Death of a Salesman is a Tragedy as Defined in Miller's Tragedy and the Common Man

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Death of a Salesman is a Tragedy as Defined in Miller's Tragedy and the Common Man


In Tragedy and the Common Man, Arthur Miller discusses his definition and criteria for tragedy as they apply to the common man. The criteria and standards proposed by Miller may be used to evaluate his timeless work, Death of A Salesman.

The first major standard of tragedy set forth is: “...if the exaltation of tragic action were truly a property of the high-bred character alone, it is inconceivable that the mass of mankind should cherish tragedy above all other forms.” All persons regardless of background, nobility stature, rank, or pretended or actual social division can innately empathize with the tragic hero. In the case of Willy Loman there is
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He is a salesman. His importance is derived from that designation. Thus, his self-dignity is directly related to his occupational success. According to Willy, some weeks he averaged two hundred dollars, in actuality it was closer to seventy. However, he still found solace in that he was doing what was expected of him. One example of his incessant need to be successful as a salesman is, that he misses many opportunities which life affords him. He could have gone to Africa and become a rich man, but he stayed in New York simply because he is a salesman. Here is merely another example of his identity being associated with his vocation.

“Be well liked” he often tells his sons Biff and Happy. How others perceive Willy is an underlying force that seems to compel him to action. It is more important to him to “be well liked” more than anything else. Willy’s fear is that wants to be viewed as a good decent human being. When in actuality, his underlying struggle is in accepting himself. Miller states, “The quality in such plays that does shake us... derives from the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in the world.” Based upon Miller’s statement Willy’s “underlying fear of being displaced” is the real tragady. He wants to do things right, but the fact is he has many incidences like Boston that haunt him. “Tragedy then is the consequence of a man’s total…