Tragedy is a genre rather than an idea. It depicts man as an unwelcome guest in the world and teaches the world that it is better never to have been born. Tragedy underscores the hopelessness of individuals’ attempts to remake the world. It deals with suffering through a series of experiences and conventions of life. Tragedy forces individuals to recognize that they may act against their own interests and that the consequences of their actions deviate disastrously from their hopes and expectations. In other words, tragedy refers to the inescapabilty of suffering and loss. Tragedy enhances any conceivable refinement of misconception, suffrage and loss . It involves pain and pity. The tragedies presented in the two stories, namely, Oedipus the King and Death of a Salesman are both similar and different from each other in various aspects. In spite of a huge difference in the timeline of the two stories, there are several distinguishing facts related to the similarities and differences presented in the plays.
The tragedy of Oedipus is the downfall of a prince, while in the Death of a Salesman, it is the common man who falls prey to tragedy. Death of a Salesman involves reality and depicts how a common man desires to end his life unable to withstand the world of deception. Rather than a story between a father and a son, Death of a Salesman describes the importance of forgiveness and recognition . It explains the struggle faced by a family and poses various questions, which are common to arise in the daily life, such as honor, social status, success and recognition. Similarly, Oedipus is a tragedy in which the principal plot depicts Oedipus killing his father. While the story of Oedipus involves playing of the divine and the gods, Death of the Salesman involves the society as the prime holder of the protagonist’s fate. Furthermore, both the plays portray the characters Oedipus and Willy Loman as victims of their circumstances, which are out of their control. While the characters decide not to be in such a position, they have been forced to undergo adverse circumstances by other entities. Finally, both Oedipus and Willy end their fate.
Since the actions of Oedipus were his destiny determined by the divine, he had to experience immense pain and suffrage by falling in a relationship with people surrounding him and paying the price of his mistakes . On the other hand, in the Death of a Salesman, Willy had to face suffrage due to a decline in the societal values and moral responsibilities. In this story, the destiny of Willy is he himself rather than the gods and the divine. Both the plays, Oedipus the King and Death of a Salesman are mythic understandings of life. They stand for the cruel contradiction of human existence. Both the plays display emotions for their loved ones and make the audience realize it is the human acts that result in tragic circumstances. While Willy in the Death of a Salesman gets trapped his past and recalls about the flawless moments of both personal and professional life filled with happiness, Oedipus strives to know about his past and intentionally attempts to avoid the relationship between the present and the past . Both the protagonists strive to get a new meaning for their life.
One of the major differences of the plays is the way Oedipus and Willy end their lives. Willy ends his life for the insurance money that would help his son achieve his dreams and realizes himself as an ordinary man who broke down unable to live up to the standards of his dreams. On the other hand, Oedipus ends his life by brutally mutilating his eyes so that he would not be able to see the suffrage and pain of his disgrace . Another major difference between the plays is the way the characters blame others for their ignorance. While Willy denies that he is the sole reason for the failure of his son’ dreams and calls Bliff as a lazy and arrogant man in the Death of a Salesman, Oedipus blames Teiresias for not helping Thebes. Throughout his life, Willy boasts about his sales in spite of earning lesser money, which is not even adequate to pay off the debts. On the other hand, Oedipus denies the relationship between his life and the anticipations. While Oedipus’ mother and wife desolate him by committing suicide, Willy abandons his father by ignoring his feelings. Oedipus gets tragically ruined when he finds out the truth that he has children to his mother. Conversely, Willy gets scattered when his son fails to understand him .
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1994.
Miller, Arthur. Tragedy and the Common Man. Berkeley, CA: University of California at Berkeley, 1949.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012.