Discuss the idea that the tragedy of Willy is a tragedy of a modern,not Aristotelian, proportions that centers on the common man.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the tragedy that is outlined in Miller's work is modern in its scope.  It is not Aristotelian in that it seeks to illuminate a modern condition for modern individuals.  In the Aristotelian view, there is a dramatic sense of appreciation, an aesthetic that seems to confine itself into the realm of the dramatic.  This is not in Miller's rendering, as Willy's tragedy is of the common man, something that is applicable to to all individuals.  At the same time, the tragic narrative of Willy seeking to appropriate the world in accordance to his own subjectivity and failing in that reflects a tragic proportion that is not necessarily evident in Aristotle's poetic nature of tragedy.  When Miller writes Willy's tragedy, it is a condition that is specifically linked to the condition of regular, common people, broadening its appeal and ability to connect to the viewer/ reader.  In a viewing of the production, Miller notes as much in explaining his interpretation of the audience's reaction to what they were seeing:

[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 seeking to make a drama that is a critique of the "central situation of contemporary society and one in which a "struggling" in this configuration is evident, Miller has constructed a tragic condition that is not Aristotelian, but rather modern in its reach and its implications.

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Death of a Salesman

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