Death of a Salesman

The Redefinition of Tragedy in Death of a Salesman College

The definition of a tragic character is something that has been considered set in since the times of ancient Greece. Aristotle’s Poetics defined what makes up a comedy and tragedy, and that definition has been widely accepted since then. However, Arthur Miller believes that Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero is flawed. Through the character Willie Loman, Miller redefines what makes a tragic hero in his play Death of a Salesman.

Traditionally, tragedies have been defined by their trends of dealing with the highborn, such as members of royalty or of other noble birth. These tragic heroes are generally forced to fight against a fate forced upon them by the Gods or some other supernatural force, and ultimately fail this fight due to some sort of tragic flaw. Ultimately this results in the doom or at the very least the loss of status for the tragic hero. This is seen through many classic tragedies such as Oedipus the King and Hamlet. Arthur Miller defies this trend through the use of Willie Loman as a tragic hero. Willie’s status as the American everyman is a stark contrast to the strong noble status that defined many of the tragedies from before it, but his life and the events surrounding it keep him strongly defined as a...

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