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Is Willy Loman Presented as a Hero/Victim in "Death of a Salesman"?

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Introduction

Is Willy Loman Presented as a Hero/Victim in "Death of a Salesman"? Willy Loman is presented as both a tragic hero and an unconscious victim in "Death of a Salesman". "Death of a Salesman" is very much based upon the American Dream, and whether we are slaves or conquerors of this dream. This is an idea that the playwright Arthur Miller has very passionately pursued both through Willy's own eyes, and through his interaction with the different characters in the play. Firstly, the definitions of a hero and a victim very much influence the way that Willy is viewed by the audience. Miller has not used the play to suggest that Willy Loman is an ordinary hero, but more a tragic hero. A tragic hero, simply by definition means that the reader already begins to see Willy in a more sympathetic light. A tragic hero is somebody who cannot forget his past, and so is destroyed by the consequences of his own actions. In order to picture Willy as a victim, again one cannot think of a regular victim, but of an ignorant victim. ...read more.

Middle

Willy is also full of misunderstanding about the way that he is perceived by others, in comparison to how he sees himself. He says to his wife Linda, his constant source of support: "I'm very well liked in Hartford. You know the trouble is, Linda, people don't seen to take to me." Early on in the play we can see that he is torn between wanting to be honest, and wanting to create a good impression of himself to others, even to his own wife. This idea of internal conflict is very typical of a hero, who sees himself as being responsible for his fate and so is a lot guiltier about life. In Act Two, Miller has succeeded in bringing to light the complexity of Willy Loman. The first scene begins positively, with Willy and Linda both having high hopes about Willy's possible move to a New York office, and the potential business agreement between Happy and Biff. "Biff was very changed...His whole attitude seemed hopeful." These two incidents are used very effectively by Miller in order to present the more heroic side of Willy Loman, and indeed his whole family. ...read more.

Conclusion

because of insurance. However, the playwright does approach the idea of cowardice, through the voice of Willy's brother Ben, concerning Biff's possible reaction to Willy's suicide: "He'll call you a coward...And a damned fool...He'll hate you." Willy is a victim of the 'law of success' which states that a man who has failed in business has no right to live. In the end, he succumbs to his law and ends his life. It is the motivation, not the action of his committing suicide which ultimately makes his death tragic. Willy is wrong in his answers and remains so to the end, because he still thinks that he can solve Biff's problems with money. On the other hand, wrong answers do not, and should not disqualify a man from being a tragic hero. If we see tragic heroes as being those ruled by lust, ambition or jealousy, and fully respect these forces; why not neurotic awareness? In some ways, don't we ourselves live by the rules of Willy Loman - that "liked" is very different to "well-liked"? Every ordinary person is a potential 'watered down' version of Willy. Arthur Miller is neither blaming this solely on society, nor is he presenting a pathetic creature who is the author of his own misfortunes. ...read more.

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