Tragedy and the Common Man Summary and Analysis: Arthur Miller

Read below our complete study guide on Tragedy and the Common Man by Arthur Miller. Our study guide covers Tragedy and the Common Man summary and detailed analysis.

Tragedy and the Common Man Summary:

Tragedy and the Common Man is Miller’s analysis of a new form of theater. Miller starts the essay by pointing out the theatre of the 20th century that the number of tragedies written down is very few as compared to the comedies, which are relatively high in number. For such a difference in number, one reason which includes, according to Miller, is the scarcity of the heroes among modern society. Secondly, the skepticism or doubtfulness of the modern man by science results in thinning of his blood. And the people don’t believe in heroes anymore. He claims that the modern man has become reserved, highly careful and attentive and one cannot have a heroic life with this attitude. The tragedy that is written on an account heroic life have criteria or some merits while the modern man seems to be below that criteria or vice versa. Millers himself draws the conclusion for the above facts. Firstly he claims the tragic or heroic mode of life to archaic. As this is a modern world of the 20th century and the modern man no more believes in heroism. Secondly, the tragic and heroic mode is only suitable and applicable for the king and the kingly (i.e. people living like kings).

Despite his argument regarding the scarcity of heroes in the modern world; Miller believes that the common man of the modern world is a highly suitable subject for the tragedy just as the kings were. Moreover, he argues, whenever the question of tragedy comes, the people never hesitates in attributing this to the high-rank people as if the heroic mode of life is only ‘property of high-bred character alone’. Rather the ordinary people should cherish the tragedy from any other class.

Arthur Miller sets the general rules for the one to have a tragic life. Firstly, a hero is the person, according to Miller, who willingly laid down his life to for the sake of securing ‘his sense of personal dignity’. Secondly, they think that they are not given a rightful place in the society so the struggle ‘to gain a “rightful” place” in their society.

According to Miller, tragedy is motivated via ‘man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly’. In the course of attaining his rightful place in society and attaining his dignity, a hero sometimes loses his life. But for Miller, there is a window of opportunity in this. By such an act, the spectators will get obsessed with the inexactness of the society that might abolish the man unreasonably and will evaluate the cause. Hence, an ordinary man will be in a better position to understand the unfairness of society, and will try to develop the social order. Thus, the death of a hero bids optimism. For Miller, tragedy is intrinsically optimistic.

Miller argues about “the tragic flaw”, Aristotle’s hamartia, in a modern world is called as “inherit unwillingness” of a hero to continue passive to what he considers as a test to his self-esteem and “rightful” place in society. But this flaw, as mentioned, is not in the hero but is in the society. While the hero is the prey of that flawed society

Millers says that we do not have the scarcity of individuals among us who act against the social order that irritate them. The ordinary person accepts the conventions of society out of fear while the tragic hero who sees the flaw within “unchangeable society” and leads to the course of actions that shakes the basic foundations of society and from there “comes the terror and the fear that is classically associated with tragedy”.

Miller further argues that the kings and kingly are often interrelated with tragedy as their characters are much bigger and have more to be defeated. But despite this, in the fiction of Job, around was an instant when an ordinary men challenge the scheme of things and stand against them to defend themselves. The willingness to lose everything for the sake of one’s dignity makes an ordinary common man to achieve a height of a king.

According to Miller, the quality in tragic plays that jiggles the spectators lies in the fear of being displaced and to be dragged away from our chosen image in the world. The common man in the modern world is most than ever scared to lose his rightful place in the society.

The tragedy is not all about the person to evaluate himself justly or to eradicate all the illness and evil from society. Similarly, the detection of some moral law is not the detection of some philosophical or abstract quantity. But the tragic mode of life requires a condition with which a person recognizes himself and is able to develop his insight. And this insight further enlightens and this enlightenment further helps him to finger out his enemy, the evils in the society.

Miller accounts the modern literature for the lack of tragedy in our environment. To him, modern literature purely represents the psychotic and sociological view of life. All it deals is with mind and make the actions impossible.

According to Miller, the very delusion of tragedy is that it is directly associated with pessimism. But on the other hand, tragedy implies optimism. It is owing to the circumstances that tragedies reveal men’s persistence to the unmatchable probabilities and frantic however everlasting struggle for humankind. The fact that upsurges the tragedy is that this struggle for humankind has a possibility. According to him, probable achievements should be presented in tragedies. An equilibrium between what is conceivable and what is inconceivable, makes success appear promising and consequently stimulating downfall to a complex level. It appears that Miller’s hypothesis is correct, i.e. the nastiest of tragedies be able to occur to either a King or a common man.

Tragedy and the Common Man Analysis:

About the author:

Arthur Miller is the most prize awarded and topmost American dramatist and playwright. Moving ahead with high willpower, firm steps, and growing boldness, Miller secures a high place in American drama. With the passage of time, his plays continue to endure and seem to exude more and more relevance. Miller preserves his belief in values like valor, hope, obligation, and devotion. His major works include All My Sons, Death of the salesman, the Crucible, A view from the bridge, the Misfits, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, and The Price.

Genre:

Tragedy and the Common Man is an argumentative essay by Arthur Miller about the new form of theater in the 20th century.

Tragedy and the Common Man Critical Appreciation:

Arthur Miller turns out to be popular after the 2nd world war not only because of his dramas but also as the theoretician of drama. Tragedy and the Common man get published in the New York Times shortly after his most famous work The Death of Salesman. In this essay, Miller supports Willy Lowman, a character in the Death of Salesman, regarding the suitability for the subject of tragedy.  He presents the idea that a common man is also “noble” as kings and the idea of tragedy is no more limited to the nobility.

Miller begins the essay by figuring out that the modern man has become highly skeptical and their faith in heroes has declined. The twentieth century has encountered the two goriest world wars of the history and this makes the people disbelieve in tragedy and tragic mode of life. Consequently, the relevancy of a tragic hero to the modern world is disregarded by the modern man. Miller says that despite disbelieve in a heroism, the modern world is not having any scarcity of heroes. In fact, the modern world has plenty of heroes in the form of a common man.

Miller argues that there are no specific criteria for being a tragic hero, but a hero is a person who willingly laid down his life for the “sake of personal dignity”. Heroism has nothing to do with your social status or social background. Moreover, he argues, whenever the question of tragedy comes, the people never hesitates in attributing this to the high-rank people as if the heroic mode of life is only ‘property of high-bred character alone’. But the common man is also capable to exercise the tragedy to a greater extent just as kings.

Moreover, Miller argues that an ordinary person is perfectly suitable for the character of a tragic hero. He claims that the submissive ones, the one who agree to take their surroundings without vengeance, are “flawless.” But the common man, on the other hand perfectly fits into the character as maximum individuals do not partake this characteristic, in addition, they do not become trapped in the deteriorating of the “tragic flaw”.

For Miller, the “tragic flaw” in the hero is the reason that causes a “fall” of a tragic hero. And this flaw is not certainly a fault. The flaw exists to be nil, however, is the tragic hero’s reluctance to be passive in a challenge to his self-esteem which roots a fall of every tragic hero. The flaw in the personality of a tragic hero is the cause of his unwillingness to accept the flawed conventions of the society.

Throughout the essay, it is mentioned that the common man is a suitable subject for the tragedy and the whole essays centers around this idea. Now, the question is why the common man or the modern world is suitable for the tragedy as the tragedies are supposed to be ‘property of high-bred character alone’. Miller rejects this idea of tragedy to be characteristics of high-breed and claims that the common man’s willingness to lose everything for the sake of one’s dignity makes an ordinary common man to achieve a height of a king. Moreover, the common man is always in fear to be displaced from his rightful place in the society which makes him stand against the society and lead to actions which are best for the tragic mode of life.

According to Miller, the very delusion of tragedy is that it is directly associated with pessimism. But on the other hand, tragedy implies optimism. It is owing to the circumstances that tragedies reveal men’s persistence to the unmatchable probabilities and frantic however everlasting struggle for humankind. The fact that upsurges the tragedy is that this struggle for humankind has a possibility. According to him, probable achievements should be presented in tragedies. An equilibrium between what is conceivable and what is inconceivable, makes success appear promising and consequently stimulating downfall to a complex level. It appears that Miller’s hypothesis is correct, i.e. the nastiest of tragedies be able to occur to either a King or a common man.

Tragedy and the Common Man Themes:

Following the only theme of Miller’s essay Tragedy and the Common Man;

The Common Man is Suitable Subject for Tragedy:

In Tragedy and the Common Man, Arthur Miller argues in the world devoid of kings and kingly, the common man of this modern world fits perfectly for a tragic mode of life. The inherit unwillingness of a man to the flawed conventions of the society made him as superior as kings. The common always think that he is not given the rightful status in the society so he fights with society to gain his status. Moreover, the common man is always scared to be displaced from his position and this fear makes him fight for his rights. Those who go against the conventions of the society in the modern world are called are tragic heroes and the common man of the modern world are tragic heroes.