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Tragic Hero Essay

1183 words - 5 pages

The familiar definition of a tragic hero is one who falls from grace from an elevated status as a result of his own tragic flaw. However, in Arthur Miller's essay “Tragedy and the Common Man”, he explains his own concept of a tragic hero which refutes the classical Greek definition. Miller's changes are that he believes that a tragic hero does not need to be a man of great social standing, but can be an ordinary man. Miller says that “the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing-- his sense of personal dignity” (Miller). In addition, in his 'unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what ...view middle of the document...

There are a few moments when he acknowledges his life for what it is. When he confesses:

“I was fired, and I'm looking for a little good news to tell your mother,
because the woman has waited and the woman has suffered. The gist of it
is that I haven't got a story left in my head Biff. So don't give me a lecture
about facts and aspects. I am not interested. Now what've you got to say to me?” (pg 107 act 2)

Willy admits that he is determined to reach his goals even if he has to lie about it. This determination to reach his goals even if they are only illusions and Linda, his wife, who enables him by excusing his lies and encourages his manifestations, is the recipe for his down fall. When Biff cries to father to get him to understand that Biff will never be the “well liked” business man, Willy is already too far gone to be reasoned with. Willy believes that Biff will be “outstanding, with twenty thousand behind him.” (103act2).Delusional, Willy commits suicide, his insurance company does not pay for suicides and his family receives nothing. Willy leaves behind a devastated Linda, and his other son Happy to carry on with his impossible dream. Miller's definition of a tragic hero addresses Willy Loman's as one.

Oedipus, a man with a more traditional status, fits Miller's mold of a tragic hero. The gods have said Oedipus will murder his father, Laius, and then have children with his mother, Jocasta. Oedipus learns about the prophecy of his birth and makes it his mission for it to never come to be. Leaving Corinth, he exiles himself, believing he is saving his parents, Polybus and Merope. In a twist of fate he takes his birth right as the King of Thebes. When Thebes goes into ruin he pledges to make things right by saying:

“ Not for some distant unknown friend,- myself
for my own sake I'll drive this evil out
since he that slew this King were fain perchance
Again by the same hand to strike ... at me” (

This is impossible because he killed Laius, but at the time did not know the identity of the man he killed. Oedipus has already failed his escape of the prophecy but he is oblivious to this. The prophet Teiresias and his mother, wife Jocasta are not and plead with him to give up the search for Laius's murderer. Throughout the play Oedipus slowly reveals the...

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