Death of a Salesman: an American Tradgedy

Decent Essays
Emily Grant
English 1600-Spring 2011
Term Paper #1
Death of a Salesman: An American Tragedy A greek tragedy is a story that involves a character with a tragic flaw that eventually causes and leads to their downfall. A tragic hero, according to Aristotle, is one who comes from a high background, with a high status and noble, valuable characteristics. The hero will eventually fall due to their tragic flaw, and will come to a tragic realization of the error of their ways during this process. Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller is indeed an American Tragedy, but the question is, is Willy Loman a tragic hero? First of all, Willy Loman is not from a high background, but rather a common American man with a warped sense of his “American
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Biff says to Happy “Hap, the trouble is we weren’t brought up to grub for money. I don’t know how to do it.” Happy proceeds to say “Neither do I!” (Miller 13). The tragedy is that what Willy Loman believes in and what he expects out of his family contradicts each other. The ideals he put into his sons as they were growing up completely set them up for failure, yet Willy Loman is too proud to ever admit that and see the reason why his sons’ are so flawed. Near the end of the play, Willy sees the once-nerdy Bernard, who is now a successful lawyer about to argue a case before the Supreme Court. Willy can only shake his head in wonder of the irony that his own son turned out to be a loser and Bernard a successful lawyer. He still doesn’t see that Bernard got to be successful through years of study and hard work. He still can’t see through his own tragic flaw.
Willy’s warped view of the American Dream included the belief that successful people were risk-takers and adventurers. He hates the fact that he never took his brother’s offer to move to Alaska to make his fortune. His brother Ben got rich, why couldn’t he? "When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich” (Miller 33). He wants his son Biff to become a success through taking a risk and starting a sporting goods company. He believes people would be drawn to the company by Biffs’ charisma, athletic ability, and Loman name.
When Willy Loman dies, it
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