Presentation on theme: "Arthur Miller October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005 English 42 – Dr. Karen Rose."— Presentation transcript:
Arthur Miller October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005 English 42 – Dr. Karen Rose
Arthur Miller was born in New York City and grew up in Harlem and Brooklyn. He was the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. Miller’s coming of age was during the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. These events were the most formative influences on Miller’s developing imagination.
Miller’s father owned a women’s clothing store, but the family lost almost everything after the stock market crash. As a teenager, Miller sold bread every morning to help the family. After graduating from high school, he worked at several menial jobs to save money for his college tuition. From the misfortunes of the Depression came Miller’s conviction that behind the uncertainties of life, there were certain hidden laws that the artist must probe and try to explain.
Miller attended the University of Michigan, and he planned to become a journalist. His receipt of the Avery Hopwood Prize for his first play redirected his ambitions and changed his life. In 1938, at age 23, he graduated with a B.A. in English. He joined the Federal Theater Project, a New Deal agency established to provide jobs in theater.
In 1940, Miller married his college sweetheart, Mary Slattery, the Catholic daughter of an insurance salesman. They had two children, Jane and Robert. Miller was exempted from military service during World War II because of a high school football injury to his left kneecap.
At age 29, Miller had his first Broadway production, The Man Who had All the Luck (1944). It opened on November 23, 1944 at the Forrest Theater, where it ran for only 4 performances. What a disappointment! The play's failure nearly derailed Miller's career.
Miller’s next play, All My Sons (1947), was a tremendous success and skyrocketed Miller to national prominence. The play opened on Broadway at the Coronet Theater, and it ran for 328 performances. It won the prestigious Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Miller won his first Tony Award for Best Author. With the proceeds from All My Sons, Miller bought a farm in Connecticut where he moved with his wife and two young children.
It was there that Miller wrote Death of a Salesman, the work that established his international reputation. Death of a Salesman premiered on Broadway on February 10, 1949 at the Morosco Theatre. It was performed 742 times! The play was commercially successful and critically acclaimed, winning a Tony Award for Best Author, the New York Drama Circle Critics' Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was the first play to win all three of these major awards.
Celebrity brought Miller financial security, but it also made him a more visible target for critics opposed to his humanitarian and left- wing views. His adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (1950) and his own The Crucible (1953) were resented by some as criticisms of the activities of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Formed in 1938, this committee was an investigative agency of the United States House of Representatives. During the 1940s and 1950s, the committee investigated purported security risks, especially those supposedly with ties to Communist groups and governments. The House Committee on Un-American Activities took an interest in Miller not long after The Crucible opened, denying him a passport to attend the play's London opening in 1954.
In 1956, Miller was subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee. His refusal to give the names of writers whom he had seen at a communist writer’s meeting in 1947 resulted in a citation for contempt of Congress and a fine of $500. He appealed his case to the Supreme Court and was acquitted in 1958.
During these years, the turmoil in Miller’s career was paralleled by developments in his private life. In 1956, he divorced his first wife to marry Marilyn Monroe.
Besieged by the press, the couple found temporary haven in England, where Miller wrote a number of short stories, turning one of them into his first film script, The Misfits.
The Misfits was directed by John Huston and starred Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Miller later said that the filming was one of the lowest points in his life. Shortly before the film's premiere in 1961, after five years of marriage, the pair divorced. 19 months later, Monroe died of a possible drug overdose
Miller’s next play, After the Fall (1964) is viewed by many to be about his experiences during his marriage to Monroe. The play is often criticized for being a betrayal to Monroe. In the play, the female protagonist, Maggie, bares a striking resemblance in personality traits and mannerisms to Monroe. Shortly after the play debuted, Miller wrote an article for Life magazine where he denied that Maggie was a representation of Marilyn and stated that she was only “a character in a play about the human animal’s unwillingness or inability to discover in himself the seeds of his own destruction.”
In 1962, Miller married Austrian-born photographer, Inge Morath. They had two children. Their son, Daniel, was born with Down syndrome. Their daughter, Rebecca, is a director and screenplay writer. She is married to actor, Daniel Day Lewis, whom she met when he and her father were preparing the film version of The Crucible. Arthur Miller and Inge Morath were married until her death in 2002.
Arthur Miller died of congestive heart failure at the age of 89. His career as a writer spanned over seven decades, and he leaves behind a distinguished body of work: 35 stage plays, 19 radio plays, 4 screenplays, 1 novel, several short stories, and many essays.
Miller won virtually every award a writer can earn. However, nothing he achieved is likely to eclipse the legacy of Death of a Salesman, his most celebrated and most produced play. Originally, to be called “The Inside of His Head,” the play combines traditional realism with expressionistic techniques that enable Miller to explore areas of the subjective life inaccessible to conventional dramatic form.
Death of a Salesman is arguably the most subversive play ever written in and about America. It portrays middle-class domesticity as a trap in which all the symbols of a good life – a devoted spouse, healthy children, and house that’s almost paid off – ultimately matter less than the insurance policy that shows you’re “worth more dead than alive.” Willy Loman, the salesman who was beaten down by the system he so strongly believed in, still has a message for us today.
Willy is a man whose sense of self-worth comes from what he’s earned, and it is likely that we all know at least one person who feels that way. As unemployment rates are close to 10%, as pension plans are phased out of corporate America, and as the future of Social Security seems up for grabs, 63-year-old’s Willy’s desperate situation has become newly relevant. Certainly, Willy Loman’s chilling realizations resonate.