Willy Loman as Tragic Hero in Death of a Salesman
Willy Loman, the troubled father and husband in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, can be classified as a tragic hero, as defined by Aristotle in his work, Poetics.
In Aristotle's Poetics, a tragic hero was defined as one who falls from grace into a state of extreme despair. Willy, as we are introduced to him, becomes increasingly miserable as he progresses from a dedicated, loving father, though not without flaws, into a suicidal, delusional man. The definition of a tragic hero, as stated in "Poetics," also describes a person who is influential and is of significance to others. Though, in actuality, Willy Loman may not possess these characteristics, he perceives himself as having them as he cares for himself, his children and his wife. A final distinction noted by Aristotle was that a tragic hero is not a bad person deserving of his impending misfortune, but instead, has made a series of mistakes leading to his downfall. We can see that Willy does not purposely create this harmful situation for himself, he is only ignorant that certain actions of his are wrong, which contribute to his self-ruin. Willy Loman therefore personifies the attributes of a tragic hero as proposed by Aristotle.
Willy, with a house, a car, a job, two sons whom he adores, and a supportive, caring wife, seems to have everything that any man could ever want. He manages, however, to alienate himself from these things that he loves near the end of the play as he slips into a self-induced state of altered reality. Willy, being "...lonely...terribly lonely" (Miller, page #) has an affair with a woman during his marriage to Linda. Even though Linda is not aware of this, or makes no mention of it, Willy is destroying his greatest source of support. Linda is the only one in the Loman family who never gives up on Willy, she chooses to ignore Willy’s shortcomings and remains faithful in every sense to her husband.
Willy’s relationship with Biff and Happy also becomes strained throughout their lives. Since Biff was the older son and football star he made his father proud, and Happy was left without the praise that he needed and deserved, as he was always second best. Biff also was the one who caught his father having an affair with a woman in Boston, causing friction between himself and Willy. More importantly, Biff is extremely disturbed by his father's later behavior, including participating in imaginary conversations and reacting to his memories as though they were happening in the present. Willy's job also falls apart from the beginning of the play towards the end. Willy had been making enough money to support his family, but his unwillingness to learn new sales...