Willy Loman is a Tragic Hero According to Arthur Miller’s Essay Tragedy and the Common Man

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


A tragic hero is person who usually appears in romantic literature. To make it clear, it should be mentioned that the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is created in Romanticism genre as the main character has visions which divide his life into two parts, real where Willy Loman and his sons are unable to achieve success in sales, and unreal, where everything is great. Willy Loman’s family got used that he talks to himself and do not react to this anymore.

There is a statement that Willy Loman is a tragic hero according to Arthur Miller’s definition of what a tragic hero is in his famous essay Tragedy and the Common Man. To make the situation clear, we are going to discuss the main features which confirm the statement and make Willy a tragic hero.

Willy Loman Is a Tragic Hero

The essay Tragedy and the Common Man written by Arthur Miller presents the main characteristics of a tragic hero in romantic literature. One of the main features is the referencing of a hero to a common person. Miller states that “the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1461).

Willy Loman is a simple person who used to work as a salesman, but due to age and health problems he wants to settle less active life. This is the first argument which proves that Willy Loman is a tragic hero.

Arthur Miller also believes that a hero becomes tragic when he is “ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing – his sense of personal dignity” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1462).

This is exactly what has happened with Willy when he got to know that all he was trying to reach (to make his children be successful by means of making them good salespeople) was ruined, he did not manage to achieve this goal. Thus, he understands that he is not a person, that he has not fulfilled his life goal. “Nothing is planted. I do not have a thing in the ground” (Miller ‘Death of a Salesman’ 122).

Saying these words, Willy means that all his life is spent in vain and there are no results of it. Willy understands that salesman is not the best profession and his desire to sacrifice his life for the benefit of his family is nothing but the desire to save his dignity and do not declare in public that all he has been planning was ruined. This is the second argument in support of the idea that Willy Loman is a tragic hero.

Arthur Miller is sure that one of the main characteristics of a tragic hero in the play is the understanding of the difference between real and unreal worlds. He says, “The quality in such plays that does shake us, however, derives from the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1463).

The main character is a tragic hero as he has been torn away from the world of illusion where his sons are successful salespeople and has been put in the reality where they have failed to become wealthy and have nothing to do.

He realizes that he was a bad father, except for the imaginary world where he was the best. The tragedy of the hero is characterized by the fact that he was torn from his imaginary world and put in cruel reality where his dreams were not realized. This is the third argument in support of the fact that Willy was a tragic hero.

Reading an essay Tragedy and the Common Man by Arthur Miller, it is possible to state that concluding statement about a tragic hero is exactly what can be seen in Willy Loman, a character of his play Death of a Salesman.

The author writes that the main essence of a tragic hero is “intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1464). This is the main characteristic feature which shows Willy as a tragedy character, as searching for something in his life, he has failed to become a personality.


To sum it up, it should be mentioned that the ideas Arthur Miller presents in his essay Tragedy and the Common Man are perfectly reflected in his play Death of a Salesman. The main character of the play, Willy Loman, is a tragic hero as it is stated in the author’s essay.

All the reasons the author provides in the essay are confirmed by the character’s description in the play. It seems that the author tried to reflect all this ideas about a tragic hero in Willy Loman to show the reader that such characters exist.

Works Cited

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York, NY: Penguin, 1998. Print.

Miller, Arthur. “Tragedy and the Common Man .” Discovering Literature. Eds. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele L. Rico. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993. 1461-1464. Print.

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