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Is Biff the True Hero of Death of a Salesman?

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Introduction

Is Biff the True Hero of Death of a Salesman? The post war play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller could be viewed as a contemporary democratic tragedy. The play depicted over two Acts and Requiem, takes the audience on an emotional journey of a confused and 'lost' lo-man on the tragic road to suicide. Willy Loman battles with the reality and imagery of the Capitalist American Dream. To be named a tragedy it is important to look at what is meant by 'a tragedy' and then to analyse if the play fits into this category. I will look at the different characters to analyse Millers tragic hero 'Willy' and then look to see if Biff, Willy's eldest son is the true hero of Death of a Salesman. The definition of tragedy has changed over the course of time with its origins dating back as far as 350BC, when the Greek philosopher Aristotle introduced the concept of hubris, or a man's arrogance and hamartia, a man's fatal flaw. A tragic hero in the traditional Greek sense is where a king or noble man ultimately dies after making a wrong choice because of his fatal flaw and thus the tragic death of the hero affects not only the noble man, but his people and society too. Shakespeare continued this powerful use of tragedy in his plays such as King Lear and Macbeth and Miller, although a great fan of these tragedies decided to adapt a new conception, closely linked to its Greek origin in theatre, but with a modern twist that would reach out to his modern day audience. ...read more.

Middle

Now throw them out!" (pg25). The pressures Willy has put on himself to conform to something he is not, have led to his gradual breakdown and therefore Howard Wagner, the junior of the Wagner Company that Willy has loyally worked for, for 36 years can no longer offer him a position in the company and therefore has to 'sack' Willy. Quite ironic as Howard is a man much like Willy, in his way of thinking ultimately for his business and for his family, a man whom obeys the American Capitalist Dream. Miller allows Willy to escape from the harsh reality of his failings with the use of expressionism through subjective memories of his past, initially as happy memories and unknown to the audience if reliable or if they have been distorted by Willy, to give comfort to him for his flaw in his dedication to the wrong American Dream. Laughter from Willy is used throughout the play in memorable scenes, initially focusing on the possibilities and hope of Biff becoming a success for being well liked, and due to his sporting abilities, an undercurrent of the pressure Willy puts on Biff to succeed in the dream that he knows deep down he is not capable of achieving himself. The use of bright and open stage settings of the house show the audience that Willy is escaping through a good memory, an expressionism of his psychological vision of the world, that he has convinced himself and his family that is the true success of being an admirable American. As the play goes on Willy can no longer escape into the good memories of his past and the reality of his failings creep into the present. ...read more.

Conclusion

Biff hopes that with this honesty it will set the whole family free. Biff's epiphany and liberation to conquer the greatness of the American Spiritual Dream of equity, is a strong message from Miller to his audience. Freedom is available to all men whom face up to their flaws, and whom are courageous like Biff. Millers message is that those who are honest and true to themselves, rather than succumbing to conformity from the pressures of society, are the ones who will reach true happiness and contentment, whereby their souls are set free to the spirit of enlightenment. Death of a Salesman touches on contemporary struggles such as the unreasonable pressure to conform to material and social success. These issues would have been such that most working men and women could to relate to at the time the play was produced. Miller a man personally affected by the promises of the capitalist American Dream saw that he could use his play to reach out to his audience as escapism from the realities and pressures of the capitalist world. Miller also adapting the traditional sense of tragedy wanted his audience to learn a lesson, so he used his play to send out a message that people need to be honest with themselves and not be bound by the pressure of society. People must face up to their realities good or bad, so they can be free to live valued and happy lives. It is for this reason that we can look at Biff as the true hero of the play for his courage and understanding of his father's fatal flaw, thus allowing Biff and his audience to be free to embrace the endless opportunities of self discovery. ...read more.

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