Tragedy, Aristotle and "Death of a Salesman" Book Review by Champ

Tragedy, Aristotle and "Death of a Salesman"
An analysis of how Aristotle defines tragedy and how it is portrayed by Arthur Miller in his play "Death of a Salesman".
# 98408 | 4,224 words | 9 sources | APA | 2007 | US
Published on Sep 23, 2007 in Drama and Theater (American) , Philosophy (Ancient Greek) , English (Analysis)

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Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" has several strong literary and socially disturbing dimensions, but the one that stands most is its tragic dimension. This paper contends that "Death of a Salesman" is in fact tragic, and that within that tragic dimension there are several themes that are apparent and important: financial failure, emotional inadequacy, false pride, sports promise and sports failure, sexual confusion and impropriety, career stumbling, a dysfunctional family, death and madness. Tragedy to varying and diverse degrees is presented as a dynamic that is witnessed in Willy's family, in Willy's failed careers, and of course in his failed relationship with his son and in his marriage. Additionally there are tragic circumstances within the popular American contemporary vernacular of sports. The paper also examines Aristotle's stance on tragedy and how it compares to that of Arthur Miller.

What Is Tragedy? Miller's Philosophy on Tragedy and His Perspective on the Play
What Is Aristotle's Philosophy Regarding Tragedy?
The Death of a Salesman: The Literature and the Scholarship
Other Tragic Features of the Play

From the Paper:

"After going to lengths to point out that Miller sees the central tragic figure in the play as Willy, Hagopian insists that it's Biff Loman, Willy's son, is the one who "ultimately makes things happen, who responds to the great trauma in his life with an emotional and moral paralysis..." That point could be rebutted effectively, but meantime a more pertinent point that Hagopian makes is that, after Biff finds his dad in a hotel room with another woman; "You fake!" he barks. "You phony little fake! You fake!" And now dad has been fired from his job, and Willy fears his son will expose his immoral deeds to mom. But Biff does not, he just wants to rage at his dad, and say "goodbye to you Pop...let's just wrap it up, heh?" The scene that Willy provokes has definite tragic consequences, Hagopian admits on page 40. "

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Clurman, Harold. (1961). Review of Death of a Salesman. In J.D. Hurrell (Ed.), Two Modern American Tragedies (pp. 65-67). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Hagopian, John V. (1963). Arthur Miller: The Salesman's Two Cases. In W. J. Meserve (Ed.), The Merrill Studies in Death of a Salesman (pp. 34-42). Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company.
  • McManus, Barbara F. (1999). Outline of Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy in the Poetics. College Of Rochelle (New York State). Retrieved 29 Nov. 2006 from
  • Miller, Arthur. (1952). Death of a Salesman. New York: Dramatists Play Service.
  • Miller, Arthur (1949). Miller on Death of a Salesman: Tragedy and the Common Man. In G. Weales (Ed.), Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman: Text and Criticism (pp. 143-147). New York: The Viking Press.

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