18 Apr 2013
The Tragedy of Terms of Endearment
Arthur Miller, a famous writer and playwright, believes that the modern day tragedy varies from the traditional tragedy as it no longer involves king and queens. Instead, it revolves around the life of a common man, who despite the difference in class, still bears all the qualities of a tragic hero. When compared to the requirements of a tragedy described in the essay “Tragedy and the Common Man” by Arthur Miller, the protagonist in the film “Terms of Endearment” by James L. Brooks possesses the characteristics of a modern tragic hero, which are exemplified through her average social standing, her underlying fear of being displaced, and her unwillingness to remain passive.
A common man may play a tragic hero in a modern tragedy. Even though the protagonist, Emma Horton, is not a prince like Hamlet, or born into a family of high social standing, she is still “as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (Miller 1). After Emma’s impulsive decision to have children, she becomes too occupied in providing childcare to get a job. The audience only becomes aware of the Horton’s grave situation when Emma gathers enough courage to ask her mother for financial aid. The fact that Emma has a difficult life allows the film to be more relatable and tragic due to the sympathy it evokes within the viewer, opposing to traditional tragedies which centralize more around how anyone can be a victim of fate.
Another characteristic of a tragedy derives from the underlying fear of being displaced. Emma experiences such fears when she finds out about her husband’s affair, and again about her malignant tumours. In these two terrible events that occur very closely together, the tragedy is enhanced as being forced and being able to choose are two very different circumstances. This becomes “the disaster inherent in being torn away from [the character’s] chosen image of what and...