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Understanding Tragedies in Play

The tumultuous vultures of – desire, hope, fear, disappointment and tragedy manifest themselves in the themes of the two plays – “Death of a Salesman” and “A Raisin in the Sun”. On the start or either on the end, It is worth using the Aristotle’s poetics to analyse the themes and shades of tragedy of the two plays. In accordance to Aristotle’s poetics the tragedy and drama in poetry both arouses the sense of pity as well as fear, which these themes will be explored within the two plays – “Death of a Salesman” and “A Raisin in the Sun”.

The notion of the perfect “American Dream” is a prominent theme in the empty life of both the protagonists portraying life in the fifties era. In the early twentieth century Arthur Miller authored “Death of a Salesman” that was adapted and written into play in the year 1949. The adaptation of the “Death of a Salesman” into play was an immediate success after gathering positive critics and had won the Pulitzer Prize.

The play refers to the “ first great American tragedy”, which addressed the popular notions of the American Dream pertains to the painful social conflicts and the blind faith in the American Dream that was the characteristic of the post war in America during the fifties. This play portrays the themes of crass commercialism and the political lies, which disillusioned the society and overshadowed the original American Dream of the Founding Fathers.

The drama has retained its original dream and flair of today and has influenced pop culture. The concept of the American Dream can be cited on how it relates to the notions of materialistic success and how it affects the family structure of the American Society was features prominently within the essay. Miller’s play is a portrayal of America’s worry of the “Communist takeover” and its struggle to save capitalism, which also shows how the myth of the “American Dream” was manipulated to reflect a peaceful homogeneous society.

The drama portrays an American family as the main protagonist; Willy Loman’s wife insists that as a salesman he should stop travelling and that he should stay in New York where the city offers bigger dreams and promises. The play goes on to portray with the way children are criticized by Loman and unhappy and how her husband dissatisfies the wife. The story further progress, which shows individual dreams, desires of the two children and young adults who fantasise of a life where they can have an ideal way of living at the ranch.

Also, Willy’s dream of having the perfect sons and stable financial life was shown in the play. After a string of flashbacks and daydreams the play brings proceed to the present time where Willy had realised that his present life is a failure, which reveals further conflicts and arguments within the frustrated family members. In the end a tragedy had happened when Willy died that make his family members in shock and the people around him defines his life as a victimisation of his own profession, which relates to his high dreams of a better life.

The play shows how Miller had used the stream of consciousness of the main protagonist Willy to show the bitterness and disappointment of an individual faced by a mid age crisis. His daydreams show his unhappiness with his current life despite the fact that he seems successful as being a salesman at first. The play portrays the classic Aristotelian approach to the tragedy as the main hero find out that he is useless and inadequate in his practical life when his son “Biff “says; “I saw the things that I love in this world”, the work and the food and time to sit and smoke.

I looked at the pen and I thought, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be … when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am! Why can’t I say that, Willy? ” (Miller 1415). Furthermore, the play shows how his “American Dream” takes over him from within as he delves deeper to the flashbacks of his past and fantasises of a successful children while on the personal views of his son Biff “He never knew who he was” is a disappointment to him (Miller 1419).

Things get worse when he is fired by his boss due to his old age, deemed redundantly and ended up killing himself in a car accident. After he died Charley says,” Nobody had blamed this man, you don’t understand: Willy was a salesman, He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoe shine, A salesman with dream, boy. ”(Miller 1419) Willy’s life shows how the harsh and over competitive atmosphere of his career caused the break down of his relationship with his own family, as his tantrums get worse. There is a marked usage of aggression and angry frustration with in the portrayal of all the characters in the story.

In general there is a sense of personal agony within the family as the Willy Loman’s household struggles with an angry father. The theme of diamonds is mostly pronounced in this tragedy as Willy Loman remarks that “I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand” (Miller 1412). It represents the lack of financial stability that Willy struggles to achieve in his life, which he is frustrated by Ben’s success with the discovery of diamonds and his constant regret that he has a chance to share Ben’s fortune.

However the Willy Loman’s household was not the only family who struggles with the desert of lost hopes and dead flowers as the play “A Raisin in the sun” tells the same scenario, which the “Death of a Salesman” had. The play “A Raisin in the sun” is an important part of the African American literature, which shows the struggle of a family living on Chicago’s South Side is accordingly the same time with the Loman Family in “Death of a Salesman”.

The fifties classic written by Lorraine Hansberry shows the fierce struggle of hopes, dreams and disappointments. The play starts with the lines, which echo the title of the play “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up? Like a raisin in the sun! ”(Hansberry 1421). Therefore the play “A Raisin in the sun” is another story, which tells about disappointments from an African American perspective and just like the play of Arthur Miller the “Death of a Salesman”, Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece is widely acclaimed by the literary circles.

Although, the play is another thematic tragedy the play “A Raisin in the sun” tells the story of a deferred dreams, which also addressed the social issues of Racism and disappointments for the black minorities during the post the World War II saga. The play centres on the life of the Younger Family who resent their current home conditions and dream of a better life. Their children are embroiled within their own dreams, feel the financial crisis and struggle to find their roots of their African blood.

When “Lens” succeeds in buying the house of her dreams in an all white neighbourhood, “Len” and her whole family started to face the wrath of racist white neighbours as they try to dissuade them from living in their neighbourhood. This play embodies rhetoric to the “American Dream”, which symbolises equality and justice for all that every American is free to pursue his or her happiness and have his liberty. For people and black family like the Youngers, suppressed and undermined in the post World War II during the fifties the American Dream was just “deferred hopes”.

The play “A Raisin in the sun” is also a reflection of the writer’s own life. In fact, the frustrations in “Death of a Salesman” also reflects Arthur Miller’s own story of unhappiness with his relationship to his uncle. In the play “A Raisin in the Sun” the author’s own past life is reflected where her family was involved in a long racist litigation over a property dispute and how that exploitation and frustration, turned her American Dream” as a chills into a nightmare of the struggle to escape from the poverty ridden life of many Post World War II African Americans.

Both plays “The Death of a Salesman” and “A Raisins in the Sun” reveals a marked sense of rebellion in the story of youngsters against their parents whose views are different from their own views. For example in “Death of a Salesman” the young boys feel disillusioned by their father’s constant disapproval of their lives. In “A Raisin in the Sun” the Son of the main character is constantly feeling conflicted that is whether he should stand his ground and remain in the white neighbourhood or sell the house and recover his ruined investment in the Alcohol store?

These conflicts between family ties and the importance of not selling out, conflicting expectations, and racial prejudice show the picture of almost any ethnic household struggling with the post World War in American society which was neither homogeneous and nor did it guarantee equal opportunities for both African American and the white people.

Moreover, the tragedy on the play “A Raisins in the Sun” has to be valued for its historical importance due to fact that the play portrays the “provocative reflection” of the rampant racism in the fifties during the post World War II saga as the white society could not stomach their improving economic status post the slavery era. The image of racism can be seen in the character of Karl Lindner, which was characterized as the quiet-looking guy in the middle aged (Hansberry1468). Also, Karl Lindner is a gentle man who was requested by the Younger family to move away within their own family interest (Hansberry 1469).

Moreover, Karl Lindner famously remarks that black and white conflicts had been to existence due to the fact that American people do not sit down and talk to each other in able to properly resolve the issue of racism in a diplomatic manner (Hansberry 1470). Karl Lindner fake sympathetic behaviour was revealed when he was almost “More frustrated than annoyed” (Hansberry 1469). He then warns the black Younger family that Clybourne Park is dangerous to their interests since he believes “when I tell you that race prejudice simply does not enter into it.

It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing (Hansberry 1470). That the family matriarch “Mama” rhetorically replies that he is saying those words because “I come from five generation of people who was slave share croppers and we are not fit to walk the earth (Hansberry 1483). However the Younger family bravely faces these implied threats and stays united as Walter retorts to these racist neighbours, “We have decided to move into our house because my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick.

We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight without corresponding causes, we will try to be good neighbours and that’s all we got to say about that. We don’t want your money (Hansberry 1486). Unlike the play “Death of a Salesman”, Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece “A Raisin in the sun” explores more on – contemporary issues, social messages in relation to feminism and problems that had faced by the ethnic minorities. The play “A Raisin in the Sun” also portrays male ego, which is can be easily hurt whenever there are financial problems.

If we refer back to the play of Arthur Miller “Death of a Salesman” it is obvious that Willy Loman is having angry tantrums at his wife and children, which he found the relief on his financial problem financial by means of hallucinating or daydreaming. This same scenario had occurred in the play “A Raisin in the Sun” when the son of the female protagonist “Walter” had tried to escaped on his problem through alcoholism to avoid his mother’s new found financial authority after the demise of his father.

Both stories show how the women felt socially and emotionally inclined to give-in to the whims of these tantrums of the men in their lives especially when Lena, the female matriarch in “A Raisin in the Sun” finds her disillusioned son and hands over financial control to him to remove his ego problems and discomfort. Ironically enough in the stories of “ The Death of a Salesman” and “ Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” the misery of death seems to be the offset by a “heavy insurance” cheque.

The question then is in line with the Aristotelian notions of tragedy whether or not money can buy happiness as the protagonists in these two stories think it was. In the story of “Death of a Salesman” Willy Loman’s point view that if he commits suicide his insurance money will ensured the future of his family, which it will bring happiness to his love ones. On the other hand, the story of “A Raisin in the Sun” the family matriarch although sad for the death of her husband, she still feels that the heavy insurance cheque will show them better days.

In the end the problems on double standards of the American Society and the prejudices against anyone who is weak whether socially or financially, the climaxes of both plays are tragic in which the death of Willy Loman who had never experienced happiness with his life and in the story of “A Raisin in the Sun” the revelation that despite the social stand the of Younger family they still lose the insurance money due to fraud and are unable to purchase the house. Thus both dramas portray the concept of tragedy in the Aristotelian perspective.

For example for “the plot is the soul of a tragedy and the plot is communicated to the audience primarily by means of words” (Butcher). Aristotle’s analysis says that events in a play should not happen at once and must confine themselves to actions on the stage. Thus in “Death of a Salesman” we see Willy Loman become a successful salesman who travels, which he experienced struggles on his own family. This sequential portrayal contributes to the coherence of the play.

Both protagonists in these plays fit the description of the hero or heroine who is according to Aristotle should not necessarily be “Eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty” (Butcher). This according to Aristotle’s methodology will “excite pity and fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation” (Butcher). The protagonists in both dramas are weak but human, which make them realistic. Both stories tell about errors of judgement in their personal and financial decisions, which cause their downfall.Yet they have good intentions and display good lessons for family and social values.

Work Cited

Butcher, S. H. “The Poetics of Aristotle. ” A Pen State Electronic Classic Series Publication, Pennsylvania State University 2000: Retrieved April 28, 2008 from http:www2. hn. psu. edu/faculty/jmanis/aristotl/poetics. pdf Hansberry, Lorraine. “A Raisin in the sun. ” Literature and Its Writers. Charters Ann. Charters Samuel. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, 1420-1488. Miller, Arthur. “Death of a Salesman”. Literature and Its Writers. Charters, Ann. Charters Samuel. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, 1351-1419.

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