Tragedy And The Common Man Summary

In Miller's essay "Tragedy and the Common Man," what are his strongest points that the common man is a suitable subject for tragedy?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In his essay, "Tragedy and the Common Man," Arthur Miller makes one very strong point regarding the common man's suitability for tragedies.

According to Miller, the common man is best suited for the tragedy based upon the following:

The quality in such plays that does shake us, however, derives from the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world. Among us today this fear is strong, and perhaps stronger, than it ever was. In fact, it is the common man who knows this fear best.

What this means is that the common man is the one who truly understands fear and, therefore, is best suited for the tragedy based upon his understanding of fear. Man, forever in search of the morality (based upon their own perceptions), is most capable of finding himself for himself. It is up to no other person but the character in question to come to the conclusion about his own morality and the extent he will go to in order to find it.

Men who are not "common" fail to have the same mindset as common men. They are more impressed with the abstract qualities based upon the fact that they define life for themselves only--in a way they are above traditional thought and fear. Common man, on the other hand, accepts the "condition of life" and both flourishes and self-actualizes.

Therefore, the best way to define the common man's suitability for the tragic role is to use Miller's words alone: "the common man knows fear best."

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