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AP English Literature
11 January 2006
Behind the Plays of Arthur Miller
Albert Einstein once said that “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” An opportunity awaits every problem that one encounters. Tough times are bound to happen to each person, but how that person responds to those tough times is what reveals their character. Arthur Miller’s life and plays are able to attest to Einstein’s quote. For Miller, the opportunities that he found in life came directly from the difficulties of his life and were reflected in the plays that he wrote. Arthur Miller’s plays are often times reflections of his feelings of the difficulties of his life. In an interview, Miller said that “In a sense, all my plays are autobiographical” (Playbill). Throughout the plays he wrote, especially Death of a Salesman, The Man Who Had All the Luck, A View From the Bridge, and The Crucible, Arthur Miller draws parallels to the events of his life, and gives insight into the feelings and reflections he experienced due to those events.
American theater was transformed with the influence Arthur Miller presented in his plays as well as his ability to tap into the minds and feelings of his audiences. From the time Arthur Miller was a young man, he showed great potential in his ability to speak to the hearts of the audience. Born on October 17, 1915, Arthur Miller was the child of two Jewish immigrants. His father owned a woman’s clothing manufacturing business in Manhattan while his mother took care of Arthur and his two siblings, Kermit and Joan (Arthur Miller). Joan Miller would later go on to being an actress under the name Joan Copeland, and often times played parts in her brother’s plays (Wikipedia). However, in 1928, his father’s business began to fail as the Great Depression approached, causing his family to move to Brooklyn. The effect the Depression had upon his family became a major, reoccurring topic found in many of Arthur Miller’s plays.
From 1920 to 1928, Arthur Miller attended Public School #24 in Harlem, New York. During this time, at the age of 8, Miller saw his first play, a melodrama at the Schubert Theater, where his first spark of inspiration began as a playwright (A Brief Chronology). A melodrama is a play in which the “plot and action are emphasized in comparison to the more character-driven emphasis within a drama” (Arthur Miller). From this melodrama, Arthur Miller’s interest in the composition of drama truly began. He attended high school at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York where he excelled as a football player, but was just a “mediocre student” (Arthur Miller). After high school, Arthur Miller applied to the University of Michigan and the Cornell University, but was rejected to both schools (Arthur Miller). However, this did not let Miller down on his goals in life. Since he was not going to school, Arthur Miller worked at a car warehouse and read classical literature by various authors including Charles Dickens. From his job, Arthur Miller put most of his income into a savings account so that one day, he could go to college. After two years of saving and studying, Miller applied again to the University of Michigan when, in 1934, he was accepted.
During Miller’s time at the University of Michigan, he began to make a name as a playwright. In 1936, he wrote the play No Villain for an essay contest in which he won $250 and also the Avery Hopwood Award (A Brief Chronology). Throughout college, Miller continued to write both for the University of Michigan, as well as his own personal plays. Arthur Miller started college majoring in journalism in which he was an active member of the university’s newspaper, including a reporter and a night editor for The Michigan Daily (A Brief Chronology). However, he changed majors from journalism to an English major in 1936 to pursue his passion for writing. After graduating, Miller continued to write, reflecting on the morals and ideals of his environment. Also, in 1940, Arthur Miller married his high school sweetheart, Mary Grace Slattery (A Brief Chronology). In 1949, Miller wrote Death of a Salesman, one of his most famous plays, where he reflected on the flawed perception of the American dream. Ultimately, the search the main character, Willy Loman, had for the American dream led to his own death (Death). The play earned him the Pulitzer’s Prize, as well as three Tony Awards. As his play Death of a Salesman began to spread amongst the world, he met Marilyn Monroe in 1951, which would lead to some influence over his writing as their relationship began to grow (Arthur Miller). In 1953, Miller finished The Crucible, a play about a fictionalization of the Salem witch trials. In the play, John Proctor is faced with a decision, to compromise his morals to save his life or to give the names of people among his small town community who have been involved in witchcraft (The Crucible). This play became famous due to the parallels it drew as McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee began to accuse Americans of involvement with the communist party. The play was very closely related to the events that were occurring during the 1950’s. Soon after, two major events occurred that deeply affected Arthur Miller for the rest of his life. First, Miller divorced his wife, Mary Grace Slattery, and married actress Marilyn Monroe. This sudden marriage is believed to have an impact on several of his plays including After the Fall and A View From the Bridge. Secondly, Arthur Miller is brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee due to an accusation of his involvement with the communist party (A Brief Chronology). A man by the name of Elia Kazan was brought into the House Un-American Activities Committee and named Arthur Miller as one who was an active member of the communist party. In 1957, Miller was charged with contempt of Congress and was blacklisted for the crime. However, shortly after, the charge was reversed, but Miller never wrote the same again. However, he continued to write in a different style, focusing more on the Holocaust and comedies (Arthur Miller). Miller did not express his feelings the same way after the accusations from the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Early in his career, Arthur Miller reflected upon his beliefs and observations as a child. Growing up in a Jewish home, Miller was a victim of Anti-Semitism. His father owned a small woman’s clothing manufacturing store that, at first, was doing very well, which allowed Arthur to grow up fairly wealthy. However, when the Great Depression came, his father’s business went downhill extremely fast and caused his family to down scale their lifestyle. They moved into a small home in Brooklyn. The theme that has become very prominent among Arthur Miller’s plays is the flawed view of the American dream. Based upon his childhood, growing up in the heart of the Depression, and experiencing a family’s struggle to survive, Miller wrote very skeptically about the ability, for immigrant in particular, to be able to thrive in the United States. This theme is very noticeable in his famous works, Death of a Salesman and The Man Who Had All the Luck. Both of these well respected plays deal with this issue in different ways. However, both of which express Miller’s views concerning the American dream.
Death of a Salesman was written in 1949 as a way for Arthur Miller to express his views about the American dream. The play was inspired by Arthur Miller’s observations of his uncle, Manny Newman (Bloom). His uncle was a salesman who always wanted to remain optimistic in his household in spite of his apparent failure as a businessman and a father (Bloom). As expected, this draws an exact parallel to the plot line of Death of a Salesman. In the play, Willy Loman is the main character and, by this point in his life, is near retirement age. He has two sons that have come to stay with their parents at the start of the play. Even though each member of the Loman family knows that Willy is a failed salesman, they continue to tell him that he is the best and that he loves his job. In a conversation with his wife, Willy expresses his ignorance. Linda says, “But you’re doing wonderful dear. You’re making seventy to a hundred dollars a week.” Ironically, in a few scenes later in the play, Willy and Linda are trying desperately to figure out how they can pay their bills. Uncle Charley, a minor character in the play, says in a speech “He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine … A salesman is got to dream, boy” (Death). In the speech, Charley is explaining how in order to be the type of salesman that Willy is, he continually has to lie to himself about his success. He dreams of a life that he clearly does not live. His family knows that Willy is a failure, but Willy is unaware of his failure. Willy also tries to pass his views of success towards his sons in the daydreams that Willy has during the plot. Throughout the play, Willy looks back on the times when he was younger and a proud father of his young sons. He has flashbacks of the days when life was a perfect world and longs to relive those times. While washing the cars, Willy tells his oldest son, Biff, that he will one day own a business better than that of Uncle Charley, simply because he is more well-liked than Charley. He says, “Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not - liked. He’s like, but he’s not – well liked” (Death). At an early age, Willy is establishing in his sons his views of success that are badly flawed due to Willy’s materialism. Willy Loman is a failed salesman who is unable to realize that success is not built around materialism, but rather satisfaction and happiness within his family.
Arthur Miller presents another theme in Death of a Salesman that simply came as a result of Willy Loman’s perception of success. After his sons are able to see for themselves the true essence of success, they also realize the evils their father had been promoting their entire lives. For example, when Willy is away on a business trip to Boston, he has an ongoing affair with a character known as “the woman.” In one scene, Biff unexpectedly comes to visit his father on his trip and finds “the woman” naked in his hotel room. In a desperate attempt to save his dignity, Willy says in his defense, “Ah- you better get back to your room. They must have finished painting by now. They’re painting her room so I let her take a shower here. Go back, go back…” Obviously, Biff realized what his father had been doing and understood the evils of his actions. From that point forward, Biff lost his respect for his father knowing that his father’s ideals were false. In turn, they betray him since they no longer respect his opinions. From the play, the audience is well aware that Willy favors his son Biff over his younger son, Happy. Likewise, Biff is the first to realize the evils of his father and quickly betrays him. This is shown through the constant arguments between the two men and their disagreements about success. Biff realizes the true meaning of success while his father is still locked in a measure of success through materialism (Bloom). Considering that Willy put his life and faith into Biff, when his favored son betrayed everything that his father stood for, Willy crumbles as he realizes his failure. The betrayal of Biff did not kill Willy, but the cause of his death stems primarily from his lack of awareness in the true meaning of an American dream.
Arthur Miller uses these themes to show the audience his views upon the validity of the American dream. Looking at the society that Miller lived in after the Depression, he was inspired to show the wrongs in society’s measure of success. Another view that Miller expresses is present in the themes in The Man Who Had All the Luck. In this play, Miller examines the difficulty society had after the Depression with fear to have success. The Man Who Had All the Luck is a play that relates another view of Miller’s opinions about the American dream with what actually was occurring in history.
Miller creates a parallel about his feelings during the Great Depression in regard to his friends struggling around him. An example of this is present in Miller’s work, The Man Who Had All the Luck. Arthur Miller wrote this play in 1944, fifteen years after the stock market crash on October 29, 1929 (Bennett). However, even though this play was written a substantially large period of time after the start of the Depression, the themes presented are very closely related to and deal with the struggles dealt with shortly after the Great Depression. There are three major themes that Miller presents in the play named The Man Who Had All the Luck. The first of these themes that are found in The Man Who Had All the Luck is Dave Beeves, the main character of the play, has “guilt of success” (Bennett). This play deals with Dave Beeves, a young mechanic who has earned respect amongst his small town. J.B., a character in The Man Who Had All the Luck, said, “Listen, his car’s on the bum and he’s looking for a good mechanic.” The good mechanic that he needs, according to his coworkers, is Dave Beeves. However, the interesting thing about Dave is that he seems to always be of good fortune while his friends and family are normal and do not always have good fortune. An example of this occurs in Act I of the play. Dave had been working on a car that was believed to have been unfixable and needed to be worked on badly. Beeves, without any professional training, is able to fix this car and make it “hum smoothly and quietly” (The Man Who). Not only did he fix this car, but the man who owned the car offered him a proposition to do more work for him. Immediately, the town considers Dave Beeves a genius and the prodigy of the small town. However, a characteristic of Dave Beeves is that he has a great sense of humility in that he often time denies himself of privilege due to guilt in that his friends never experience the same luck as him. For example, Beeves friend, Shory, told Dave a story that had happened during his time in the war. He claimed that when he entered, “women traveled half the state to climb in my bed” (The Man Who). However, one night, his house blew up into flames and showed that his luck had gone out. Dave Beeves has a hard time understanding why his fellow neighbors and friends never receive the same luck as him at a constant rate. Due to this, he feels guilty in that his luck seems to never run out.
This concept draws a parallel to the life of Arthur Miller. Miller’s family was fairly wealthy and was able to survive through the Great Depression. However, the Depression did have a huge affect on the way Miller looked at life. He once said in an interview that the stock market crash was “eye-opening” and that “he began to see real life as it was lived by former bankers who came begging to the back door of Miller’s house in Brooklyn” (Bennett). The Man Who Had All the Luck is a story that reflects how Miller felt in a world of trouble. All of his friends around him, like the former bankers, were in great despair. However, Miller felt that his life was much like the life of Dave Beeves, always getting the luck while others around him failed.
Arthur Miller’s play The Man Who Had All the Luck dealt greatly with Miller’s reflection to the Depression. The second theme that is present in this play is Dave Beeves fear of failure. While Dave’s friends are all failing and not receiving good fortune, Dave constantly believes throughout the play that his luck, too, will run out. For example, Dave Beeves even contemplates committing suicide simply due to his fear that one day his luck will run out and everything he owns will be lost. Dave even says “I’m a lucky man John. Everything I’ve ever gotten came…straight out of the blue. There’s nothing mad about it. It’s facts. When I couldn’t have Hester unless Old Man Falk got out of the way, he was killed just like it was especially for me” (The Man Who). Dave is very aware of his good fortune and worries without end that his luck will end. In the play, another major character, Dibble, makes an important speech to Miller about the mink farm that he owns. Dibble foreshadows what will happen to Dave if he continues to worry about failure and his fate. Dibble says “…and I’ve seen them die of just plain worry” (The Man Who). These minks are a representation of Dave Beeves life in that if Dave persists in his worrying about fate, it will lead to his demise. Growing up after the Great Depression, Miller saw that the society would never have the faith in the American economy again. Though they were beginning to rebuild their lives, they continually believed that, once again, they would lose their fortune. This theme is Arthur Miller’s reaction to how the American people responded the growth of the economy after the Great Depression had ceased.
The last theme that is presented in this play deals with the connections Miller has with the characters. Miller is a representation of Dave Beeves during the Great Depression. He feels that even though his friends are struggling to survive, Beeves is prospering due to luck. This draws parallels to Miller’s life during the Depression. Only after did Miller truly look back and notice the pain his peers were going through. Ironically, Miller did not write this play until 15 years after the stock market fell. Miller was inspired to write this play only after looking back and realizing the pain his friends were going through during this time in American history.
Many of the plays Arthur Miller wrote are open to interpretation. This means that Miller did not specifically say how each play related to his life. The play, A View From the Bridge, is an example of this type of writing from Arthur Miller. The plot and form are both very different from any other of Miller’s plays, but the themes he presents in this work are common amongst many of his other plays.
In the play, the main character, Eddie Carbone, struggles between his morals and the feelings he has for his niece, Catherine. From the start of the play, Eddie shows a passion for his niece, but is unable to reveal this passion since he is already married to Beatrice, his wife. As in the first act, Catherine is wearing a new dress and, impressed with her beauty, Eddie says, “Listen, you been givin’ me the willies the way you walk down the street, I mean it” (A View). At the same time, his wife is aware of an awkward attraction Eddie has towards Catherine. She says, “You want something else, Eddie, and you can never have her!” (A View) Truly, Beatrice knows of her husband’s secret desires and internal greed. As the play opens, the Cabrones are awaiting the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins, Marco and Rodolpho. These two men are illegal immigrants from Italy who have been smuggled into the United States via the ocean. Marco is the older brother and is married with three children. He has come to America with the hopes of making money and sending it to his family back in Italy. Rodolpho, on the other hand, is a young, blonde haired Italian who has come to the United States in order to one day become an American citizen (A View). Just when he arrives to the Cabrone home, he says in astonishment, “This will be the first house I ever walked into in America! Imagine! She said they were poor!” (A View). The Cabrones have offered to give shelter to the refuges considering they are family to Beatrice. However, an immediate conflict becomes apparent between Eddie and Rodolpho as the young Italian begins to develop a love for Catherine. In the stage direction, the narrator says, “Eddie is downstairs, watching as [Catherine] pours a spoonful of sugar into [Rodolpho’s] cup , his face puffed with trouble, and the room dies” (A View). Both as a lover and a guardian, Eddie becomes very defensive of Catherine and does everything in his power to keep the two lovers away from each other. However, his effort are without prevail. The two fall in love and Eddie goes crazy due to his internal struggle. The greed Eddie develops from his sexual attraction to Catherine ultimately leads to his demise.
Arthur Miller has written several plays that deal with a common theme, a man who struggles with his internal desires and his morals. Likewise, Miller usually has the main character compromise his ideals morals in an attempt to gain a better life for himself. Death of a Salesman is an example of this where the main character, Willy Loman, will do anything to achieve the “American dream” (A View). However, this play is much different in that the internal struggle that Eddie faces is a sexual attraction to his niece. Many critics believe that this play draws a close parallel to the short lived marriage Arthur Miller had the actress Marilyn Monroe. “Perhaps he saw in Eddie’s infatuation for Catherine a parallel to his own interest in Marilyn Monroe” (Modern Critics Review 99).
Growing up in a Jewish home, Arthur Miller dealt with a great deal of Anti-Semitism. Not many of Miller’s work directly deals with the issue of Anti-Semitism, but many of his plays draw parallels to racism in general. In A View From the Bridge, greed plays a key role in the motives behind Eddie Cabrone’s hate for Rodolpho. Eddie reveals this greed at a personal level, as well as a level dealing with society as a whole. The personal level of his greed begins with his racism towards the cousins who have been smuggled into the United States. Though he is willing to house the two immigrants, an early conversation between Beatrice, Catherine and himself reveals his true beliefs. He recalls a story where a young boy snitched on his uncle which led to he uncle being arrested by the Immigration Police. “But the family had an uncle that they had been hiding in the house, and he snitched to the Immigration Police” (A View). Not only does this foreshadow Eddie’s plan for the immigrants, but it also reinforces the beliefs that Eddie feels towards housing immigrants by showing his pessimistic view towards his act of charity. Later in the play, the greed that Eddie has is also shown after the two men have arrived. By this time, Rodolpho has showed an interest in marrying Catherine. Eddie tries to convince his niece that the only reason that Rodolpho wishes to marry her is simply to obtain a citizenship in the United States. Eddies tells Catherine, “That’s right. He marries you he’s got the right to be an American citizen. That’s what’s goin’ on here. You understand what I’m telling you? The guy is lookin’ for his break, that’s all he’s lookin’ for” (A View) However, the real reason that Eddie does not want Catherine to marry Rodolpho deals nothing with the interest of Catherine, but rather completely with the interests of himself and his personal desires. Clearly, Eddie has feelings against the two immigrants that ultimately will lead to the fall of Eddie.
Just as Eddie Cabrone reveals his greed on a personal level, his greed also is revealed at a social level as well. The story does not only deal with Eddie’s attempt to preserve his love for Catherine, but also his attempt to close the American culture off from anyone who threatens his lifestyle (Bloom). From the beginning of the play, the audience learns that Rodolpho has come to America not only to become a citizen, but also to become familiar with Western culture and be able to experience freedom. He says, “Me? Yes, forever! Me, I want to be an American. And then I want to go back to Italy when I am rich, and I will buy a motorcycle” (A View). However, as Eddie feels threatened by Rodolpho, his hate escalates and he is willing to do anything in his power to prevent Rodolpho from becoming comfortable with Western civilization. A clear example of this is when Eddie fulfills the foreshadowing laid out in the earlier conversation with his wife and Catherine by calling the Immigration Police and having Marco and Rodolpho arrested. The motive behind this act was not just out of his greed for Catherine, but also greed in that he wishes to preserve his culture for strictly Americans. Eddie Cabrone is man who will do anything to resist change in his relationship with Catherine as well as the culture in which he lives.
Arthur Miller uses the themes from A View From the Bridge to express his outlook on racism, but specifically Anti-Semitism. Greed, in the play, is a representation of discrimination. Eddie discriminates against the immigrants by not allowing Rodolpho to see his niece and also by calling the Immigration police after he has already offered to house them for their stay in the United States. Eddie looks at his society and wishes that nothing can change the world in which he lives. Through the character of Eddie Cabrone, Arthur Miller uses his fate as a symbol of the result of such greed. At the end of the play, Eddie’s greed turns upon himself. As he tries to kill Marco, the knife is reversed in the battle for control of the weapon and stabs Eddie with a fatal blow (A View). His desire to rid his environment of an outside influence came back to determine his fate. The lesson that Miller tries to convey to the audience is that change is not a bad component to life. Outside influences are often times a benefit to the American society. As a child, Miller became an outside influence being raised in a Jewish home. Likewise, his views about influence are revealed in his work, A View From the Bridge.
The accusations made towards Arthur Miller had a great deal of influence over his play, The Crucible. The play deals with the Salem witch trials, but also draws parallels to the McCarthyism period and the “hunt” for communism among the American leaders. McCarthyism is rooted back far before the birth of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the man who is credited with the era known as McCarthyism. During the late 1910’s, a communist threat swept the United States of America as many nations were beginning to fall to the communists. For example, after World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution occurred in Russia, completely turning a super power of the world to an evil communist nation (Burnett). As more nations began to fall, a nation wide panic started which later came to be known as the Red Scare. The government was jailing innocent people for simply expressing their political views. During that time in American history, civil liberties did not exist (Burnett). The United States government expected each citizen of the United States to share a common patriotism, even a nationalistic view in order to preserve democracy. It is now said the “It was out of patriotism that the Red Scare took hold” (The Red Scare). Suddenly, around the United States, workers strikes became prevalent, a sign of socialism in the promotion of a union. With this rising fear, the American government took hold of the situation by abandoning the foundation the nation was set upon. However, during the early 1920’s, the Red Scare stopped and the nationwide panic took an abrupt halt. At the time, it was believed that the threat of communism was over for good, but the rising of a young senator would bring a revived Red Scare.
The mid 1940’s brought a revival of a nationwide panic that many had hoped had been put to rest almost 25 years ago. However, as nations from Eastern Europe and China fell to the threat of communism, history repeated itself with a nationwide panic that would once again sweep the United States (McCarthyism). The House Un-American Activities Committee was an organization created in 1938 in an attempt to preserve the peace of a communist threat (McCarthyism). However, with a revival of the threat among the United States, the House Un-American Activities Committee took action to try and stop the communists in their tracks. A young senator by the name Joseph McCarthy believed that there were two hundred active communists who had “infiltrated the United States government” (McCarthyism). In a desperate attempt to diminish this threat, Senator McCarthy sent out hundreds of accusations for the House Un-American Activities Committee to hold a trial to verify if that person had been an active member of the communist party. When Senator McCarthy had been satisfied with the infiltration of the United States government, he turned his attention to the next level of leaders among the American society, entertainers. The entertainers included writers, actors, playwrights, directors, and other types of people involved in the American society. When accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee, actors usually were unable to find work since they had been blacklisted by the government. If the victims of McCarthyism refused to give names of others who were involved in the communist party, regardless if the victim themselves were innocent or guilty, the victim would be jailed (McCarthyism). From this, Arthur Miller found inspiration for his newest play, The Crucible. He had recently become interested in the Salem witch trials and found that the two stories were almost identical to one another. In 1957, Arthur Miller completed The Crucible in which he recreates the Salem witch trials, but also draws parallels to that of McCarthyism and the evils the American government had fallen into at this point in time. Unfortunately for Miller, many people did not take the play lightly and immediately assumed that Arthur Miller was an active member of the Communist party considering he was openly opposed to the infiltration of communist from the American society. In 1956, Miller was summoned to court on the accusation of being an active member of the communist party. Though Miller had talked with Elia Kazan about communism, he had never taken any action nor talked against the American government by promoting communism. Though he was innocent, the House Un-American Activities Committee found Miller guilty of treason. However, the crime was reversed in 1958 (A Brief Chronology). The events that led up to the accusations of Arthur Miller all draw direct parallels to the “witch hunts” by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The Crucible was published in 1957 after Arthur Miller finished researching the Salem witch trials. The play gives a very personal account of the struggles faced by the main character, John Proctor, between sacrificing his morals for his life, or dying for remaining an honest man. Arthur Miller wrote the play from both the inspiration of the Salem witch trials, but also as a warning to the American society about the evils of McCarthyism. Many of the themes and choices the characters make are closely related to those that a victim of McCarthyism, such as Arthur Miller, was faced with during the court appearing.
In the play , The Crucible, Arthur Miller recreates the Salem witch trials from the point of view of a young man named John Proctor. John is a well-respected man among his small community who has been living a lie for many years. Several months before the start of the play, John Proctor had a brief affair with a young woman named Abigail Williams, who had worked for the Proctors while John’s wife was sick. When Elizabeth Proctor was well enough to realize that Abigail had been flirting with her husband, she immediately fires her from the house work (The Crucible). As the play opens, Abigail still believes that John Proctor loves her and is willing to leave his wife to marry her. She says in an early conversation, “John --- I am waiting for you every night” (The Crucible). However, John feels much different in that he is full of guilt for cheating on his wife and cannot find a peace of mind to justify his sin. In response, John says, “Abby, you’ll put it out of mind. I’ll not be comin’ for you more” (The Crucible). In a desperate attempt to win back his love, Abigail claims to have performed witchcraft in the woods and met with the Devil. The elders of the town ask who she saw with the Devil and Abigail begins to yell names out. She says, “I want to be open myself! I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus; I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil!” (The Crucible). Eventually, Abigail claims to have seen Elizabeth Proctor with the Devil. These victims were then put to trial and, if they were determined to have been guilty, they had a choice: they could name others who were in association with the Devil and suffer a minor punishment, or they could refuse to name others and be honest in which they would be hung. Many well respected people among Salem were called to trial including John Proctor. However, unlike many of his neighbors, John refused to admit to the crime and therefore, refused to name any names of others involved with the Devil. This decision ultimately cost him his life.
Arthur Miller lived in a time when the Salem witch trials almost became a modern, social issue. The House Un-American Activities Committee would call in suspected communists and find them guilty of treason. If they were to give names of others who were involved in the communist party, their punishment would be not nearly as harsh as if they were to be honest and loyal to their neighbors. John Proctor plays a huge role in the connection made with McCarthyism in that he stands for what Arthur Miller believed to be an easy decision. John Proctor refused to compromise his morals which ultimately led to his death (The Crucible). Several years after The Crucible was published, Arthur Miller was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and stood by the theme that he promoted in John Proctor. By refusing to name others involved in the communist party, Miller suffered the consequences and was blacklisted for nearly a year. Luckily, Congress reversed the sentencing and allowed Miller to continue his work. The portrayal of John Proctor and the themes presented in The Crucible run parallel lines to the age of McCarthyism, in which Miller expressed his views on how the victims of the accusations should act. In the end, Miller lives up to his beliefs and shows the world his character.
Arthur Miller lived a life full of difficulties. However, like Einstein said, from each difficulty, there is an opportunity. Arthur Miller found that opportunity each time he picked up his pen. From his writing, he was able to express his thoughts and feeling to an audience simply in the form of a play. The themes of many of his plays reflect the morals and observations he has made in life, in which he has spread his opinions in an extraordinary way. Thousands of people around the world read plays by Arthur Miller, each of them receiving a piece of the mentality Arthur Miller had towards life each day. From plays like The Crucible, where he expresses his belief that one should stand up to their morals, or to a play like The Man Who Had All the Luck where he reflects on an observation of the American people, Arthur Miller left a mark on the earth to show the world how life, in his opinion, should be lived.
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- Quote paper
- David Pratt (Author), 2006, Behind the Plays of Arthur Miller, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/109761