Tragic heroes are characters who in a tragedy who commits a mistake that eventually leads to their own downfall. Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross are two plays that are considered to be a tragedy. In the play “Glengarry Glenn Ross” by David Mamet, a character named Shelley Levene got caught and eventually confessed of stealing as a way of getting himself to the top. In the play “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, a character named Willy measures his value by how much sales he makes. The Death of a Salesman happened during the modern period where hope and dreams matter while the play Glengarry Glenn Ross happened in the postmodern period where there is a significant drop in these ideals. Both Shelley and Willy are both salesmen who are struggling to sell lands during the period of modernism and postmodernism because of the state of the country’s economy. As a result of not selling and making a profit, they both cheated their way up and stay ahead of other members that only lead to their downfall.
Death of a Salesman is a striking play about a man named Willy who advocate the principle of capitalism that ended up destroying him because of his views of success and wealth.
When life gets tough, people choose the most convenient solution to the problem which is an illusion. In this play, Willy holds on to such an illusion that eventually lead to a horrible consequence. This play touched upon the topic of the American dream and working hard to gain the success and wealth that is only commonly associated with the people of higher status in the society. The idea of achieving the American dream leads to Willy’s downfall. His problem fits modernism because he critiques what is wrong about his stand on capitalism. It is also considered modern because Willy who is a common man who has his downfall during the modern time.
Regardless, Willy is a family man who works hard to support his family but eventually ended up ruining his family dynamic. Glengarry Glenn Ross written by David Mamet is a play about struggling salesmen in a real estate office in Chicago. One of the characters named Shelley ended up cheating and staging a break-in at their office for a sales leads because of his desperation for money and being on top. As a result, he got caught and confessed. Shelley’s problem fit into postmodernism because there is no truth. Just like Willy in Death of a Salesman, Shelley falls into the American dream that leads to greed which resulted in his downfall.
The difference between a modern and postmodern period and critique of capitalism is very obvious within Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glenn Ross. In the modern period, Willy focuses on achieving the dream and success. In fact, Willy and his sons constantly work for their economic status to achieve their American dream. On the other hand, in the post-modern period, the characters in Glengarry Glenn Ross only focus on their next big sale. Another contrast between the two plays is that the faith in the system is very evident in Willy as long as the capitalist work hard but the faith in the system is lost in Glengarry Glenn Ross.
In Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and Mamet’s “Glengarry Glenn Ross”, both plays focus on the topic of the American dream and how to achieve it. The Death of a Salesman is classified in modernism because Willy is a protagonist of the play and the tragedy is felt by the audience. On the other hand, the Glengarry Glenn Ross is classified as postmodernism because it continues the modernism with a little development. I believe that both Willy Lowman and Shelley Levene who are the protagonists of both plays are tragic heroes. According to Aristotle, “a tragic hero is a character that makes a judgment error that leads to his or her own destruction and must accept their death with honor” (Aristotle). Obviously, both Willy and Shelley are a tragic hero because they both committed an error and judgment and eventually suffer what they deserve that made them wounded spiritually and emotionally.