Modern Tragedy Lit Argument Arthur Miller’s modern play, Death of a Salesman, examines the life of salesman Willy Loman and his family. The story of Willy Loman is considered to be one of the great modern tragedies. The play directly correlates with Aristotle’s Poetics, in how a play is or is not a tragedy. “According to Aristotle, a play must have four elements to be a tragedy. It needs a character of nobility, this character must recognize the fatal flaw in the climax of the play, high language and the ability to evoke pity and fear from the audience and then soothe it” (Sleight). Throughout Death of a Salesman, recognition of the flaw in the American Dream is what truly makes this play a tragedy. Following the rules and guidelines laid out by Aristotle, it is said that actions preformed by the character will either achieve or fail (at) happiness (Poetics 11). From beginning to end, Willy constantly has flash blacks or daydreams that take him away from reality. “He is always preoccupied with his own dreams and desires, so much so that he denies and ignores anything contrary to his beliefs” (Sleight). Later, Willy’s weak character and instability are revealed, which is ultimately what gets him fired. He also believes that the measure of a man’s success is reflected in how much wealth he has amounted and that this wealth is gained by being popular. It goes back to the false sense of the American Dream. “He is convinced that popularity is enough to lead to success and this eventually leads to his fall” (Sleight). This is why Willy has trouble keeping a job; he bases his whole life, and his family’s life off of blind faith in others. He would constantly tell his sons “…the man who makes an appearance…creates personal interest…gets ahead”. These false pieces of advice drive Biff to fail, because he grows up learning without the correct work ethics. Aristotle said that a tragedy must include changes from prosperity to affliction caused by hamartia (Poetics 13). It is the perception in which Willy views the American Dream that leads to his downfall. At Willy’s funeral his son, Biff, states that “he had the wrong dreams” (Death of a Salesman 1904), Willy had always dreamed that he must be rich and well liked to become prosperous. The Tragedy and the Common Man, also written by Arthur Miller, states that “the possibility of victory must be there in tragedy.” Willy Loman works loyaly for most of his life striving for the success that is the “American Dream.” Throughout the play Willy is constantly working and is convinced that he can make himself a success but he is put up against “a much superior force” (Tragedy and the Common Man 1908). This is where an element of tragedy can be seen and identified. However many debate whether Millers play can be labeled as a tragedy. As Aristotle had dictated, a tragedy was usually about “kings or the kingly” (Tragedy and the Common Man 1906). Willy Loman as his last name is dictated is “low man” and in other words a common man and could not be considered the hero of a tragedy. “Miller answered these critics in his essay Tragedy and the Common Man, where he proposed that tragedy is not the sole property of the noble class and now that the perception that tragedy is somehow above the common man is false.” (Sleight). Aristotle says that man enjoys great esteem and prosperity much like Oedipus and Thyestes (Poetics 13) and one of Willy’s tragic flaws is that he places so much value on how others see him and if he is well liked. Miller says “Tragedy…is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly” (Tragedy and the Common Man 1906). The notion of being liked was so important to Willy that he had instilled this thought into his children’s minds and ruined their chances of success because all they wanted was for people to like them too. This has caused Willy to be afraid of “being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world” (Tragedy and the
Death Of A Salesman
Willy Loman rides on the views of illusion and doesn’t open his eyes to his present reality. His failure is the failure of American myth of success. According to this myth being “well liked” was what one needed for being successful. Another assumption examined by the play is that petty crimes like adultery and stealing are evidence of high spirit. Another assumption examined by Willy was that being an athlete brings glory and privilege, but being studious leads nowhere…
Elements that make a play Successful
Death of a Salesman is arguably one of the most successful playwrights to date. Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play as well as many other awards (Wikipedia). The play was written in 1949, in postwar time economy, demonstrating the hardships and struggles of a middle class family. What makes this play so successful is Millers use of dramatic element such as plot and characterization, as well as dramatic action and tone, which…
Death of a Salesman
Why come to America? What does America really have to offer, one may ask? What sets America aside, and makes it different from other nations around the world? The “American Dream” simply answers all of these questions.
In Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman, a man hopelessly chasing the “American Dream”, is unsuccessful in his journey to “paradise.” The “American Dream” is the belief that through hard work, patience, and courage, one can achieve success and…
opportunity to go to a play with my Intro to Art class. This play was called Death of a Salesman written by Arthur Miller. Arthur Miller has written a lot of plays that have been very popular. So I was very intrigued to see some of his work. However, the title did not make me very excited to see it. It sounds very depressing, and in fact, it was depressing. I had mixed emotions about this play while watching it. Death of a Salesman was a very interesting play that did not keep me on the edge of my seat…
Comprehensive English 12 – Death of a Salesman “Problem Essay”
5 January 2, 2015
“And I was fine… I opened the windshield and let the warm air breathe over me. And then all of a sudden I’m going off the road!”- Willy Loman (pg 14)
This doesn’t quite sound like the words of a man who is perfectly stable in life. Normally if you are fine just a moment ago and then the next thing that happens is you zoning out and driving off the road, this means that your mind is having…
Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman illustrates the culture of entitlement.
Miller shows us a man who fails in his own life and whose children fail also in
their own lives. At a time when Willy should be retiring, he falls lower and
lower on the ladder of success. First losing his salary and then losing his
job. Willy’s idea of American dream and entitlement is completely contrary to
reality. Willy believes that happiness will be fed to him because of his
prosperous, America was in better economic condition than any other country in the world, but this didn’t mean all Americans were home free. Especially working-class Americans still clinging to the hope of the infamous American dream. Both Death of A Salesman, and Fences major themes revolve around the demise of the American patriarch of a single family, including fathers who commit adultery and illustrate their characters' attempts to make the elusive American dream a reality, specifically the fictional…
Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. The main character Willy Loman is a 60-year old unstable salesman who bases his life on the idea of the American dream. Willy suffers from self-delusion and is obsessed with the desire to succeed. In the play Death of a Salesman Willy Loman is considered the static protagonist.
In the play Willy Loman is the static protagonist. The plot of the play focuses on Willy not being aware of the difference between reality and…
Drama Review –Theme and Conflict in Death
This paper is being submitted on August 10, 2014 for Vicki Phillips, G330 American Literature.
The story “Death of a Salesman” was written by Arthur Asher Miller in 1949. Arthur Miller was an American playwright, essayist and prominent figure in twentieth-century. He was born in Harlem, New York City on October 17, 1915 and died in Roxbury, Connecticut on February 10, 2005. He was married three times…
Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman is a play founded on the exploited idea of the American Dream. It is set in the 1940’s, a period of time that was plagued by depression and hardship for many average families chasing the American dream. The devastating effects of the great depression and World War II were continuing to be felt by members of the middle class. The play focuses on the struggling Lowman family, husband, wife, and…