What strikes me when looking at various bad times in Willy’s life is that he nearly always strives to do the best for his family and his kids especially. Though he does lie to Linda, Biff and Happy throughout the play, I can still see an element of sadness or tragedy in the way that he wants to be the best never reaches his goal. Willy was a great father and his children and wife absolutely adored him before he became a follower in his hybrid version of the American dream. In this way, I think that Death of a Salesman can be considered a tragedy of the ordinary man.
Willy’s expectations of the dream are unrealistic when you consider his attributes as a person- being good with his hands and liking the outdoors. In the course of the play he comes to realize that his true wealth lies in being appreciated and respected by his family, and in one final attempt to secure his personal dignity and provide a future for his sons through his life insurance, he commits suicide. Normally, Willy is described as either a tragic hero or a pathetic loser, however, in the statement above we see a question that is neither of these two descriptions- it is in the middle.
Willy isn’t a hero in the play, he is an ordinary man who wants to provide for his family. He does commit adultery with the Woman but it was only really a blip in an otherwise very worthy life with good morals. When first assessing the validity of the statement above, we have to ask ourselves the question “Was Willy actually ever normal? ” It seems to me that throughout the play at least, we never truly see the ordinary Willy Loman and we can’t come to a proper conclusion as to an answer. He has always lied or bent the truth when talking about himself.
During the play we see this lead him to near madness when he doesn’t know who he is anymore due to the mental prison that has been built. He no longer can distinguish between which thoughts of his are lies and which are truthful. Even in the flashbacks that Willy has, he distorts the truth beyond all recognition and we start to realise that this man cannot even see the past in a truthful light, let alone the present and the future. When that happens, there is nothing inside that can help you to realise what you once were and had and it means that it would be nigh on impossible for Willy to escape from his world of dreams.
In this way, I don’t think that Death of a Salesman can be considered the tragedy of the ordinary man, but, taking the play into context, there were certainly other men and women who have been in Willy’s position as well due to the wall street crash at the time of Miller’s writing. This means that for many people watching the play back then, Willy’s troubles were exactly what they were going through as well and didn’t seem that abnormal. This makes Willy at least a bit normal by the standards back then if not by today’s ideals.