Willy Loman as a tragic hero in death of a salesman

Paper Rating: Word Count: 1421 Approx Pages: 6

Willy as Tragic Hero in Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman is the story of Willy Loman, a middle-class salesman who, in the course of a single day, comes to realise that the American Dream, which he has pursued for 40 years, has failed him. Willy's relentless, but naive pursuit of success has not only affected his sense of his own worth but has dominated the lives of his wife Linda and his sons Biff and Happy. In the course of the play he realises that his true wealth lies in being loved and known by his family, and in one final attempt to secure his personal dignity and provide a future for his sons through his life insurance, he commits suicide.

Willy Loman is, for Miller, the antithesis of the classic tragic hero. As his name implies, he is a `low man', an ordinary man, whose dreams and expectations have been shattered by the false values of the society he has put his faith in. Unlike the heroes of classical tragedy, he is not a man of stature or noble purpose but he commands our respect and pity because he pursues his dream with a passionate intensity that makes him unique and gives him a heroic quality. While Willy is flawed in many ways, it is not simply this, but the social forces beyond his control that lead to his downfall.

Willy is on the wrong track. He always thought that a good salesman should be impressive. he is obsessed with impressions. These are all falsity of his dreams. For example, he dislikes his sons to whistle and to use "boys' word[s]" like "gee." He lies to Charley that he has a job when he was just fired by Howard. Charley offers him a job but he violently declines the offer thinking that he must portray an impressive image as a great and popular salesman. On the other hand, Charley is not like this at all and he is successful.

In Death of a Salesman, Miller is not so much calling into question the pursuit of the American Dream, but the dream itself. For Willy, his adventurer / explorer b... Continue Reading