Queen Elizabeth High School
Due October 16th
Willy Loman: a character whom has suffered continually, repeatedly and in many ways. But the question remains: is Willy Loman a tragic hero? In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is abandoned by his father, his brother and even his son. Because of this, Willy attempts to model the perfect family. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman shows that the blind following of an ill-perceived ideal can cause psychological decay and lead an individual to improperly assess the world around them. To put it in other words, when an individual sets themselves to something but goes about it incorrectly, an individual may be led to perceive things differently than they actually are. Willy Loman’s misguided belief in the American Dream and inability to shake himself from said delusion eventually leads to his downfall.
Based on the structure of a typical Shakespearean tragedy, Willy Loman does not start off seeming like the typical tragic hero. He is introduced as a man that is struggling with hallucinations and mounting money problems. This is not the archetypical “man of high estate”. He does, however, possess a tragic flaw. Willy Loman believes wholeheartedly in the American Dream. He attempts to model perfect sons, and he wants his whole family to conform to the idealistic American Dream. He considers the young, high-school Biff to be the embodiment of promise, but when Biff reveals that he flunked Math and is unable to graduate high school, Willy is unable to comprehend this. Willy has attempted to build his son from the idealistic vision that he has of himself, and Biff has defied his expectations. At the end of the play, when Willy believes Biff to truly be on the cusp of greatness, Biff reveals that he actually isn’t, and this breaks Willy entirely. This scene works to show the shattering of Willy’s illusory ideals, and he is abandoned, left blubbering in the bathroom. Willy, once again, does not follow the tragic pattern here, because he never actually comes to acknowledge his personal failure, or the inherent unattainability of the American Dream. In a last-ditch effort to prove to himself that the