgar

    The violence of the imagery that the king employs reflects his state of mind. It is easy to see how Lear's insanity could be viewed as destructive; he has caused his kingdom's predicament through his rash actions at the beginning of the play, he has divided his family through his

  2. "Oedipus is an odd kind of hero, who shares many of Willy Loman's weaknesses; ...

    of fortunes brought about by the hero's hamarita, anagnorisis; a moment when the hero realises his own flaws brought about his downfall and the audience must feel dramatic irony for the character. As Aristotle was writing in a similar era to the one in which Sophocles wrote Oedipus the King, his criteria for the tragic hero should apply to Oedipus.

  1. Gatsby is more a ruthless criminal than an irresponsible dreamer(TM) How far do you ...

    this friendship for means of no end, so that he could manipulate it to his own advantage. Gatsby is a ruthless criminal in the way he creates a false persona. Kathleen Parkinson wrote: 'Jay Gatsby flaunts his wealth about through the parties that he holds and the lavish clothes that he wears.

  2. They f*** you up, your mum and dad Philip Larkin. To what extent is ...

    Therefore when it is requisite that both children tell their parents of their love, in the hope Juliet does not have to marry Paris, they cannot because of their estranged relationship. This miscommunication leads to a deceptive plot by Juliet to trick her parents into believing she is ?dead? by drinking a ?distilled liquor? which would give this impression.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work