Miller's Definition Of A Tragic Hero

Topics: Writer

During and after the Second World War, Arthur Miller, American Novelist and Playwright, wrote three of his most successful plays: All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and A View from the Bridge. These three beautifully tragic plays, are considered by many to be the epitome of all critical analyses using as a basis; the American culture and the American Dream. He does this by using tragic heroes, who on the one hand demand our sympathy, yet on the other we despise them.

Arthur Miller wrote all three of these books after the Second World War. This was the time in which McCarthyism was started; an attempt to contain all forms of communism, especially in the public eye. This resulted in many authors, playwrights and actors, including Miller, to be blacklisted, and consequently contributed to much of Millers diatribe against the “Land of the free” (ref). It can also be said that Millers own unfortunate life, was another of the main factors that caused him to focus on the tragedy of the common man.

He himself said in an essay that he wrote in 1949: “I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense”(ref). Miller found that not nearly enough of the books of his time were about tragedies in everyday situations, that it was a topic that was considered above the common man, reserved for the tragic heroes of Shakespeare, such as Hamlet and Macbeth. He explains that the society in which he lived had taken a turn towards the psychological, sociological view of life(example).

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First Section: All My Sons

All My Sons, Arthur Miller’s first commercially successful play, opened at the Coronet Theatre in New York on January 29, 1947. It ran for 328 performances and garnered important critical acclaim for the dramatist, winning the prestigious New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. The general plot consists of the trials and tribulations that a small suburban family endures, after losing a son in the Second World War. There are 5 main characters in the play: Joe, Kate and Chris Keller, and Ann and George Deever.

The play opens with the news that during a terrible storm the previous night, an apple tree that was a memorial to the loss of the Keller’s first born son, Larry, was split in half. This symbolic event coincides with the arrival of their late son’s fianci? e Ann, who has been in correspondence with their other son Chris. One thing that must be mentioned is that Kate Keller, still believes that Larry is alive, and has been delayed in his voyage home.

As the play progresses, the reader learns two key facts that contribute to our general understanding of the community as a whole, but also about the individual characters. The first thing we learn, is that Joe Keller and his former associate were summoned before a court, for making faulty cylinder heads, that were used in American war planes. They were charged for manslaughter of twenty-one pilots. Joe was released as he appealed, saying that it was Steve’s, and not his order to continue producing faulty parts.

This however was untrue, as it was actually Joe, when phoned by Steve, who gave the order. The second key fact that we learn, is that Ann and Chris are in love, and that Chris has brought her to the mid-west to propose to her, and to announce the news to his parents. From here the play divides into two main narrative strands: the first being Chris’ and Ann’s attempt to convince Kate that Larry is dead, so that they can get married. The second narrative strand consists of the attempt by George and later Chris, to find out what really happened at Joe’s factory in the autumn of 1943.

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Miller's Definition Of A Tragic Hero. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

Miller's Definition Of A Tragic Hero
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