Who is Man?
Man is that entity that lives atop the surface of the earth. He seeks perfection in everything he does, but meets many difficulties in his path. This brings him to the need for resolution of his problems. Confronted with hunger, love, war, peace, society, sex, and family life, he is not a particular person yet he is not everybody, he is just a body that can and will make mistakes.
The classic theatre dubbed him a noble person with a tragic flaw that leads to his fall. He is Oedipus in Oedipus Rex, Agamemnon, and the rest of the Greco-Roman nobility gang. This was the peak of classical literature, the tragedy of man reflected the sufferings of the rich, the heroes and the gods, but the unknown man like Willy Loman does not fit this category, he is just a salesman that must die an uneventful death.
It is this man, miller uncovers in his play Death of a salesman. He presents an ordinary man that was classically comedic to the realm of literary tragedy. Willy Loman, the protagonist represents the modern century man, who seeks money, fame, power and respect. He plunges himself into trouble in the attempt to achieve his desires, which leads to his tragic death.
What is his tragedy?
Willy is an average person, who imbibes a foolish philosophy in his son, biff, who turns out to be useless to the society. He eventually loses his job due to old age, realizing that his ugly past made the present torturous, and the future, hopeless. In a confused state of mind, he commits suicide. Willy represents the true tragedy of the man on the street, whose despair could mean the end of his life.
Arthur Miller presents the identity of man unknown to literary tragedy, and highlights him in a poetic and reflective mood that is popular to the ordinary man and capable of purging out emotions seen and unseen in classical literature.
Hence, the man is just ‘a man out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine, and when they start not smiling back, that’s an earthquake.’(An excerpt from Death of a Salesman)