English / The Tragic Downfall Of Willy Loman

The Tragic Downfall Of Willy Loman

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Autor:  anton  20 April 2011
Tags:  Tragic,  Downfall
Words: 568   |   Pages: 3
Views: 427

The Tragic Downfall of Willy Loman

According to Aristotle, a tragic character is not a good man who fails, nor an evil man who rises to opulence. A tragic character is in fact somewhere in between the two extremities – someone who is not necessarily unsurpassed in virtue and veracity, but also not culpable of debauchery and decadence. A tragic character has simply made “mistake,” however a fatal one, that causes his demise (Esch).

Arthur Miller describes a tragic flaw as “a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated characters. Nor is it necessarily a weakness. The flaw, or crack in the characters, is really nothing-and need be nothing, but his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status” (Miller). In Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, the tragic character, Willy Loman, has the tragic flaw of the inability to look at his life pragmatically, which makes it impossible for him to consistently manage all of his relationships.

Willy’s various roles cause him to lose touch of reality because they call for divergent moral ideologies. As a father, a husband, and a businessman, Willy becomes engulfed in the worlds of each role. Willy cares greatly for his struggling and dysfunctional family. For example, when tensions run high after Biff and Willy argue, the entire mood changes from uptight to optimistic when Happy suggests a family-run business in the future.

Willy is always aspiring towards the future or living in the past, which clouds his perspective on the present. His mind takes constant trips back to 1928, when optimism was abundant throughout the entire country. The stock market had not crashed yet, and everyone was looking to reach the American Dream. Willy’s infatuation with materialistic possessions and social status parallel his longing for his version of the American Dream – to live the life of a salesman and die the death of a salesman. Similar to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the disillusionment of the American Dream in the 1920s contributes to Willy’s downfall. Willy’s disillusionment is exemplified at certain points such as when he contradicts himself when he comments that at times he’d rather be working with his hands at home planting a garden.

Willy’s confusion climaxes at the end of the play, after Biff breaks down and begs Willy to “take that phony dream and burn it before something happens” (Miller 133). Willy realizes that Biff truly does love him, despite their past disputes. Willy becomes overwhelmed and believes that Biff simply needs a monetary boost to right himself again. He decides to commit suicide in order to cash in on a twenty thousand dollar insurance fund.

Willy’s incapacity to put things into perspective, combined with his disillusionment with the American Dream, leads to his ultimate downfall. Recalling Aristotle’s characteristics of a tragic character, it is apparent that while in some aspects Willy’s decision was foolish, it was not by any means worthless.

Works Cited

Esch, Stacy Tartar. "Aristotle's Tragic Hero." West Chester University. 12 Apr.

2006 .

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesmen. 1949. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.

Miller, Arthur. "Tragedy of the Common Man." The New York Times 27 Feb. 1949. 12

Apr. 2006 .

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