Arthur Miller. About The Tragic Hero – a modern view. “ A man or woman admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage. “ Webster’s , 1998 ed. Aristotle and the hero – the ancient view. A mixture of good and bad personality traits Of high moral worth
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About The Tragic Hero – a modern view “ A man or woman admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage. “ Webster’s, 1998 ed.
Aristotle and the hero – the ancient view • A mixture of good and bad personality traits • Of high moral worth • Elevated above the common man • “larger than life” • Possessing a character flaw and/ or ignorant of a key fact
Aristotle “There remains, then, the character between two extremes – that of a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be someone highly renowned and prosperous.” On Poetry and Music, 330 B.C.
Aristotle “The hero experiences the change of fortune from good to bad. It should come about, as the result, not of vice, but of some great error or frailty in a character.” On Poetry and Music
Aristotle’s reflections on tragedy “Tragedy is an imitation of persons who are above the common level [and thus] the example of good portrait painters should be followed. They, while reproducing the distinctive form of the original, make a likeness which is true to life and yet more beautiful. So, too, the poet, in representing
Death of a Salesman • Biff says in the Requiem, “Charley, the man didn’t know who he was.” • Can a character be a tragic hero if he never attains self-knowledge?
Willy Loman The good: • love for his wife • love for his sons, esp. Biff • Hardworking; can endure suffering • loyalty to his company; • devoted to the concept of the strength & beauty of America; self-less • idealistic
The bad: • arrogant • self-deceiving • unfaithful to Linda in the past • not wholly honest • quick tempered
The Common Man as Hero Miller’s thoughts: “The common man is suitable for a tragic hero.” Willy is meant to be seen as greater and better (at least in potential) than his society. Is he? In what ways?
More from Miller • Willy Loman is worthy of being viewed as a tragic hero because he “is ready to sacrifice his life to secure one thing--his sense of personal dignity.” Arthur Miller
Structure • He believed in the importance of • unity of action • unity of time • unity of place
What does Miller use? • Unity of time ? - Yes! Last 24 hours of Willy’s life • Unity of action? - Yes! The play is complete unto itself • Unity of place? – No – there are multiple settings
Themes in Death • The love of a father for a son and a son (Biff) for a father • The conflict between father and son • Man’s need to “leave a thumbprint somewhere in the world.”
Additional themes… • An examination of the materialistic values of society • An individual’s search for meaning and purpose in life (not Willy, but Biff) • failure in pursuit of success • the problem of communication
Reception “Miller’s achievement [in Death of aSalesman] is genuine and important, embodying a serious theme and defining a serious flaw in a modern, materialistic world.” Thomas Arp, S.M.U.