In Search of Dignity: A study of the protagonist’s growth toward self-acceptance in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, and Death of a Salesman

Yamasaki, Bette
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Much has been said against the modern tragic figure because of his seeming passivity in the face of a crushing environment—a passivity which leads ultimately to his meaningless, inglorious death. Blanche Du Bois of A Streetcar Named Desire clings to the disappearing values of the genteel southern aristocracy. The victim of a shifting world in which men no longer revere women, Blanche cannot cope with the forces of brute strength seen in her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Thus, she is overcome and ultimately destroyed by Stanley and the world of force which he represents. In the same way it is said that Willy Loman of Death of a Salesman is thrown into a competitive world which values success and popularity, an impersonal world in which he has lost his rightful place. According to modern critics who refer to Aritotelean standards, Willy Loman’s life is not that of a man's mind in strong conflict with stronger fates. Rather his dilemma is that of a mindless man already beaten by them. No struggle. No action. Perhaps moving and pitiful, the whole life of salesman Willy Loman is nonetheless a passive surrender to the demands of material success which he cannot attain. For some, Willy the stupid salesman and his story are as great and significant as "a run-over and killed dog.” Pathetic, but hardly profound.
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