Critically examine Death of a Salesman as a realist tragedy.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miller's depiction of Willy is highly based in realism.  Miller wanted to depict a tragic condition of a "regular guy," someone with whom audiences could identify.  Miller, himself, asserted this:

...the audience members "were weeping because the central matrix of this play is ... what most people are up against in their lives.... they were seeing themselves, not because Willy is a salesman, but the situation in which he stood and to which he was reacting, and which was reacting against him, was probably the central situation of contemporary civilization. It is that we are struggling with forces that are far greater than we can handle, with no equipment to make anything mean anything."

In the end, it is this level of identification that makes Willy a protagonist of a realist tragedy.  Willy's depiction is one where audiences empathized with what is happening because his life is theirs.  Combining this with Miller's belief that modern tragedy is one setting where regular people's plights are emphasized helps to enhance the idea that Miller's work is a tragedy of realistic proportions.  When Miller argues that tragedy is of "the common man," it is something that reminds the reader that Willy is not a king or inheritor of legal throne.  Rather, he is an ordinary guy facing difficult conditions of being in the world.  This represents tragedy.

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