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Tuesday, April 24 • 9:00am - 9:20am
Death Of An Immigrant: Tragedy And The American Dream In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman And Cristina Henriquez’s The Book Of Unknown Americans

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No working universal definition of tragedy that scholars can agree upon exists. Nevertheless, tragic theorist, Richard Palmer, provides what I find to be a sufficient and broad definition, which states that tragedy creates a conflicted response of attraction and repulsion in the audience. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans are both works of literature that arouse this type of ambivalent response from their audiences. For this thesis, I provide an analysis of how certain elements from each text combine to lead the audience to the emotional response that Palmer’s definition describes. Drawing from traditional conventions of tragedy and analyzing debates on how tragedy manifests within a modern and uniquely American framework, I examine tragedy in the context of its place in the novel and drama, the tragic hero versus the common man, the role of fate and institutions, hamartia, “plotters” and other tragic catalysts, and the nature of American consumer culture – all within the frameworks of Death of a Salesman and The Book of Unknown Americans - to convey the contradictions between the promise of the American Dream and the deplorable conditions and unfortunate circumstances of the books’ characters, calling readers to reflect on the promise of upward mobility that is embedded in the American Dream within the modern United States: the American Dream depicted as desirable but not attainable for everyone depending on their individual circumstances.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 9:00am - 9:20am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

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