Death of a Salesman and Fences - Book Report/Review Example

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This essay compares the two plays, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and Fences by August Wilson. This comparison is done using Arthur Miller's definition of modern tragedy as a guide. In "Tragedy and the Common Man" (Miller 1200), Miller wrote, "I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing - his sense of personal dignity." Both plays are tragedies…
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Death of a Salesman and Fences
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The tragic figures in Death of a Salesman and Fences. This essay compares the two plays, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and Fences by August Wilson. This comparison is done using Arthur Miller's definition of modern tragedy as a guide. In "Tragedy and the Common Man" (Miller 1200), Miller wrote, "I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing - his sense of personal dignity." Both plays are tragedies. This thesis states that people of character and calculated thoughts may face tragic consequences in their persistent pursuit of their ideals.
Anton states Aristotle's definitions of thought and character. Anton says that; 'He expresses character when he manifests choice or avoidance; he exhibits thought when he demonstrates and more generally argues for something and he does both when he combines choice with demonstration.'(Anton 99). In the Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is the most tragic figure. He has character as can be defined in terms of Anton's descriptions. He is older than sixty and a struggling salesman. He lives in the past glories where he imagined himself as being successful, popular and important to his company. He constantly strives to prove himself by trying to achieve sales targets but the reality is that he is a failure. Using Miller's definition to analyze Willy, he is found to be a tragic character. Willy has health and mental problems like stress, flashback and depersonalization. He is not in a fit condition to drive but yet his company acts like a ruthless capitalist, sending him on faraway road trips. Willy is overconfident of his selling skills. He is boastful as he blows his own trumpet to bargain with his employer for a more relaxed job in town. Willy loses his dignity as he has no choices in his bargaining tools during his negotiation with his boss. He depreciates his salary himself but his boss is unmoved. The boss delivers the tragic blow to dismiss Willy instead because of his demands. Willy cowers and pleads for his job. He shows his lack of character, as defined by Anton's statement of Aristotle's philosophies on what is character. When Willy cannot make any money from sales, he borrows from his neighbor, Charley, to maintain his patriarchal pride as the breadwinner of the family. Willy even bribes the Woman to get recommendations to potential customers. He fits into Miller's definition of a tragic character because he lays down his life to prove that he is a good salesman. Everything he does is towards preserving his dignity or in other words, maintaining the faade of being a good salesman, father, husband, brother and friend. He commits suicide in the belief that his insurance payout will benefit his family. He is a brave, tragic man with the character and thought traits as defined by Aristotle.
In the play Fences, there are several parallels with Miller's play, Death of a Salesman. The chief protagonist, Troy, is a tragic character as he lays his life down to fight for the right to be a driver in the garbage truck company where he works. Unlike Willy, who loses out to his boss, Troy wins his case. Lyons is the slightly tragic good for nothing first son of Troy, who is similar in nature to Happy Loman. Cory is Troy's second son who shows promise in becoming a football star but Troy frustrates his dream by superimposing the condition of holding onto a regular job at the local A&P supermarket. Troy's pride and ego as a father is openly challenged by Cory with tragic consequences. The father and son relationship is ruined as each man clings to his own ideals. Cory believes that Troy wants to ruin his chance at football by insisting that he works at a job. Troy succeeds in expelling Cory from the house but destroys their father-son relationship. Troy shows character and thought in his decision although it has a terrible price to pay to force Cory to be subject to his subordination under his patriarchal household. The greatest tragedy happens when Troy dies before any meeting with Cory can take place. Cory is so bitter over the tragic battle of character-wills that he refuses to attend Troy's funeral until he is persuaded by his mother, Rose.
In conclusion, the assertion of character and thought to enforce a predetermined action causes tragic consequences for the main protagonists, Willy and Troy.
The end.

Works Cited.
Anton, John Peter. Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy. USA: SUNY Press, 1971.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. USA: Viking Critical Library, 1996.
Theatre Arts Magazine. "Death of a Salesman"...complete Play Along with Essay By Miller
"Tragedy and the Common Man". USA: Theatre Arts Magazine, 1951.
Wilson, August. Fences. USA: Amazon, 1986. Read More
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