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As stated before, Miller thought that the common man was the most eligible person with which he could create a tragic hero. With this in mind he set out to make his characters tragic heroes, giving them what he called “a tragic flaw”, a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated characters, nor is it necessarily a weakness. In Miller’s plays, these flaws are not major cracks in their characters, they are on the contrary are something as simple as having too much faith in a system that lets them down when they both need it. This philosophy of Miller, gives us a lot of insight into the characters, and also their actions.
Joe Keller, the protagonist, is a man who loves his family above all else, and has sacrificed everything, including his honour, in his struggle to make the family prosperous. His fundamental flaw however, is that he is not a man who sees the bigger picture of life, that the whole of mankind is a ”family” that deserves just as much consideration, if not more, than his own family. He also feels as though the ”system” will protect him, seeing as he was able to trick it. It is this, that leads to the death of the 21 pilots, that were flying faulty planes made by his factory.
The American way of life is clearly seen as his ultimate goal, as he is only looking out for himself and his family. His wife, Kate, is a woman that has a tremendous capacity for love, which I seen no only in her love for her lost son, but also in that it extends to her neighbors, notably to George. It is easy to assume that Kate’s persistence in declaring her son still living, is because she could not could with the idea of her son being dead. This is not so, it is in fact, that her sons death would be a punishment for Joes crime, which would be intolerable for her, so she continues to support Joe’s deceit.
Kate seems to the reader to be a very unbalanced and somewhat stupid woman, however she, like Joe, is simply trying to hold the family together, even if it is somewhat desperate. Second Section: Death of a Salesman Death of a Salesman is widely regarded as the ultimate tragedy, and was extremely well received by American critics. It is a complete and utter criticism of the American dream, and the American people of the forties. More pertaining to the concept of tragic heroes however, the play deals with painful conflicts within the family, and how a man can fall, ungracefully from a position of respect within the family.
The main character of the play, is the father of the Loman family, Willy. He works as a door-to-door salesman, and travels a lot for his job. His wife Linda, seems to be the strongest person in the family, and supports Willy, who is fed up of working, and is slightly disillusioned about life in general. Biff, the oldest of their two sons, is visiting the family, having been off ‘finding himself’, working on and off, but still not settled down to a decent job. His brother, Happy, is young, and as his name suggests, is the most cheerful person in the family.
It is extremely hard to outline the plot of the play for two reasons: the first reason is that not a lot actually happens in the play, it is more about the relationship between characters, and with themselves. The second reason is that it is divided in two ‘sections’ that run parallel to each other in Willies mind: the present, and the past (Willy’s memories). Willy has numerous flashbacks during the play, mainly where he describes an event which had a strong impact on his life.
One example of such a flashback would be when Linda is trying to comfort him, and suddenly he is a hotel room with his mistress. The play is mainly a record of the problems that a man suffers in a capitalistic and pushy society. It is set in a pleasant suburban area, in the late forties. The reader mainly follows Willy around, through past and present and by this method of narration, we learn a lot about Willy, through his flashbacks, such as his affair with ‘The Woman’, the fact that he was fired from his job. Fourth Section: Common Threads Style Theories Symbols – Motives Context Characters.
With the idea of the common man in mind, Miller set out to construct his own tragic heroes, giving them what he called “a tragic flaw”, a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated characters, nor is it necessarily a weakness. In Miller’s plays, these flaws are not major cracks in their characters, they are on the contrary the reactions that the characters have to challenges to their dignity or status. These tragic heroes show two types of reactions: passive, and overly aggressive (ref).
Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller All my sons – Arthur Miller.