"Select a novel or play in which a tragic figure functions as an instrument of the suffering of others. Then write an essay in which you explain how the suffering brought upon others by that figure contributes to the tragic vision of the work as a whole."
The idea that through tragedy there is progress has remained a constant literary theme since the earliest works of fiction. Catharsis, the release of tension, being one of the powerful tools or rhetoric has proved the ability to convey thoughts that would otherwise be lost in translation. An instance of this strange method is observable in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Willy Lowman, the protagonist, slowly slips into a state of nostalgic bliss, causing his family deep distress, The play uses Willy's tragedy to contribute to Arthur Miller's vision of American society.
The play follows the life and career if a traveling salesman in the late 1930's through Willy's day dreams and flashbacks. Throughout the play the audience discovers through conversations amongst Willy's family in his absence that Willy is going insane. Arthur Miller satirically implies that Willy is the average american with old-fashioned values in and shifting American society. Willy often states how unique both he and his family are, however, the audience soon learns that this sense of success is an illusion, The pain cause by Willy's constant reminiscing of fabricated memories drives Biff, Willy's son, to furiously lash out. Biff's torment adds to the underlying feeling of inadequacy felt by the younger American generation in the wake of two world wars.
Willy Lowman's character seeks reassurance and worth in fantasies of riches in foreign lands. His slacking job performance is revealed through meetings with his young successful boss that threatens to fire him unless he can make the profit that he used to. Willy, clinging to his delusion for comfort, asks his supposedly successful son, Happy, how his job is going. The truth that Happy is not prosperous is divulged through his conversation with Biff about their mutual feeling of inadequacy. The contrast between the old-fashioned American's unrealistic perspective and the younger generation's inability to live up to the old standards reaches a climax when Biff and Happy finally shatter their father's ignorance using the truth about their circumstances as the tool. Only after Willy has gone insane and caused his own death does equilibrium bring peace the to the family. The old must die to make room for the new.
Death of a Salesman provides ideal examples of misery being medicine for joy. Characters serving as tragic heros twist human nature's perception of possible paths to happiness. The very juxtaposition of prosperity and gloom define what is logical to consider tragic or successful. With out both elements, no line would exist ti determine the reasoning for either. Despite this, the path to happiness has no single route, therefore providing a role for the tragic hero.
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