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His driving concern was to make a difference, and it was through his writing that he found his means. Keywords: Jewish writers , film , television and media , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , guilt , responsibility , gender. She had thought about becoming a teacher but was instead persuaded by her family to marry in Arthur was the second of their three children, with an older brother, Kermit, and a younger sister, Joan, who would become the actress Joan Copeland.
Growing up, Miller always admired his older brother but also felt that their natures were profoundly different. Kermit seemed the perfect, dutiful son, while Miller saw himself as darker and more ambitious. This dynamic is related through many of the competing brothers we meet in his plays.
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A younger sister, however, is never in the mix, even in his semi-autobiographical pieces. However, when Miller was a teenager, with the onset of the Great Depression the business began to falter, and the family had to relocate to Brooklyn. The firm would eventually go bankrupt, even after Kermit dropped out of New York University to assist his father. The experience of the Great Depression would haunt Miller as a key event in American history that altered forever the way people viewed everything around them, and it can be seen as influencing the background of several of his plays.
The depression had exposed many social hypocrisies and changed the way success and failure could be considered. In hindsight, Miller saw that it was the system that failed rather than his father, but at the time it was difficult to lay the blame elsewhere as he watched his father become increasingly useless as a provider. Uncommitted to academics but a strong athlete, Miller graduated from Abraham Lincoln High in with a knee injury that would keep him out of the army during World War II, and a lackluster transcript that initially kept him out of college.
Arthur Miller: American Playwright and Essayist by Becky Eacho on Prezi
Rejected by the University of Michigan, to which he had applied to get away from family and join what was then seen as a forward-thinking community, Miller wrote again to the dean to plead for a chance to prove himself. He was offered a probationary placement if he could show he had sufficient funds to enroll.
Finding work as a clerk at an auto parts warehouse, an experience he would later recall in the play A Memory of Two Mondays , it took him over a year to save the money, but he was finally able to enroll at Michigan to study journalism in the fall of Miller worked as a reporter and editor for the Michigan Daily , where his copy showed strong socialist sympathies as he covered campus speakers and nearby strikes.
In his sophomore year he met his future wife, Mary Slattery, his first non-Jewish girlfriend; both politically committed, they would join the peace movement and sign the Oxford Pledge, which declared its signatories would not take part in any future war. Though having little experience of theater, he chose drama because he felt drawn to a form of writing that could so directly connect to its audience. The play was a semi-autobiographical piece about a father whose business is facing strike action and bankruptcy, and how his two sons respond.
It won a joint first prize. Miller switched his major to English and studied the plays of Henrik Ibsen under Professor Kenneth Rowe, who would teach him more about the dynamics of playwriting. His first two Broadway plays would also be set in the Midwest, as if to avoid any suggestion they could be about Jews.
However, while Miller would, once famous, face charges of trying to hide his Jewishness, nothing could be further from the truth, given the number of overtly Jewish plays and Jewish characters that he created over his entire career. Miller won the Hopwood Award outright the following year with Honors at Dawn —another play about strikers, corruption, and two brothers at odds—and placed second in his final year with The Great Disobedience , a prison drama in which he attempted a more original plot about a jailed abortionist and a sadistic warden.
After graduation, despite an offer to write for the movies, Miller decided to return to New York to work on his plays, first for the Federal Theatre Project until it closed down in , and then for various radio stations. Working for radio gave Miller practice in more tightly constructing his dialogue to fit the time slot, but also a greater sense of freedom as to what could be included when not restricted to a physical space.
In Miller married Mary Slattery, who had followed him back to New York, and with whom he would have two children, Jane and Robert. Unable to enlist, Miller took on a night shift at the Brooklyn Naval Yard as his contribution to the war effort. After having his screenplay for The Story of G.
Joe rejected as being too downbeat, he used the research he had done for his first published book, Situation Normal … It related his experiences touring U. He dedicated the book to his brother Kermit, who was at that time heroically serving abroad. Critics were not sure what to make of this fable-like play, whose protagonist becomes reckless waiting for misfortune to hit. It is a theme that would unnervingly echo throughout many of his plays. After his critical dismissal as a dramatist, Miller nearly gave up plays and turned to fiction, producing a novel about American anti-Semitism, Focus ; he was one of the earliest American writers to tackle the topic.
However, despite the moderate success of this book, he was determined to conquer Broadway, carefully crafting his next play, All My Sons —based on a story told to him by his mother-in-law—along more traditional Ibsenian lines, and persuading Elia Kazan to take on its direction to ensure a solid production.
Miller had been a big admirer of the work of the Group Theater, with which Kazan had come to fame, and he and Kazan swiftly became close friends. About a man who tries to cover up selling faulty aircraft parts to the Air Force but is finally forced to face the moral consequences, All My Sons won major awards and gave Miller the theatrical success he desired, as well as the leeway to experiment more freely with his next play: Death of a Salesman It also introduced two strong female characters to the stage in Kate Keller and Ann Deever, both of whom determine the action of the play and dominate the men who love them.
Seeing tension as the very stuff of drama, Miller wanted to re-create in a play what he saw as the contradictory forces that operate on people—past against present, society against individual, greed against ethics. Through this format, Miller, Kazan, and Mielziner suggested a whole new way of presenting a play on stage, and it would become increasingly influential. This is perhaps the reason why Miller—despite the expressionistic elements of the play—was wrongly dubbed a realist for many years.
Miller had grown up around salesman and knew the pressures they faced, especially in a changing society that no longer did business in the ways it once had. Miller recognized the social and historical forces operating against the Loman family. Willy is being replaced by a new kind of corporate salesman.
Biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Creator of 'Raisin in the Sun'
This is modeled by Happy, who toils as assistant to an assistant buyer, stuck in a store. At times comic, yet also poetic and tragic, with a realistic veneer that made it easy to involve any audience, Salesman was a new type of serious drama that merged the forms of realism and expressionism to suggest new directions and possibilities for all of American drama, as well as offering a challenge to previous definitions of tragedy. Miller produced many essays over his career in which he expounded his opinions on theater, politics, history and social theory, thus indicating a desire to be not just a playwright, but someone who might shape the direction of American drama, if not America itself.
Like Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , although written to address a specific historical climate—s McCarthyism through the lens of the Salem witch hunts—has remained powerfully relevant, in part because The Crucible is a study of the nature of society itself. It effectively conveys striking lessons on the responsible role of authority and the rights and needs of the individual which speak to people who have never heard of Salem or Senator McCarthy. Miller spent much of researching witch trials at the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts. Thus he ensured that the play would have an accurate historical basis that could guard him against accusations of creating a flimsy social satire.
He also avoided trying to create a one-to-one analogy, which he felt would be reductive. The Crucible has something for everyone: sympathies can be drawn to the disenfranchised black slave, the suppressed group of young women, the tortured souls of the unhappy and unlucky Proctors, or the self-important Reverend Hale who gets his certitude stripped away; audience distaste is fired up against the self-righteously pompous, the jealous and cold-heartedly venal, or the blind, rigid enforcement of painfully ridiculous reasoning and rules.
Two years later, his conviction was overturned on the grounds that the questions he had been asked to answer served no legislative purpose. Elia Kazan, however, driven by his disgust at what communism had become under Stalin, and his need to work in Hollywood and abroad, had named names in , and Miller swiftly terminated his close friendship with Kazan as a result.
How close Miller had been to the Communist Party during the s and s remains a matter of critical contention, and HUAC produced little firm evidence during his hearing. It is certain that Miller, like Kazan and many others during that period, had seen hope for America in the socialist aspects of communism, but it is also clear that he held Stalin in contempt. While Miller wrote other successful modern tragedies, such as A View from the Bridge , Incident at Vichy , and Broken Glass , he was not content to stick with this single format and continued to experiment with both form and subject for the next fifty years of his career.
Many of these experiments would be met with disdain by a cadre of critics determined to view him as a simplistic realist, but his work flourished in Europe while neglected at home; by the s, critics began to offer a more measured reassessment of many of these overlooked later pieces. These may well prove to be the ultimate meanings of hope. His driving concern was always to make a difference, and he was convinced that theater was a public art which could do that.
Not for the first time, Miller would be accused of creating anti-American propaganda, even though his intent had been to strengthen a nation in which he fiercely believed; similar charges had been made against All My Sons for its indictment of war profiteering that many refused to accept existed. While in Hollywood with Kazan in , unsuccessfully trying to find a producer for his screenplay The Hook , about a young dockworker who challenges corrupt union bosses, Miller was introduced by Kazan to Marilyn Monroe.
The two bonded, but Miller decided to try to keep his admittedly rocky marriage going, and swiftly returned to New York. However, the two continued to correspond. The marriage lasted over four years but placed great strain on them both. It was already falling apart by the time Miller wrote the screenplay for The Misfits , based on an earlier published short story of the same title, about a group of cowboys catching wild mustangs for slaughter. What he in fact wrote was an elegy on their disintegrating relationship.
After his marriage to Monroe collapsed, Miller wed the Austrian photographer Ingeborg Morath, whom he had met on the set of The Misfits , where she was taking photographs for Magnum Photos. With Morath he would have two more children, Rebecca and Daniel, and live happily for the next forty years, both of them with important careers that they occasionally merged to produce several books of photographs and reportage, including In Russia , In the Country , Chinese Encounters , and Salesman in Beijing Morath often traveled as part of her work, and Miller—who before marrying her had rarely left America—now began to travel abroad frequently.
Though not Jewish, Morath took Miller to visit several of the Nazi concentration camps. Like many other such parents in the s, they enrolled him at Southbury Training School, a facility close enough to visit. Meantime, Miller and Kazan had reunited, albeit on a less friendly basis, with a request for Miller to write a new play to inaugurate the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater, which Kazan was leading with producer Robert Whitehead.
A visit with Morath to the Mauthausen concentration camp had provided further ideas for the drama, which Miller would title After the Fall Though humanistically optimistic that people could change and become better, Miller strongly believed that the initial human impulse was always toward betrayal.
Once those betrayals are acknowledged by the less villainous, guilt takes over, but passive guilt or a refusal to do anything to fix the problem are equally worthless. The true Miller hero—either male or female—strives beyond acceptance of guilt to take on a responsibility for change, for themselves or for an entire social system. Through the sacrificial character of Von Berg, who tries to save a Jewish psychiatrist from internment, this play clearly depicts these central beliefs. Death of a Salesman and The Crucible remained great national classics, but in the work he has written since the sixties he was treated as a bankrupt trying to pick up the pieces.
When The Price opened in , it seemed a return to more familiar Miller territory: the division and connection between family members as two brothers argue over their legacy. A more realistic piece, it was well received though viewed as a lesser play by Miller.
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