Willy Loman of Death Of A Salesman A tragic Hero in Arthurs Millers Tragedy And The Common Man
What is a tragic hero? While most people would consider a tragic hero as a person who is willing to give his/her life for a greater cause, Arthur Miller author of Tragedy And The Common Man has his own definition of what a tragic hero is. According to Miller a tragic hero is someone whose is not perfect, yet is willing to take his or her life to secure his or her personal dignity.. Willy Loman from Death Of A Salesman is considered a tragic hero according to Arthur Miller because his flaws as a person drives him to believe that he emotionally, and physically stable when really Willy is a threat to his self definition, and the people around him. To understand why Willy Loman is a tragic hero one must understand the meaning of a tragic hero in the eyes of both Arthur Miller and Willy Loman.
One threat to Willy Lomans self definition is the failure of his son Biff Loman in life in general. Willy has always felt that life only has good things in store for Biff. Biff has even gotten to the point where the hot air that Willy is blowing in his head is making Biff feel really good and confident in him self. That is soon changed though when Biff decides to visit Willy on one of his business trips. Upon arriving Biff was going to tell Willy that he was failing math and that Willy needed to talk to his math teacher to pass the class. Instead Biff finds Willy and another woman having an affair. In such shock and awe Biff is upset that Willy would even do such a thing as cheating on his wife Linda. This is the point where Biff realizes that he can not love Willy for doing such a thing. Willy has broken all trust he had with Biff, and he could no longer make Biff believe anything he says. This is a threat to Willy as it is the moment he himself realizes that Biff no longer could love him and respect because he is not some one Biff wants to be like. The reason why Biff does not go out looking for jobs or even trying to be succesful is because Biff does not want to be what Willy wants him to be, rather Biff wants to be happy doing what he wants to do in life. Another threat to Willy is his false outlook on himself which affects his self worth. In Willys own mind he thinks of himself as a bigshot salesman who is well respected by many in the different places he has worked at. Truth is Willy is getting old, he is starting to lose a lot of his sanity, and his front of being a bigshot is conflicting with the reality that he actually is just another man in the world trying to make a living and provide for his family. Instead of being put down and outdated, Willy retaliates to maintain his personal dignity. His retaliation includes the argument he has with Howard his boss. He wants to continue to sale, but Howard can see that Willy is getting old and kind of mentally losing his mind. Another argument he has is with Charley over a job after he got fired form his job. Charley offers Willy a job as a way of helping Willy out after he gets fired. Willy takes Charleys offer as an offense. Willy can not see himself working for Charley some one who he always thought was below him. Charley was only trying to help but Willys pride keeps him from realizing that Charleys action was one of help rather than offense. The last retaliation is when Biff tells Willy he is not a dime a dozen. Biff makes Willy realizes that he is not nor will he ever be the succesful man that Willy wants him to be. Biff also makes Willy realize that he is not the big shot man he makes himself to be. At this point Biff wants Willy to know that he no longer will bringing home any more trophies, and he wants Willy to stop waiting for him to do so. All these arguments Willy gets into shows how he indeed has a false sense of himself which affects his personal worth.
Bernard and Charlie is another threat to Willys self image. Growing up Biff and Bernard were two different kids put into different crowds. Biff was the popular well liked kid, while Bernard was a geeky, smart kid who would succeed in life. Bernard would always be the one trying to help Biff in school with school work, while Biff would just slack off and put his athletics before school. As a result of their priorities in life, Biff turned out to be a man of moving careers, while Bernard argued cases before the supreme court in Washington D.C. The succession of Bernard is such a threat to Willy as he thought Biff should be just as or even more successful than Bernard. Willy felt that he had taught Biff all the the things he needed to know to be happy and successful. Truth is Charley was a better father to Bernard as you can see the happiness of Charley with his growing business, and Bernard is a successful lawyer with a family. The succession of both Bernard and Charley is a threat to Willy because it shows how Charley was the better father in teaching Bernard all he needed to know to be successful and happy in life, where as Willy and Biff are both unhappy and not as successful as Bernard and Charley. Making Willy realize that maybe he was not the best father in the world, and he did not give the best advice in life.
Willy uses many self mechanisms to keep himself from the reality that he actually is a failure and he not a man of much worth. Instead of taking the blame for Biffs failure in life, Willy uses the mechanism that Biff is just lost in life and Biff himself is the only reason why he is not successful in life. Another mechanism that Willy has is his knowledge and years he put into the sales business, upon being fired from his job of thirty plus years. Willy tries to convince Howard that he can keep working, that he is the best worker the company has, and he needs the job to support his family. Above all the most important mechanism he uses is his mechanism against Bernard and Charley. He likes to think he was greatest father to his kids, setting them up for happiness and success. He would always put down Bernard about being too smart and a know it all. Also putting down Charley, saying he would never be as well known, and like as he is.
All the mechanisms that Willy uses is a defense against facing the true reality that he is not what he poses himself to be. Willy refuses to believe that he is a a common man, that he is not really respected everywhere he goes, that he does not have any connections as he thinks he does. In Willys mind he has to be right and has to be the bigger man in all situations that he is put into. It is sad to see that the loss of Willys sense of reality, is the thing that will drive him to his death along with his personal dignity,
Through Willy Loman, Arthur Miller teaches us that threats in our life, are the things that will define the person we will be in the future. We all have to realize that our life is not gong to be perfect, but we can not put our failure into other peoples hands to fix. Life will definitely have its ups and downs, but if we can keep our sense of personal dignity, and pride in ourselves than we will succeed in life. A person does not have to be a an important figure for a person to love and respect you, yet if you are willing to give all you have and offer to others, your already a hero.