A Tragic Hero Of Just A Tragic Life
Dramatists such as Aristotle started to write a series of plays called tragedies. They were as follows: the play revolved around a great man such as a king or war hero, who possessed a tragic flaw. This flaw or discrepancy would eventually become his downfall. These types of plays are still written today, for example, Arthur Millers “Death of Salesman” and Henrik Ibsens “A Dolls House. ” “Death of Salesman” shows the downfall of the modern tragic hero, Willy Loman, a middle class working man.
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Nora, in” A Doll’s House” displays that characteristics of a tragic hero, in that she shows potential for greatness, but is stifled by her society. Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” and Nora in “A Dolls House” are two perfect examples that illustrate a tragic hero. In “Tragedy and the Common Man”, Arthur Miller discusses different criteria and definitions for tragedy as they apply to the common man. Miller’s ideal tragic hero is one who “is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality,” and when approached with a struggle, “demonstrating the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity.
A tragic hero is willing to takes on the role of what makes the audience accept him as a hero when by his own virtue is worthy of their attention and perhaps respect. Miller’s common man, Willy, fought the battle of life, by trying to make the best of what he was given, and by living life the only way he knows how, being a traveling salesman. Being prideful, and at times stubborn man, he loses some opportunities to better his life along the way, partly because of his pride, and partly because of the American lifestyle, Willy is still attempting to support his family, even at age sixty.
Though we think of Willy as a classic tragic hero, his life is more pathetic and saddening than inspiring. His name implies he is a “low man”, an ordinary man, whose dreams and expectations have been shattered by the false values of society he has put his faith in. His problems stem from his own delusions which result of his failure to succeed in life. Willy’s obsession and lack of insight thwart all his relationships and cause him to betray his own set of values. His loyal wife supports him in both his fantasies and failures and her life seems to be entirely absorbed into his.
Unable to achieve the desired success in his own career, he becomes preoccupied with ensuring the success of his two sons. Sadly, his overzealous attempts serve only to reinforce his son’s inadequacy and lack of identity. Willy realizes toward the end of the play that he doesn’t need to sell himself to his family, who loves him despite his failings. His suicide, an act of defiance of the system, which until now has defeated him, is also a tragic attempt to salvage something of his dream.
Willys readiness to lay down his life to secure his dream that makes Willy a tragic yet heroic figure and one to whom in Linda’s words, “attention must be paid finally. ” According to Miller, “the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready t put his life aside, if necessary, to secure one thing, his sense of personal dignity” (Para 3, Miller). He is saying in this quotation that even the common man can even be tragic because occasionally the one thing that he prizes the most, his sense of self dignity can be so jaded that he would rather die than except his failure.
I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life” (Para 4, Miller). Perhaps Miller is correct, the reader sympathisizes with Willy because he is so passionate about his self preservation and pride. Willy was ready to throw his life away to be a well -liked man and successful being. He did not want to accept the fact that he failed in his occupation, so he refused to ever acknowledge his dying career. In the end his fate was that he was nobody, just an “average Joe.
He pictures as he prepares for suicide that lots of salesman are coming to his funeral but its false hope. Willy may be a common man who is nothing more than a liar, yet he is still pictured as a tragic hero. Why? Perhaps because though we view Willy as tragic, we see these same tragic qualities in our loved ones or ourselves. Miller says, “But there among is today, as there always have been, those who act against the scheme Of things that degrades them, and in the process of action everything we have expected out of fear or intensity or ignorance is shaken before us and examined” (Para 1, Miller).
Miller is quite true in saying that It is time that we are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it an possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man. ” After looking for so long at those who are of higher class and of a supposed higher importance, the only natural thing to do is to look at the common man. This is someone we can relate to, and in relating to him or her we can respect them for their hard work and determination, whether they succeed in the long run or not.
By looking at the ordinary person, it is as if one is objectively looking at himself. A Dolls House was written during the movement of naturalism, which commonly reflected society. During this century the role of women was to stay at home, raise the children, and attend to her husband. Nora Helmer is the character in a Dolls House that is a victim in the patriarchal society. Ibsen in his Dolls House depicts the role of women as subordinate in order to emphasize their role in society. Nora shows this by breaking away from all the standards and expectations of her husband and society had set up for er.
In her time women were supposed to be independent. She is the perfect image of a doll wife who revels in the thought of luxuries that she can afford because she is married. She is very flirtatious, and constantly engages in childlike acts of disobedience such as little lies. Nora goes through life with the illusion that everything is perfect. “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.
Among us today this fear is as strong, and perhaps stronger, than it ever was. In fact, it is the common man who knows this fear the best” (Para10, Miller). Nora displays small rebellions against her husband and his repressive actions throughout the novel, when she sneaks the candy, for instance. However, Nora first demonstrates strong fear and rebellion when she takes out a loan so that she can pay for her husband. It was against the law for a woman to take out a loan with out the husbands consent. When she did this she proved she wasn’t as submissive and helpless as Torvald thought she was.
Nora’s second rebellion was when she left Torvald and her children. The society she lived in demanded that she submit to her husband and that she should take place under him. Society considered women to be property of their husbands and that they should fulfill their every command. When Krogstad tries to blackmail Nora, and Torvald doesn’t even support her she realizes that there is a problem in her marraige. She had a passionate and devoted heart that was willing to do almost anything for her husband.
At first she did not understand that these feelings were not reciprocated. Then finally when Torvald realizes that his social stature will not be harmed he displays his real feelings for Nora, both physically and emotionally. It is at this time when Nora decides that she doesn’t want to be controlled by Torvald anymore and she told him that she was going to leave him. Nora says, “Yes. I am beginning to understand everything now. ” (Ibsen, 546 ) It is now when she can apprehend her forgery was wrong, not because it was illegal, but because was for an unworthy cause.
By leaving Torvald she is not only shutting him out but also forgetting everything in her past. This relates to the quote in Arthur Millers essay, ” the commonest of men may take on that stature to the extent of his willingness to throw all he has into the contest, the battle to secure his rightful place in his world” (Para 14, Miller). Finally in the end, she begins to realize that her whole life has been a lie. Nora’s rebellion was deliberate and well planned. She knew what was expected of her and she still did what she thought was right in her own mind.
These qualities lie at the heart of Nora’s heroic character. For Nora’s heroically brave personality shows her confidence in herself and her absolute refusal to live a life where she is not in control of her actions. She flouted society’s laws, worked hard, and is now about to reap the success of the action by handing over the final payment. In conclusion, Willy Loman and Nora are two ideal examples of tragic heros. Both Ibsen and Miller have showed how the common man such as Nora in “A Dolls House” and Willy Loman in “Death of Salesman” have emerged as a tragic hero.