Willy Loman, the Modern Hero in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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In Arthur Miller’s essay “Tragedy and the Common Man”, a picture is painted of a “flaw-full” man, known as the modern hero of tragedies. Miller describes what characteristics the modern tragic hero possesses and how he differs from the heroes depicted by classic Greek playwrights such as Sophocles and Aristotle. In order to understand how drastically the modern hero has evolved, one must first understand the basic characteristics that the heroes created by Sophocles and Aristotle encompass. The Greek tragic heroes, otherwise known as the protagonists, illustrated by tragic Greek playwrights, were never normal people. All heroes were citizens of high class, such as princes. This was due in part because plays were seen as a luxury for…show more content…
Willy is a man whose underlying fear of being displaced has created such a powerful unwillingness to be submissive to his perception of his loss of dignity, that he believes only death itself will secure him everlasting admiration. In order to fully appreciate how Willy believes that death will bring him the dignity that he so desperately craves one must first look at the scene in “Death of a Salesman”, during which Willy visits his boss Howard. During his visit Willy tells Howard about an elderly salesman he met named Dave Singleman and how meeting Dave made Willy realize that “selling was the greatest career a man could want.” (Miller 1801) “When he died – and he died the death of a salesman”, Willy tells Howard, “hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral…In those days there was personality in it, Howard. There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it” (Miller 1801). This quote demonstrates how Willy believed death would bring him the respect, comradeship, and gratitude that he never had in life.
As stated in the essay, Arthur Miller describes the modern hero as someone who possesses an “unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful.” Examples of this can be seen on pages 1809 through 1810 of the play. This is the scene where Willy goes to his friend Charley to ask for money in order to
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