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Arthur Miller's Decline

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American playwright who combined in his works social awareness with deep insights into personal weaknesses of his characters'. Miller is best known for the play DEATH OF A SALESMAN (1949), or on the other hand, for his marriage to the actress Marilyn Monroe. Miller's plays continued the realistic tradition that began in the United States in the period between the two world wars. With Tennessee Williams, Miller was one of the best-known American playwrights after WW II. Several of his works were filmed by such director as John Huston, Sidney Lumet and Karel Reiz.

"Don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally paid to such a person." (from Death of a Salesman)

Arthur Miller was born in New York. His father, Isidore Miller, was a ladies-wear manufacturer and shopkeeper who was ruined in the depression. The sudden change in fortune had a strong influence on Miller. "This desire to move on, to metamorphose - or perhaps it is a talent for being contemporary - was given me as life's inevitable and righful condition," he wrote in TIMEBENDS: A LIFE (1987). The family moved to a small frame house in Brooklyn, which is said to the model for the Brooklyn home in Death of a Salesman. Miller spent his boyhood playing foorball and baseball, reading adventure stories, and appearing generally as a nonintellectual. "If I had any ideology at all it was what I had learned from Hearst newspapers," he once said. After graduating from a high school in 1932, Miller worked in automobile parts warehouse to earn money for college. Having read Dostoevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov Miller decided to become a writer. To study journalism he entered the University of Michigan in 1934, where he won awards for playwriting - one of the other awarded playwright was Tennessee Williams.

After graduating in English in 1938, Miller returned to New York. There he joined the Federal Theatre Project, and wrote scripts for radio programs, such as Columbia Workshop (CBS) and Cavalcade of America (NBC). Because of a football injury, he was exempt from draft. In 1940 Miller married a Catholic girl, Mary Slattery, his college sweetheart, with whom he had two children. Miller's first play to appear on Broadway was THE MAN WHO HAD ALL THE THE LUCK (1944). It closed after four performances. Three years later produced ALL MY SONS was about a factory owner who sells faulty aircraft parts during World War II. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle award and two Tony Awards. In 1944 Miller toured Army camps to collect background material for the screenplay THE STORY OF GI JOE (1945). Miller's first novel, FOCUS (1945), was about anti-Semitism.

Miller's plays often depict how families are destroyed by false values. Especially his earliest efforts show his admiration for the classical Greek dramatists. "When I began to write," he said in an interview, "one assumed inevitably that one was in the mainstream that began with Aeschylus and went through about twenty-five hundred years of playwriting." (from The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller, ed. by Christopher Bigsby, 1997)

DEATH OF A SALESMAN (1949) brought Miller international fame, and become one of the major achievements of modern American theatre. It relates the tragic story of a salesman named Willy Loman, whose past and present are mingled in expressionistic scenes. Loman is not the great success that he claims to be to his family and friends. The postwar economic boom has shaken up his life. He is eventually fired and he begins to hallucinate about significant events from his past. Linda, his wife, believes in the American Dream, but she also keeps her feet on the ground. Deciding that he is worth more dead than alive, Willy kills himself in his car - hoping that the insurance money will support his family and his son Biff could get a new start in his life. Critics have disagreed whether his suicide is an act of cowardice or a last sacrifice on the altar of the American Dream.

WILLY: I'm not interested in stories about the past or any crap of that kind because the woods are burning, boys, you understand? There's a big blaze going on all around. I was fired today.

BIFF (shocked): How could you be?

WILLY: I was fired, and I'm looking for a little good news to tell your mother, because the woman has waited and the woman has suffered. The gist of it is that I haven't got a story left in my head, Biff. So don't give me a lecture about facts and aspects. I am not interested. Now what've you got so say to me?

(from Death of a Salesman)

In 1949 Miller was named an "Outstanding Father of the Year", which manifested his success as a famous writer. But the wheel of fortune was going down. In the 1950s Miller was subjected to a scrutiny by a committee of the United States Congress investigating Communist influence in the arts. The FBI read his play The Hook, about a militant union organizer, and he was denied a passport to attend the Brussels premiere of his play THE CRUCIBLE (1953). It was based on court records and historical personages of the Salem witch trials of 1692. In Salem one could be hanged because of ''the inflamed human imagination, the poetry of suggestion.'' The daughter of Salem's minister falls mysteriously ill. Reverend Samuel Parris is a widower, and there is very little good to be said for him. He believes he is persecuted wherever he goes. Rumours of witchcraft spread throughout the people of Salem. "The times, to their eyes, must have been out of joint, and to the common folk must have seemed as insoluble and complicated as do ours today." The minister accuses Abigail Williams of wrongdoing, but she transforms the accusation into plea for help: her soul has been bewitched. Young girls, led by Abigail, make accusations of witchcraft against townspeople whom they do not like. Abigail accuses Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of an upstanding farmer, whom she had once seduced. Elizabeth's husband John Proctor reveals his past lechery. Elizabeth, unaware, fails to confirm his testimony. To protect him she testifies falsely that her husband has not been intimate with Abigail. Proctor is accused of witchcraft and condemned to death.

The Crucible, which received Antoinette Perry Award, was an allegory for the McCarthy era and mass hysteria. Although its



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