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peyton_farquhar's avatar

Why is Willy Loman regarded as a tragic hero?

Asked by peyton_farquhar (3741points) February 1st, 2009

What is it about the man that merits him the reputation? As far as I could see, Willy Loman was an unethical businessman, a loveless father, an arrogant prick to everyone he thought beneath him, a bad husband, and an asshole in every general sense of the word.

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8 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Can’t say I disagree. He was not my everyman.

magnificentjay's avatar

well, for me….he is just a fictional account of those who fail to “grab the brass ring” and just self destruct

aprilsimnel's avatar

He couldn’t quite grasp that his beliefs and the way he conducted his life was what made his life such a failure. And I don’t believe he’s supposed to be a hero at all, just tragic.

fireside's avatar

Same with Oedipus.
Tragic flaw of Hubris.

tb1570's avatar

I kinda gotta agree—I always thought that play was over-rated. What about “A Raisin in the Sun?”

Darwin's avatar

I suppose though that the whole thing is that he didn’t have to be all those things. He began well but lost his way. As such he fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero from “Poetics,” in which a tragic hero was defined as one who falls from grace into a state of extreme unhappiness, not by being a bad person deserving of his impending misfortune, but instead, by having made a series of mistakes leading to his downfall.

And that is Willy Loman in a nutshell. He began well, with a family he loved and a job that supported them, but he gradually pushes everything away through his affair, his poor salesmanship, his failure to show his pride in them to his sons, and his delusions.

He could have been a hero but pulled himself down by his own choices. He is not a wicked man, but he is not a virtuous man, hence he is a tragic hero in the sense that he could have been a true hero but destroyed himself.

fundevogel's avatar

I really don’t see will as the protagonist of the story. You feel sympathy for him, or maybe just pity, but he’s to much of a destructive force in his own life and his family for me to be able to identify with him. I though the son was the true protagonist of the story.

as far as him starting out well and then having a tragic fall, if I remember correctly the book starts out with his business and family life on the decline. So within in the narrative at least he doesn’t start out so well off.

honestly, as character driven as it is the story is really just a vehicle to dismantle the illusion of the American Dream.

amandala's avatar

I absolutely HATED Death of Salesman. Regardless of my bias, however, he’s considered a tragic hero because he eventually takes his own life in the hopes of helping his family when, in actuality, his wife won’t get the life insurance because it was suicide.

The idea is that his final action that he truly believes will help Linda and his sons only takes more away from them.

For a better example of a tragic hero, I highly recommend Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Excellent book, and brilliant characters.

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