“Well Liked” Heros come in variously different shapes and sizes. Some are tall and muscular, others are brave knights and fearless princes, and some are even tragic. Tragic heroes are the protagonists of plays the fall under the genre of a tragedy. What defines a tragic hero is their error in judgement or character flaw that leads them to their own downfall. In previous times, a tragic hero had to be of noble blood yet in Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller shows the role of a tragic hero is also attainable by an everyday, average Joe.
The play is bout a Willy Loman, a mentally unstable sixty three year old salesman who is having trouble fulfilling the expectations of the set out for himself. Arthur Miller, the playwright of Death of a Salesman redefines the criteria of a tragic hero, successfully allowing a common man to play the role. Throughout the play, it is evident that Willys major character flaw is a lack of self-satisfaction. Willy never seems to be pleased with himself, always seeking approval of others causing his desperation to be “well liked” causing the major short comings that lead to his death.
His lack of self-satisfaction causing his hopeless desire to be admired by those around him is to blame as the reason why Willy chose the life of a salesman. Judging Dave Singleman as popular individual who was liked by others based on the numerous attendees of his funeral led Willy to believe that being a salesman was the only way to achieve that level of admiration, even though he is not able to keep up with the field during his old age. The same character flaw can be viewed as one of the reasons he cheated on his wife, Linda by having an affair with a secretary of a uyer, putting a large strain on his relationship with his eldest son Biff.
Lastly, although Willy is confronted about the error of his ways, he still decides to focus on achieving admiration, particularly from Biff. In a sacrificial yet cowardly act, he takes his own life so his son will be pleased with him because of the insurance money. Willy puts high importance on being “well liked”, in fact since his sons Biff and Happy were a teenagers, he drilled the importance of being well liked in to their minds, viewing admiration from others as the only path to success. Similarly, this goes hand in hand with Will}/s choice of career path.
When Willy was younger, his father was also salesman but he was inspired to be exactly as a man named Dave Singleman, an eighty four year old salesman he met in the Parker House. He was astounded at how many people admired Dave Singleman, ” ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up his phone and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?… when he died, hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral Act II 63).
Willfs lack of self-satisfaction causes him to crave the same amount of approbation Dave Singleman achieved from others. This instigates Willy to choose selling as his career, “And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want,” (Miller Act II 64). Willy chooses this career based on the ideology that it will get him admired and respected without taking into consideration whether or not he is actually capable of selling or keeping up in the demanding world of business. At first Willy becomes a mediocre salesman and remains one until middle age.
However, this misjudgement becomes outlined very clearly as he enters old age and is no longer capable of maintaining his marginal sales. Willy Loman had a good run but ultimately loses the race, failing to gain what he thinks is his rightful place in society. Secondly, when a person is neither happy nor satisfied with themselves, they look for other outlets in life to fulfill the void. Since, Willy’s character flaw is lack of self-satisfaction it makes sense that the outlet he uses is an affair with a nameless secretary of one of the buyers.
Willys reasons for having an affair o far beyond sole physical and financial gain. Willy uses the affair as an emotional retreat for himself, utilizing it as a method to attain admiration. In one of his flashbacks, he repeatedly asks her, if she picked him even though her response is always yes. “You picked me?… You picked me heh? ” (Miller Act 30). The Woman responds saying, “Sure. Because you’re so sweet. And such a kidder. ” (Miller Act 1 30).
Hearing this makes Willy very happy because it gives him a special feeling of admiration since the Woman picked him and only him. This proves Willys lack of satisfaction with himself which causes his eliance on seeking the approval of others to make himself happy. This affair is caused by Willy’s need for admiration but nonetheless, it also causes Willy to lose the love and respect of his number one fan, Biff. After surprising his father with a visit to Boston to see him, a teenage Biff discovers Willfs dirty little secret and is outraged, claiming, “Don’t touch me, fake!
You phony little fake! You fake! ” (Miller Act II 91). Willys affair causes Biff to reject Willy, his philosophies, and anything he stands for, putting an eternally large strain their relationship. Lastly, after a lifetime of trying to be “well liked”, Willys desperate desire to be admired by others leads him to his eternal demise. The same night as the final confrontation scene between Willy and Biff, Willy has an illusion of a conversation with Ben, his deceased older brother.
The conversation revolves around Willfs suicide and how Biff would be affected by it. “It’s twenty thousand dollars on the barrelhead. Guaranteed, gilt-edged, you understand?… Because he thinks I’m nothing, see, and so he spites me. But the funeral”Ben, that funeral will be massive! ,” (Miller Act II 100). Willy insists that Biff will finally think highly of him after receiving the twenty thousand dollar insurance premium he will receive after the death and witnessing the numerous attendees of his funeral.
Feeling that his suicide is the only way to make Biff admire him, he decides to take his own life claiming, “Oh, Ben always knew one way or another we were gonna make it, Biff and II” (Miller Act II 107) before intentionally speeding off and crashing his car. Willys tragic flaw of a lack of self-satisfaction lands him at final approach to try to achieving admiration from his son by taking his own ife, causing him to throw in the towel before the game was even over.
Conclusively, in the play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller the playwright has successfully portrayed Willy Loman as a modern day tragic hero. Willy Loman’s lack of self-satisfaction results in him having low esteem which causes him to frantically seek the approval of others, so he can label himself as a “well liked” individual. This flaw paves the way for his greatest shortcomings. Firstly, the flaw led Willy to choose a career he wasn’t cut out for, solely based upon how he judged the Dave Singleman as popular usinesman who was admired by others due to the numerous attendees of his funeral.
Willy believed that being a salesman was the only method to acquire admiration and respect from others even though he was a mediocre one at best. The flaw also led him into an affair with the secretary of a buyer because he likes the way she makes him feel special as if he is wanted and admired, repeatedly asking her if she picked him only to get the yes as the same answer as a confirmation of her admiration of him. The affair caused a large strain on Willfs relationship with Biff, causing Biff to reject him , his hilosophies, and anything Willy stands for.
Lastly, this flaw also led him to his eternal demise since he sacrificed himself by committing suicide in an effort to please Biff and win his respect back; beliving Biff would realize how great of a man he is after he saw the insurance money. Willy Loman’s tragic flaw of lack of self-satisfaction led him to believe that true success is measured by popularity causing him to desperately seem the approval and admiration of others. Willys flaw leads him lose the ongoing battle of his life when it could have been initially won.
Had it not been for that flaw, Willy wouldn’t have made all the wrong choices but unfortunately since he had no control over his flaw, it directed him to his death, molding him into a weak yet still sufficient modern day tragic hero.