Willy Loman: the Tragic Hero Essay examples

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Pages: 6

Arthur Miller made the comment that a tragic hero “has the inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity.” Nowhere is this more evident than in Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, where salesman Willy Loman desperately struggles to regain a sense of dignity after experiencing a number of setbacks in his life. Despite not being able to provide for his family, Willy Loman continues the futile struggle to earn a living, which shows the despair of falling from a position of respect to a position of uselessness. The hopes and dreams that he has for his kids in the past never come into existence, but Willy still enthusiastically pushes his adult children to accomplish unrealistic …show more content…
Biff does not even have a job. Clearly, this reflects negatively on Willy, who spent a lot of time with them, and tried to raise them to be very successful individuals. Miller has Willy say, “The trouble is that Biff is lazy, goddammit!... And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff- he’s not lazy” (16). The confusion reveals that just as Biff is lost, so too is Willy. With Biff and Happy not able to support him in his time of need, Willy cannot stand the reality of the failure of his sons. Instead of ignoring their problems, he treats them as though they are his own problems. Willy is once again not passive. When his sons express the idea that they want to start a business, he enthusiastically supports them saying, “I see great things for you kids, I think your troubles are over... But remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it- because personality always wins the day” (64-65). Like any tragic hero, Willy has a flaw. His flaw is that he is too sanguine. As he will learn the next day, personality is not enough to be successful. One must also have special skills. Furthermore, Willy’s desperate want for his sons to be successful blocks reality from his vision. His kids are already adults, and Biff was once jailed for theft. This lack of foresight causes Willy to have extremely high expectations for his sons. When they are not fulfilled, it creates an enormously devastating effect on Willy, showing how people must