In looking at the characteristics of the tragic hero, it can be see that Willy Loman is not a tragic hero but a victim of a false idealistic pursuit of the American Dream. Willy strives to become and instill in his sons the success of the self made man that American society often advertises but ultimately falls short, and instead, escapes accepting his failure through lies and death. What many flaws Willy possesses, most do not correlate with the classic tragic hero. Willy Loman, was never really of noble stature, as was summed up by Linda, the person who knew him best. Willy Loman never made a lot of money.
His name was never in the paper. Hes not the finest character that ever lived. Willys harmartia was his obsession with the false American Dream that caused him to become delusional and totally blind of his actual situation. If this is so, then he cannot he commit a true and calculated error of judgment and then his downfall is due to an overriding irrepressible mental condition which cancels his own fault in his downfall. His delusional state of mind blurs reality and causes him to never accept or understand who he is or his downfall erasing any notion that he experienced an epiphany of any sort.
In fact, it can be said that he dragged one of his sons with him. In front of Willys grave Happy vows to continue Willys dream. He had a good dream. Its the only dream you can have- to come out the number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where Im gonna win it for him. Willy Loman is an example of the middle class man caught as a victim of society where the odds are against him, a has-been. As a victim he unwillingly suppressed himself and his family in a web of lies and false pride.
Although he never discovered his own ignorance and in the process took someone else, his death opened the window for Biff to see the real Willy. He had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong. He then describes Willy to the point. He never knew who he was. The metaphoric language used in the play is used mainly to advance its theme of idealism versus reality. The metaphors illustrate the plays portrayal of economic struggle and family instability. Furthermore, they can be classified what if metaphors and what is metaphors. A what if metaphor addresses the idealistic lives of the Lomans.
Dreams are constantly brought up by Biff who uses them to bring light to the fictitious and dreamy lives the family is living. When talking to Willy Biff says, Weve been talking in a dream for fifteen years. and later pleads with him to accept reality. Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens? Seeds are associated with Willys desire to create something, especially out of youth (Biff and Happy) and he often comments on planting them. Willy contemplates planting beet seeds in the garden. Maybe beets would grow out there. This creates an insightful response from Linda.
But you tried so many times. The seeds are representative of Willys desire to grow his family into something; Lindas remark paints the fact that he has failed. Right before his suicide, which brought the family much needed money, Willy goes out to the backyard and begins to plant a garden. A what is metaphor is exactly what it is, reality. The stockings represent Willys unfaithfulness to his wife and the torment that it brings him to know that. Willy snaps sharply at Linda when he sees her mending her stockings. I wont have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!
The sight of the stockings brings back memories of when Biff caught him cheating on his wife and found out that Willy gave his mistress the expensive stockings he was supposed to give Linda as a gift. The stockings then act as a symbol of Willy as a bad father and husband. The name Loman or Low-Man is metaphoric in that it describes and isolates the family at a low level social class. The metaphoric language helps to distinguish the line between reality and idealism, which is so often distorted. It lets the reader gain a better understanding of the familys conflict with being something theyre not in a place where they dont belong.
For the most part Death of a Salesman does not conform to the structure of the classic tragedy even though a few elements agree with the classic tragedy, namely Willys consistency and the Requiem as a Greek chorus. Among the main inconsistencies with the classic tragedy are the dialogue and character discrepancies. The dialogue creates a link in the play to everyday occurrences that happen in our own lives, separating it from the larger than life aspects of the classic tragedy. The dialogue used in the play is everyday language; it is independent of the poetic and high language used in classical tragedies.
Instead of relying on high language to advance the theme the play uses its banal dialogue to bring up character interactions that speak of the past, present and future to further the theme. Willy and Biff are the plays two central characters and it can be seen that they are the ones who Miller actively developed over the other lesser characters. Willy and Biffs conflicting relationship effectively portrays the theme of appearance versus reality as well as the economic and family struggles through their dialogue in past and present events. Willy puts their situation into context when he exclaims, I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!
This statement reinforces the fact that they are lost within their phony lives yet they dont seem to accept it. The remaining characters act as support towards the conflict between Willy and Biff in their own secondary roles by providing insight with their often brief and rare dialogue. For example: Ben exemplifies Willys desires in his afterlife through Willys complete admiration of his success and confidence. Ben! That man was a genius, that man was success incarnate! Charley, a minor character who helped Willy through his struggles addressed Willys obsession with artificial success by telling Willy what kept him clear-minded.
My salvation is that I never took any interest in anything. Perhaps the most obvious departure from tradition is that Willy Loman is not of noble stature and he doesnt fall from a great height as a tragic hero would. This concept is very important, while viewing a classic tragedy the audience is to experience a refreshing sense of human greatness and the potential it holds and, with it, experience a catharsis. This would be due to the tragic heros awe-inspiring downfall and the cosmic discovery he makes as a result of the acceptance of his downfall.
This scenario is not present in Death of a Salesman since the nature of Willys pitiful downfall does not evoke human greatness or potential. Death of a Salesman clearly does not adhere to classic requirements yet it does have some elements that point towards the classic tragedy. While these common elements can be portrayed in seemingly very different ways classic views are much different than modern views. Willy Lowman could be a great human not in his noble stature and spirit but in pure emotion and good intentions.
In Death of a Salesman fate and destiny are not depicted as they would be in a classic tragedy with gods and oracles as a participating force in the tragic heros downfall. It is portrayed through foreshadowing in the character’s dialogue in a much more modern sense. After all, as a society we dont think the same as the Greeks did and this particular play is about a mans failure in todays modern society. Even though this play does not conform to traditional classic tragedy a pattern, a preordained cycle revolving around the family can be seen, much like the family curse in Oedipus Rex.
The name Loman is suggestive that the family will never be high on the ladder just as the name Oedipus is suggestive that he will always drag his past behind him. The family curse aspect can be seen in Ben and Happy. Willy wants to become everything Ben is, rich and confident, but Ben is also dead. Willys father went off to Alaska to find wealth but also ended up dead. In the Requiem, Happy vows to finish what his father started and therefore following in his footsteps, Im gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain.
He ends the proclamation with, Im gonna win it for him. Three people with the same goal, economic success and freedom, with what can be assumed the same outcome, death. Alternatively, the story of David Singleman acts as an oracle in the way that it foreshadows Willys death, – and by the way he died the death of a salesman. Within the past, present and future actions of characters the effects of a preordained outcome are clearly visible. By looking at character relations and incorporating old techniques with more modern ones a dark pattern of design looms over the Loman family.