Death of a Salesman, Tragic Hero. Willy Loman.
To what extent can Willy Loman be considered a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s rules?
Arthur Miller presents his play ‘Death of a Salesman’ in the ancient form of a tragedy. Aristotle has defined his idea of the ‘perfect’ tragedy in his text, ‘Poetics’ (350 BC).Here he suggests that the protagonist must fall from an elevated social standing as a result of a “fatal flaw” within the character; the fall from the main character creates resolution to the play which is seen as just; finally, Aristotle identified that the action of the drama should take place within a 24hour timeframe. An ancient play which is believed to be the perfect tragedy is Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. ‘Death of a Salesman’ is definitely a tragic play, but is Willy
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The Peripetia or ‘turning point’ of the play may be seen when Willy Loman loses his job with Howard, refuses the job offer from Charley and is confronted by Biff about the misconceptions that have dominated their lives since Happy and Biffs’ childhood. He rejects Charley’s offer because of his ego and also refused to borrow money from him. This other offer, to Willy, would have been a bigger humiliation and would have been a knock on his self esteem “do not insult me”. Arguably the ultimate turning point of the play is when Loman gets fired as this then leads to his Anagnorisis. Willy gets fired as he isn’t a good business man, partly due to his exhaustion after working there for 34years but also his lack of compatibility with his chosen career. The business industry shows no room for compassion for individuals as Howard explains it as “business is business.” Willy wasn’t producing anything of worth to his company and therefore leads to his realization.This moment in the play is his Anagnorisis. He does not say it directly, but as an audience we can see that he realizes he will never succeed in business. If he hadn’t have acknowledged this, he would not have ended his life. This element can also apply to other characters within the play, rather than the protagonist. We see this moment of realization within Biff in act two when he addresses his father as “a phony little fake”, before this Biff has seen Willy as a role model and looks up