Presentation on theme: "Arthur Miller. Arthur Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre."— Presentation transcript:
Arthur Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre and cinema for almost 100 years, writing a wide variety of dramas, including celebrated plays such as The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman, which are studied and performed worldwide. Miller was often in the public eye, most famously for refusing to give evidence against others to the House Un-American Activities Committee, being the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama among countless other awards, and for his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Miller is considered by audiences and scholars as one of America's greatest playwrights and his plays are lauded throughout the world. I. Introduction to Arthur Miller
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 and 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)
II. Death of A Salesman 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)
III. The Crucible 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 first Broadway production flopped, it become one of Miller's most-produced play. Miller wrote The Crucible in the atmosphere in which the author saw "accepted the notion that conscience was no longer a private matter but one of state administration." In the play he expressed his faith in the ability of an individual to resist conformist pressures. Miller's career as a writer spanned over seven decades, and at the time of his death in 2005, Miller was considered to be one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century. After his death, many respected actors, directors, and producers paid tribute to Miller, some calling him the last great practitioner of the American stage, and Broadway theaters darkened their lights in a show of respect. Miller's alma mater, the University of Michigan opened the Arthur Miller Theatre in March, 2007. Per his express wish, it is the only theater in the world that bears Miller's name.
IV. Analysis of Death of A Salesman Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman stems from both Arthur Miller's personal experiences and the theatrical traditions in which the playwright was schooled. The play recalls the traditions of Yiddish theater that focus on family as the crucial element, reducing most plot to the confines of the nuclear family. Death of a Salesman focuses on two sons who are estranged from their father, paralleling one of Miller's other major works, All My Sons, which premiered two years before Death of a Salesman. Although the play premiered in 1949, Miller began writing Death of a Salesman at the age of seventeen when he was working for his father's company. In short story form, it treated an aging salesman unable to sell anything. He is berated by company bosses and must borrow subway change from the young narrator. The end of the manuscript contains a postscript that the salesman on which the story is based had thrown himself under a subway train.
Arthur Miller reworked the play in 1947 upon a meeting with his uncle, Manny Newman. Miller's uncle, a salesman, was a competitor at all times and even competed with his sons, Buddy and Abby. Miller described the Newman household as one in which one could not lose hope, and based the Loman household and structure on his uncle and cousins. There are numerous parallels between Abby and Buddy Newman and their fictional counterparts, Happy and Biff Loman: Buddy, like Biff, was a renowned high school athlete who ended up flunking out. Miller's relationship to his cousins parallels that of the Lomans to their neighbor, Bernard. While constructing the play, Miller was intent on creating continuous action that could span different time periods smoothly. The major innovation of the play was the fluid continuity between its segments. Flashbacks do not occur separate from the action but rather as an integral part of it. The play moves between fifteen years back and the present, and from Brooklyn to Boston without any interruptions in the plot.
Death of a Salesman premiered on Broadway in 1949, starring Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman and directed by Elia Kazan (who would later inform on Arthur Miller in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee). The play was a resounding success, winning the Pulitzer Prize, as well as the Tony Award for Best Play. The New Yorker called the play a mixture of "compassion, imagination, and hard technical competence not often found in our theater." Since then, the play has been revived numerous times on Broadway and reinterpreted in stage and television versions. As an archetypal character representing the failed American dream, Willy Loman has been interpreted by diverse actors such as Fredric March (the 1951 film version), Dustin Hoffman (the 1984 Broadway revival and television movie), and, in a Tony Award-winning revival, Brian Dennehy.
Character List Willy Loman A sixty year old salesman living in Brooklyn, Willy Loman is a gregarious, mercurial man with powerful aspirations to success. However, after thirty- five years working as a traveling salesman throughout New England, Willy Loman feels defeated by his lack of success and difficult family life. Although he has a dutiful wife, his relationship with his oldest son, Biff, is strained by Biff's continual failures. As a salesman, Willy Loman focuses on personal details over actual measures of success, believing that it is personality and not high returns that garner success in the business world. Biff Loman The thirty-four year old son of Willy Loman, Biff was a star high school athlete with a scholarship to UVA, but he did not attend college after failing a high school math course and refusing to attend summer school. He did this primarily out of spite after finding out that his father was having an affair with a woman in Boston. Since then, Biff has been a continual failure, stealing and even spending time in jail. Despite his failures and anger toward his father, Biff still has great concern for what his father thinks of him, and the conflict between the two characters drives the narrative of the play.
Linda Loman The dutiful, obedient wife to Willy and mother of Biff and Happy, Linda Loman is the one person who supports Willy Loman, despite his often reprehensible treatment of her. She is a woman who has aged greatly because of her difficult life with her husband, whose hallucinations and erratic behavior she contends with alone. She is the moral center of the play, occasionally stern and not afraid to confront her sons about their poor treatment of their father. Happy Loman The younger of the two Loman sons, Happy Loman is seemingly content and successful, with a steady career and none of the obvious marks of failure that his older brother displays. Happy, however, is not content with his more stable life, because he has never risked failure or striven for any real measure of success. Happy is a compulsive womanizer who treats women purely as sex objects and has little respect for the many women whom he seduces.
Charley The Lomans' next door neighbor and father of Bernard, Charley is a good businessman, exemplifying the success that Willy is unable to achieve. Although Willy claims that Charley is a man who is "liked, but not well-liked," he owns his own business and is respected and admired. He and Willy have a contentious relationship, but Charley is nevertheless Willy's only friend. Bernard Bernard is Charley's only son. He is intelligent and industrious but lacks the gregarious personality of either of the Loman sons. It is this absence of spirit that makes Willy believe that Bernard will never be a true success in the business world, but Bernard proves himself to be far more successful than Willy imagined. As a grown-up, he is a lawyer preparing to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court.
Ben Willy's older brother, Ben left home at seventeen to find their father in Alaska, but ended up in Africa, where he found diamond mines and came out of the jungle at twenty-one an incredibly rich man. Although Ben died several weeks before the time at which the play is set, he often appears in Willy's hallucinations, carrying a valise and umbrella. Ben represents the fantastic success for which Willy has always hoped but can never seem to achieve. Howard Wagner The thirty-six year old son of Frank Wagner, Willy Loman's former boss, Howard now occupies the same position as his late father. Although Willy was the one who named Howard, Howard is forced to fire Willy for his erratic behavior. Howard is preoccupied with technology; when Willy meets with his new boss, he spends most of the meeting demonstrating his new wire recorder. Stanley Stanley is the waiter at the restaurant where Willy meets his sons. He helps Willy home after Biff and Happy leave their father there. The Woman An assistant in a company in Boston with which Willy does business, this nameless character has a continuing affair with Willy. The Woman claims that Willy ruined her and did not live up to his promises to her. When Biff finds the Woman in Willy's hotel room, he begins his course of self-destructive behavior.
Death of a Salesman and the American Dream Death of a Salesman is considered by many to be the quintessential modern literary work on the American dream, a term created by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. This is somewhat ironic, given that it is such a dark and frustrated play. The idea of the American dream is as old as America itself: the country has often been seen as an empty frontier to be explored and conquered. Unlike the Old World, the New World had no social hierarchies, so a man could be whatever he wanted, rather than merely having the option of doing what his father did. The American Dream is closely tied up with the literary works of another author, Horatio Alger. This author grew famous through his allegorical tales which were always based on the rags-to-riches model. He illustrated how through hard work and determination, penniless boys could make a lot of money and gain respect in America. The most famous of his books is the Ragged Dick series (1867). Many historical figures in America were considered Alger figures and compared to his model, notably including Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.
Miller had an uncertain relationship with the idea of the American dream. On one hand, Bernard's success is a demonstration of the idea in its purist and most optimistic form. Through his own hard work and academic success, Bernard has become a well-respected lawyer. It is ironic, however, that the character most obviously connected to the American dream, who boasts that he entered the jungle at age seventeen and came out at twenty-one a rich man, actually created this success in Africa, rather than America. There is the possibility that Ben created his own success through brute force rather than ingenuity. The other doubt cast on the American dream in Death of a Salesman is that the Loman men, despite their charm and good intentions, have not managed to succeed at all. Miller demonstrates that the American dream leaves those who need a bit more community support, who cannot advocate for themselves as strongly, in the dust.