Arthur Miller uses Willy, a common man, whose only flaw is his inability to question the validity of the American Dream, to portray a tragic hero, and also to question the ideals of the American society. Willy’s conflicted, lonely and seemingly false character has been created with only one end, and it is through the story of his life, his denial and finally his death, that undeniably grants his validity as a character. As Miller writes, ‘tragedy is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly’, this feeling being evoked 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’.
Willy’s character alone has many flaws which
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As a common man, Willy’s character is bound to make mistakes, the writer uses these mistakes to enforce the readers own opinion of Willy in their minds. At times the audience may dislike Willy’s character, due to his actions, his beliefs, or otherwise, but in the end there is an overpowering feeling of sorrow and pity. Willy’s death not only affects the fictional characters that have surrounded him in the play, such as his wife and sons, but also enhances the emotions of the audience as they become aware of the tragic ending of the play.
Willy’s conflicted mind, his conflicting objectives, and conflict between other characters in the play build up and end at Willy’s death. Conflict is seen between Willy and his sons, Linda and Biff, and obviously in Willy’s treatment of his wife. At the beginning of the play, Willy’s character seems abusive and unappreciative of Linda, Biff telling her ‘He always, always wiped the floor with you. Never had an ounce of respect for you’. The conflict between Willy and Biff has changed Biff’s opinion of his father, and has allowed him to question the ideals and dreams that his father imposed upon him as a child. Willy still refuses to question these values, but the play makes it obvious that he dwells upon the relationship between him and his son, Linda