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Arthur Miller's Tragic Heroes

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Introduction

Arthur Miller's Tragic Heroes Introduction During and after the Second World War, Arthur Miller, American Novelist and Playwright, wrote three of his most successful plays: All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and A View from the Bridge. These three beautifully tragic plays, are considered by many to be the epitome of all critical analyses using as a basis; the American culture and the American Dream. He does this by using tragic heroes, who on the one hand demand our sympathy, yet on the other we despise them. Background Arthur Miller wrote all three of these books after the Second World War. This was the time in which McCarthyism was started; an attempt to contain all forms of communism, especially in the public eye. This resulted in many authors, playwrights and actors, including Miller, to be blacklisted, and consequently contributed to much of Millers diatribe against the "Land of the free" (ref). It can also be said that Millers own unfortunate life, was another of the main factors that caused him to focus on the tragedy of the common man. He himself said in an essay that he wrote in 1949: "I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense"(ref). Miller found that not nearly enough of the books of his time were about tragedies in everyday situations, that it was a topic that was considered above the common man, reserved for the tragic heroes of Shakespeare, such as Hamlet and Macbeth. ...read more.

Middle

The second narrative strand consists of the attempt by George and later Chris, to find out what really happened at Joe's factory in the autumn of 1943. As stated before, Miller thought that the common man was the most eligible person with which he could create a tragic hero. With this in mind he set out to make his characters tragic heroes, giving them what he called "a tragic flaw", a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated characters, nor is it necessarily a weakness. In Miller's plays, these flaws are not major cracks in their characters, they are on the contrary are something as simple as having too much faith in a system that lets them down when they both need it. This philosophy of Miller, gives us a lot of insight into the characters, and also their actions. Joe Keller, the protagonist, is a man who loves his family above all else, and has sacrificed everything, including his honour, in his struggle to make the family prosperous. His fundamental flaw however, is that he is not a man who sees the bigger picture of life, that the whole of mankind is a ''family'' that deserves just as much consideration, if not more, than his own family. He also feels as though the ''system'' will protect him, seeing as he was able to trick it. ...read more.

Conclusion

The second reason is that it is divided in two 'sections' that run parallel to each other in Willies mind: the present, and the past (Willy's memories). Willy has numerous flashbacks during the play, mainly where he describes an event which had a strong impact on his life. One example of such a flashback would be when Linda is trying to comfort him, and suddenly he is a hotel room with his mistress. The play is mainly a record of the problems that a man suffers in a capitalistic and pushy society. It is set in a pleasant suburban area, in the late forties. The reader mainly follows Willy around, through past and present and by this method of narration, we learn a lot about Willy, through his flashbacks, such as his affair with 'The Woman', the fact that he was fired from his job. Fourth Section: Common Threads Style Theories Symbols - Motives Context Characters With the idea of the common man in mind, Miller set out to construct his own tragic heroes, giving them what he called "a tragic flaw", a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated characters, nor is it necessarily a weakness. In Miller's plays, these flaws are not major cracks in their characters, they are on the contrary the reactions that the characters have to challenges to their dignity or status. These tragic heroes show two types of reactions: passive, and overly aggressive (ref). ...read more.

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