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"Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for." - Joseph Addison" - The_god_damned

Tragic Hero

  • Date Submitted: 05/05/2012 06:58 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 65.5 
  • Words: 1153
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The familiar definition of a tragic hero is one who falls from grace from an elevated status as a result of his own tragic flaw. However, in Arthur Miller's essay “Tragedy and the Common Man”, he explains his own concept of a tragic hero which refutes the classical Greek definition. Miller's changes are that he believes that a tragic hero does not need to be a man of great social standing, but can be an ordinary man. Miller says that “the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing-- his sense of personal dignity” (Miller). In addition, in his 'unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity', the hero tries to attain the impossible and is doomed to failure. Miller's definition of tragedy can be applied to both Willy Loman in his play Death of a Salesman and Oedipus in Sophocles' play “Oedipus the King”. Both are men who fail in their struggle to protect what they believe are their “rightful” positions in society.

Willy Loman is an ordinary man who is a tragic hero, as defined by Miller's essay. Willy Loman is a married salesman, who lives for his sons and has unattainable dreams. The ambitions he has for himself and his son, Biff, are impossible due to their skill set and goals conflicting. Both work well with their hands, rather than the communication skills that are required to be a successful “well liked” business man. This lack of self-realization leaves no other option but failure to achieve his dreams. His awareness of this causes such a disturbance in Willy that he denies his own reality, slipping into a past memory or creating illusions is how he escapes from his current situation. The other characters of Death of a Salesman try to get Willy to come out of his fantasies, but “he conceives [reality] to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status” (Miller). There are a few moments when he...


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