Willy Loman is a tragic hero of Death of a Salesman. Willy’s end is what defines him as the protagonist of one of the most influential plays in history. Willy, having no self-knowledge or insight into his own problem with delusions leads to problems in his life with his family and eventually in death itself. Willy is defined as a tragic hero by his hamartia, or tragic flaw, which leads to his downfall. Willy’s tragic flaw is his delusion of grandeur and lack of insight into his family life.
Willy’s character also contains hubris, or excessive pride that often leads to the downfall of the protagonist, which Willy displays in his interactions with others throughout the play. Willy Loman starts out the play as an everyday man who wants to do nothing but provide for his family; Willy has even written “Death of a Salesman” himself! Willy shares this dream with his wife Linda (Linda), trying desperately all through their marriage to live out this fantasy together.
Even though Willy knows this is not real, Willy’s delusion of grandeur makes him believe that this is all possible. Willy views Willy as a “man who never made the most of his potential” (Miller 3), which shows Willy’s lack of self-knowledge about his own life. Willy has spent many years being dedicated to being nothing but a salesman for the New York firm of Miller & Miller, even though he does not have that much interest in selling insurance or anything else really.
Willy tries desperately to make it big, even asking Charley (Charley) if he could bring him on as a partner somewhere or at least get Willy something better than traveling around trying to sell people things they do not want. Willy feels that Willy is entitled to this because Willy has been with the company for so long and Willy’s son Biff (Biff) even helped sell Willy as a character for it once.
Willy is a tragic hero because he deals with the conflict of losing his job and can’t find a way out, leading to Willy killing himself. Willy has too high expectations for his sons, causing them to fail in Willy’s eyes and Willy committing suicide because of this. Willy Loman’s tragic flaw is that he always escapes into the past rather than face reality where it actually hurts him most. Willy never accepts the fact that he was fired from work; instead he continues to be stuck in his delusional thoughts “I’m leaving on top!
I don’t care if they all stay here without me” (Miller 28). This quote shows how Willy does not really care about anyone else but himself, Willy’s inability to face reality only hurts the people around Willy. Willy tries to run away from his problems instead of taking action towards them. Willy does not take any steps forward throughout the play until it is too late for Willy to make a difference in his life. Willy tells Linda “I’ll tell you a secret: I’m weak” (Miller 57).
This quote shows how Willy knows that he doesn’t have much strength but he still continues on with his plan to kill himself which causes many people to get hurt and feel bad for Willy when in reality Willy should be held responsible for what he has done. Willy’s tragic flaw leads to both the negative and positive conflict Willy experiences throughout the play. Willy’s tragic flaw causes Willy to lose his job, but Willy’s inability to face reality causes Willy to lose something much more important, his family.
Willy places too high of expectations on his sons and when they do not meet them Willy does not empathize with them instead Willy gets mad at them which leads to all three Loman men hating each other. This rift in the family allows for negative conflict among the Loman men, but it also adds onto Willy’s life ending conflict of losing his relationship with his family. Willy tries to escape from this problem by going on a two day trip that he never comes back from and eventually kills himself , Willy kills himself because Willy can’t have a relationship with his family.
Willy’s tragic flaw of only being able to see the good times in life, not the bad makes Willy kill himself. Willy thinks that by running away from his problems instead of facing them will make things better but Willy is wrong and Willy only ends up killing himself which is the cause of Willy’s tragic death at the end of Act II. Willy Loman’s character throughout Death of a Salesman is easily evident as a tragic hero. Willy Loman has several characteristics that lead to Willy becoming the target of tragedy; these characteristics are related to multiple themes present within Death of a Salesman.
Willy Loman’s character traits are Willy’s obsession with the past, Willy’s inability to see reality for what it is, Willy’s expectation of high success for his sons despite Willy knowing the circumstances they live in, Willy placing blame on others for his problems rather than taking responsibility himself, Willy believing he can create false realities to escape from problems that Willy has created for himself. Many of Willy Loman’s tragic hero characteristics are present within the events that take place during Death of a Salesman.
The first example of Willy being a tragic hero comes from how Willy views the past; “Old age is like everything else. To make a big deal out of it is like winks or nods” Willy believes that when you are old it is okay to make mistakes, Willy also uses this trait to justify his own desire of escaping the present. Willy’s past brings about many negative feelings towards Willy; Willy feels like he has wasted his entire life trying to be successful which makes Willy unhappy because Willy’s sons did not turn out to be successful.
Willy’s obsession with the past causes him not to see reality for what it is and Willys lack of seeing reality allows him to continue on with his delusional thoughts that everything will end up alright in the end. Willy’s constant thinking that “I don’t care what happens, I still think I’m a pretty good guy” (Miller 65) Willy believes that Willy can continue on with his deluded thinking because Willy believes that Willy is a good guy no matter the mistakes Willy has made in life.
Willy’s lack of seeing reality and Willy’s delusional thought process causes him to not want to face reality and Willy not wanting to face reality allows for negative conflict and added stress upon Willy’s life. Willy’s insistence of keeping up appearances causes many problems within Willy’s family; “It seems like every time somebody knocks me I come unglued” (Miller 57).