Willy Loman as a tragic character

Question: Discuss Willy Loman as a tragic character.


Arthur Miller (1915-2005) in his play “Death of Salesman” (1949) has presented Willy Loman as a tragic character. A tragic hero is a character who represents consequences that contain one or more personal faults or being doomed by a certain fate. Theoretically, as a literary device, the purpose of a tragic protagonist is to arouse sympathy and fear in the audience through the protagonist’s flaws and consequent fall.

Not so good nor bad

According to Aristotle, the character of the tragic hero will be not much good or worse. Willy Loman is not so good or bad. He is a sixty-plus traveling salesman. He has been serving in a company as a traveling salesman for nearly 36 years. He has responsibility for the family that is why he is doing the job. He wants to be a successful businessman like Ben. He wants to see his sons’ high-principled positions. These are normally good sides of Willy. On the other side, he has to conceal relations with a woman to preserve his social prestige that is why we can say that Willy Loman is not fraught good or fully bad.

Tragic flaw

The tragic fault causes the downfall of the hero. It indicates the three facts such as ignorance of circumstances, the error of judgment, and voluntary commitment for error. Willy Loman has a tragic flaw that is his high ambition. He wants to be a successful man in America. He wants to see his sons in great positions. He cannot face reality. He has an American dream which symbolizes name, fame, and money is the main tragic flaw of his life.

Hubris or excessive pride

Hubris is a Greek word that stands for excessive pride and disrespect for the natural order of things. In the play, Willy Loman has the American Dream which stands for excessive pride. We have seen that Willy teaches his sons in such a way that the present business world has no need for educational knowledge but needs only smartness. Such worse teaching is nothing else but disrespect for the natural order of things.

Notes of Drama


Nemesis prescribes the punishment and suffering for the tragic characters. The tragic character must suffer the utmost because of his hamartia and hubris. Willy Loman has got suffering and punishment before death. at the starting of the play, we see that Willy Loman is a salesman, but he does not get a fixed salary from the company. He gets only commission from the company on product selling and is suffering from an economic crisis. Willy never introduces his children to reality and because of this, they have been doomed. For the purpose of establishing his sons, he has sacrificed his life since Biff and Happy want to start a business but they have no money. After his death, the Insurance Company will be paid 20000 dollars. This money will help them much to start the business. Thus, death is both of the terms of punishment and sacrifice for Willy Loman.


Catharsis refers to pity and fear roused within the audience. In the play, we have seen that Willy Loman is a salesman. He is a complete failure. On the other hand, Biff and Happy want to start a business. They have no money to start the business. Willy Loman has sacrificed his life. Because, after his death, the Insurance Company will be paid 20000 dollars. It is a very great work that is why the audience has been forced to feel pity and fear.


From the above discussion, we can assert that Willy Loman is the tragic character of the drama since all the characteristics of a tragic character are well-matched with him.

Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

One comment

  1. I’ll forever be grateful respectable sir💝💝💝

    I am from Gaibandha Govt College. Masters session 2020-21. Please keep me in your prayers.

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