Death of a Salesman

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Is it Impossible for a Director of The Flashback Scene in The Restaurant, pages 73-93 of ‘Death of a Salesman’ to Show Willy as a Tragic Hero? Discuss. In Your Answer You Must Discuss how the Scene Could be Played and Base Your Answer on Textual Analysis of Character, Plot and Stage Direction Commenting on The Context of The Play.

The play ‘Death of a Salesman’ was written in 1949 by Arthur Miller and is one of his most successful plays. At Millers’ time, America was deemed to be a ‘land of opportunity’ and all Americans had the right to be successful. However his father’s prosperous living as a clothing manufacturer had been ruined by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The play examines the cost of blind faith in the American Dream, closely related with the theme of manifest destiny. There was much belief in the American Dream, and this would be achieved through hard work, courage and determination by every American.  

‘Death of a Salesman’ is based around the main protagonist, Willy Loman an elderly man. He is an insecure, self deluding travelling salesman.  Mr Loman is “past sixty years of age” and “dressed quietly”, nonetheless he is a man with “massive dreams”, a “mercurial nature” and “turbulent longings within him”.  He never comes to terms with reality for the reason that he is lost in an illusion and false hopes, for example Willy cannot see who he and his sons, Biff and Happy, are and he just believes that they are great men who have what it takes to beat the business world and be successful. However, he is mistaken. In reality, Willy and sons are not, and cannot ever be successful.

Mr Loman is unable to see through his own delusions of the American Dream, which he perceives as the ability to become ‘great’ by obtaining enormous material wealth without any apparent effort, to ‘wander into the jungle’ and ‘walk out’ a few years later unspeakably ‘rich’. As a result to this, he is trapped in distortion of the American Dream promoted by a capitalist, materialistic modern society.

In the play, although Willy does seem to show love and care towards his wife, Linda and two sons, he often becomes confused and angry unnecessarily. He shows trouble distinguishing his past and present, or his ideal life and reality. Due to this, many parts of the play are transcribed to the audience by the insertion of flashbacks, which show us some of the most significant moments in Willy’s confused life that have happened in his past. These flashbacks, each of which do somehow relate to the present, show an inability for Willy to see his reality.

The flashback Willy experiences in the Restaurant scene, which I will be studying, is extremely significant in view of the fact that at this point, the illusions Biff has about Willy and his lies, come to an end. The use of this flashback depicts Willy’s affair with the Woman and Biff then comes to know about it.

By using this scene, this essay will discuss whether Willy is that of a tragic hero or not. In Shakespearean tragedy, ‘tragic heroes will be men of rank, and the calamities that befall them will be unusual and exceptionally disastrous in themselves’ (taken from http://global.cscc.edu/engl/264/TragedyLex.htm). In other words, Shakespearean tragic heroes should be of noble birth, have a fatal flaw, learn from their mistakes and lastly due to their flaw, this will lead to their downfall.

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However, the initial idea of the tragic hero had originated in Greek tragedy and it was outlined by Aristotle, who once said ‘a tragic hero must be one of noble character and must fall from power and happiness’ (taken from http:// www.ccd.rightchoice.org/lit115/poetics.html). In Arthur Miller’s ‘Tragedy and the Common Man’, Miller argues that the common man could also be regarded to that as a very highly placed king and noble man. If this is the case and that the common man could be a tragic hero, I should be able to answer a simple question: Can Willy Loman be considered to ...

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