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What Is In A Tragic Hero?

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A tragedy is a type of drama that is found in the first century B.C. The famous "Poetics", that written by Aristotle, happens to Aristotle's theories on tragedies. Due to Aristotle's "Poetics", a tragic hero has to be qualified for all of his four criterions. Most important of all, the character must be a great man (kings, princes, etc...). Secondly, that tragic hero must have a tragic flaw that brings to his downfall. Then, he must have decent moralities, and be "true to life". Last but not least, the hero must die at the end, leaving the audience a sentiment of tragedy. Based on the Greek's definition of a tragic hero, then Willy Loman, the salesman of the play "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller, is not a tragic hero. Willy is just a common salesman, who has misconception of values and goals. Beside that, he is certainly not "true to life". In fact, he is a liar as he commits adultery and lies to his wife about his incomes. Eventually, Willy Loman does die at the end of the play, because of his misconceptions of life that lead to his sad death; but Willy Loman cannot be considered as a tragic hero, because Willy is not dignified enough for a tragic hero.

Aristotle once said that "It must be good, the character will be good if the purpose is good." Basically, according to Aristotle, a tragic hero must be a great man. The term "great man" involves the noble people such as kings, princes, war heroes... By that definition then Willy can not be consider a great man. Willy is just a common man; in fact, he is New England's poor salesman. "The street is lined with cars. There's not a breath of fresh air in the neighborhood. The grass don't grow any more, you can't raise a carrot in the back yard. They should've a law against apartment houses," (Miller 17) Willy describes his living condition. Obviously, Willy and his family live in a deprived place of the city. The reason a tragic hero has to be a great man is that a great man has so much to lose. Once a great man loses it all, then it is tragic. In contrast, Willy has nothing more to lose comparing to the great man. Even though the audiences can relate to Willy, but they may sympathize for Willy's situation, the audiences can not look up to Willy and say that they admire him. Sympathy and admiration has difference meaning. If Willy is not admired then how can he be a hero? That is one of the reasons why Willy can not be considered as a tragic hero.

If to be a tragic hero, one must have at least one flaw, then Willy is qualified. However, most of the tragic hero has external flaws (such as fate) or misfortune. In Willy's case, his flaw causes by his own mental problem. Willy has a misconception of value and success. Willy always teach his sons that "Be liked and you will never want. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. 'Willy Loman is here!' That's all they have to know, and I go right thought." (Miller 33) Willy's concept of being well like is understandable and partly true. However, only being well like alone would not take Willy any where or at least, it will not take Willy as far as he wants to be. To become success, Willy has to be more dedicated and strive more to achieve the goal; and being well like alone is not adequate to his dream of success. Unfortunately, Willy never understands that concept. He is swept away by most of his unrealistic goals and dreams. Filling his entire mind with fantasies is perhaps not enough for Willy. He pours all these immoral ideas into his sons' minds. With all those erroneous belief in mind, the two boys become "fearless"; and soon, that leads to their corruption in life. As Willy teaches them fearlessness, dishonesty and later, failures, he



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