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How does Willy Loman conform to the notion of a tragic hero?

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How does Willy Loman conform to the idea of a tragic hero? To be considered as a tragic hero, a character must possess certain traits, such as having a tragic flaw, and some kind of noble standing - according to Aristotle. It can be argued that Willy Loman's only tragic flaw is a strong desire to be a popular salesman. On the other hand, Willy Loman is not of noble birth- he lives in suburban America, and works as a salesman. It could also be said that Willy Loman doesn't possess a fatal flaw- he has many. Even though the character of Willy Loman doesn't directly conform to a typical stereotype, it's worth considering how this character does play the role, within the context of the play, and to what extent. The audience is aware of Willy Loman's standing in society early on in the play. If it wasn't initially clear to the audience looking at the stage set-up, the name low-man reiterates Miller's point. He is definitely not of noble standing. Aristotle cites that the tragic hero should ideally be prosperous and renowned, so their fortune can reverse. Willy Loman is financially struggling- even though the family own luxuries, like a fridge, it's obvious to the audience that they cannot afford it, and their middle-class outward appearance is a fa´┐Żade. ...read more.


He compares a man to an orange and how you can't be used - "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away -- a man is not a piece of fruit!" -These are the kind of values Willy Loman stands by, and how easily they brought about his downfall. It's clear that during the play, society and changing values played a vital role in the downfall of Willy Loman, and it was not simply down to his own character. This therefore, suits Aristotle's idea, that in conjunction with a fatal flaw, the tragic hero has to be affected by some external source. A tragic hero should also possess a 'fitness of character'. For catharsis to be experienced, sympathy has to be felt for a character, and their predicament. Even though Willy was affected by changing society, his appeal is reduced when his extramarital affair was exposed. Additionally, he overlooks Happy for the play's duration. This should make it harder to empathise with this character- because the character is pursuing their downfall, rather than external factors, in conjunction with his tragic flaw. It could, however, be argued that these negative aspects to his character are all brought on by his tragic flaw, and the changing world around him. His affair could be to get him the feeling of self-worth and achievement that he craves for in his sales job, but is not getting, as a result of his own beliefs, and the harsh business environment which he's forced to work in. ...read more.


ancient Briton and that of the salesman of today is the same: each does not know himself and the world in which he is living.". Both these quotes address the fact that the characters are not aware of new society's expectations and values, which means their own outlook is unrealistic. Willy has a deluded set of aspirations, which he cannot achieve. King Lear too, suffers from delusion; he cannot distinguish fake appearances, from true reality. Both characters have trouble separating real life from their distorted outlook, which prompt their downfalls. While Eric Mottram's point is valid, in saying Willy isn't tragic - he suffers the same fate as many do, as a result of the society he's living in, making his emotions and actions unanticipated. You can argue that the affects on the character are definitely tragic, as an 'unjust' society is capable of corrupting any individual - in particular, a tragic hero. Despite challenging many of Aristotle's ideas, Willy Loman is a modern take on what a tragic hero should be, possessing a fatal flaw, and a reversal of fortune. Despite not reaching anagorsis, sympathy is still felt for Willy by the audience, especially as the character did not achieve anything by the time of his eventual downfall. Miller's own ideas for a tragic hero also justify Willy's traits, acknowledging him as a modern-day version of the 'tragic hero', whilst still sharing some characteristics. ...read more.

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