English III H
Death of a Salesman Final Response
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman depicts the story of Willy Loman, a decrepit salesman on the last legs of his life. Willy’s company abandoned him, took away his pay forcing him to work on commission, and this drastic change of life wreaks havoc on his psyche. Willy begins to mix up the past and present and often enters a fugue in which he replays events from his life while completely disregarding his life around him. This turmoil eventually leads to his demise, with Loman deciding the best course of action for him and his family is to commit suicide, so his family can reap the benefits from life insurance. As tragic as Willy’s life seems, Willy rarely shows remorse for his actions and even goes as far to insult his son Biff after Biff tries to relinquish some of Willy’s guilt onto himself in the scene preceding Willy’s death. Although Willy experiences moments of hamartia, peripeteia, and catharsis through the course of the play, Willy never achieves a moment of anagnorisis, and because he fails to meet one of the four criteria outlined by Aristotle in Poetics, Willy cannot be defined as an Aristotelian tragic hero.
When the reader is introduced to Willy, he’s already losing his grip on reality. He returns home early from a business trip and explains that he couldn’t make the drive up to Boston, “I suddenly couldn’t drive any more. The car kept going off onto the shoulder, y’know… Suddenly I realize I’m goin’ sixty miles an hour and I don’t remember the last five minutes. I’m — I can’t seem to — keep my mind...