Sunday, January 1, 2012

Is "Death of a Salesman" a tragedy and Willy Loman a tragic hero, or is his death merely the pathetic demise of a small man?

"A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man." However, this comparison should only be made when said small man has qualities that make up for not being a "great man" in terms of accomplishments. Willy Loman does not have these qualities and it is indeed this reason that he is a small man. In turn, his death is merely his pathetic demise. In terms of being a hero, Willy Loman could have been. If he would've opened his eyes and been more in touch with reality, not lied to his children and cheated on his faithful wife, been an honest, hardworking man who unfortunately didn't ever get to accomplish anything great even though he tried, he would have in fact achieved the greatness he so craved. In life, it's about fulfilling the position you currently have to your best potential before you can ever move forward and go on to accomplish better things.

Willy Loman was just a product of his time period. Can he be blamed for that? Perhaps not. However, it is every persons duty to take responsibility for their actions and their conscious decisions. Because Mr. Loman's decisions were just that: conscious ones. Presented as a little bit crazy and out of his head, it is easy to say that he didn't know better. Essentially, excuses can be made for him and it is possible that a position for him as a "tragic hero" can be argued. Yet this should not be so. For every action, there exists an equal and opposite reaction. Willy Loman never accepted responsibility for his actions, never accepted the resulting consequences, even though he alone made the bad decisions that created them. It is in this that Willy Loman can never be any type of hero, even a tragic one, to the readers of Death of a Salesman.

As a person though, Willy Loman deserved a certain basic respect. Linda, his wife, demonstrates this when she states in Act One: "I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog..." Even the smallest man deserves basic respect, and, though he was no hero, Willy Loman is no different in this regard. 

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