Tragic Heroes- Willy Loman

’s Fall Essay, Research Paper #2) Discuss Willy Loman as a tragic hero: Based your understanding of what being a hero means. You are, of course, free to differ with the designation.

’s Fall Essay, Research Paper

#2) Discuss Willy Loman as a tragic hero: Based your understanding of what being a hero means. You are, of course, free to differ with the designation.

No one has a perfect life. Everyone has conflicts that they must

face sooner or later. The ways in which people deal with these personal

conflicts can differ as much as the people themselves. Some insist on

ignoring the problem as long as possible, while some attack the problem to

get it out of the way. Willy Lowman’s technique in Arthur Miller’s play

Death of a Salesman, leads to very severe consequences. Willy never really

does anything to help the situation, he just escapes into the past, whether

intentionally or not, to happier times were problems were scarce. He uses

this escape as if it were a narcotic, and as the play progresses, the reader

learns that it can be a dangerous drug, because of it’s addictiveness and

it’s deadliness.

The first time Willy is seen lapsing off into the past is when he

encounters Biff after arriving home. The conversation between Willy and

Linda reflects Willy’s disappointment in Biff and what he has become, which

is, for the most part, a bum. After failing to deal adequately with his

feelings, he escapes into a time when things were better for his family. It

is not uncommon for one to think of better times at low points in their life

in order to cheer themselves up so that they are able to deal with the

problems they encounter, but Willy Lowman takes it one step further. His

refusal to accept reality is so strong that in his mind he is transported

back in time to relive one of the happier days of his life. It was a time

when no one argued, Willy and Linda were younger, the financial situation

was less of a burden, and Biff and Happy enthusiastically welcomed their

father back home from a long road trip. Willy’s need for the “drug” is

satiated and he is reassured that everything will turn out okay, and the

family will soon be as happy as it was in the good old days.

The next flashback occurs during a discussion between Willy and Linda.

Willy is depressed about his inability to make enough money to support his

family, his looks, his personality and the success of his friend and neighbor, Charley. “My God if business doesn’t pick up , I don’t know what

I’m gonna do!” is the comment made by Willy after Linda figures the

difference between the family’s income and their expenses. Before Linda has

a chance to offer any words of consolation Willy blurts out “I’m Fat. I’m

very–foolish to look at, Linda”. In doing this he has depressed

himself so much that he is visited by a woman with whom he is having an

affair. The woman’s purpose in this point of the play is to cheer him up.

She raises his spirits by telling him how funny and loveable he is, saying

“You do make me laugh….And I think you’re a wonderful man.”. And

when he is reassured of his attractiveness and competence, the woman

disappears, her purpose being fulfilled. Once again the drug has come to

the rescue, postponing Willy’s having to actually do something about his


The next day, when Willy is fired after initially going to ask his boss to

be relocated is when the next journey into the past occurs. The point of

the play during which this episode takes place is so dramatic that willy

seeks a big hit of the flashback drug. Such a big hit in fact, that he is

transported back to what was probably the happiest day of his life. Biff

was going to play in Ebbets field in the All-Scholastic Championship game in

front of thousands of people. Willy couldn’t be prouder of his two popular

sons who at the time had everything going for them and seemed destined to

live great, important lives, much more so than the “liked, but not well

liked” boy next door, Bernard. Willy’s dependency on the “drug” is becoming

greater by the hour, at this rate, he cannot remain sane for much longer.

Too much of anything, even a good thing, can quickly become a bad thing.

Evidence of this statement is seen during Willy’s next flashback, when the

drug he has been using for so long to avoid his problems backfires, giving

him a “bad trip”, quite possibly a side effect of overuse. This time he is

brought back to one of the most disturbing moments in his life. It’s the

day that Biff had discovered his father’s mistress while visiting him on one

of his trips to ask him to come back home and negotiate with his math

teacher to give him the four points he needed to pass math and graduate high

school. This scene gives the reader a chance to fully understand the

tension between Willy and Biff, and why things can never be the same.

Throughout the play, the present has been full of misfortune for the most

part, while the opposite is true for the past. The reader is left to wonder

when the turning point occurred. What was the earth-shattering event that

threw the entire Lowman family into a state of such constant tension? Now

that event is revealed and Willy is out of good memories to return to. With

the last hit of Willy’s supply of the drug spent, what next?

The comparison between Willy’s voyages into the past and the use of a narcotic

is so perceptible because of it’s verity. When Willy’s feeling down, or

life seems just too tedious and insignificant, or when things just aren’t

going his way, why not take a hit of the old miracle drug, memories. The

way he overuses his vivid imagination is sad because the only thing it’s

good for is enabling Willy to go through one more day of his piteous life,

full of bitterness, confusion, depression, false hopefulness, and a feeling

of love which he is trying very hard to express to his sons who seem

reluctant to accept it.