Use of Humour in Death of a Salesman: Aspects of Tragedy

Miller makes the tragic experience all the more powerful and thus cathartic using humour to create respite in the tragedy. This is done with the verbal humour of when Biff makes an impersonation joke about Birnbaum and his “Lithp”. This use of structuring, placed in the second act and before another pivotal moment of the tragedy exacerbates this moment to come. Miller clearly aims to make a little humour here with the impression, but this notion of laughing at the math teacher that ultimately prevented the success of Biff may be seen as tragic. If readers take the humorous reading, then the moment where Miller reveals the affair hits even harder. From laughter to “[Biff remains motionless, tears falling]” the behaviour of the tragic hero, who “gave mama’s stocking” is to be condemned by the audience.

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