Till nowadays Arthur Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) occupies a rightful place in the American Theatre Hall of Fame. The author of many outstanding plays – All My Sons, The Crucible, and Death of a Salesman – has played a significant role in the development of American theatrical tradition. The journey of the dramatist and screenwriter started in Harlem, New York. The second child in a Polish-Jewish family, Miller often placed a common man and his life choices in the center of his plays. All of his works explore the destructive impact of societal pressure on people’s moral values. Due to a tough financial situation, the playwright had to work several blue-collar jobs to enter the University of Michigan and pay the tuition fee.
This happened during the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that left his father, a small manufacturer, bankrupt. During his studying, Miller wrote articles for the university newspaper and created his first play, No Villain. This got him the Avery Hopwood Award and increased his decide to connect his life with writing. Yet, his next play, The Man Who Had All the Luck was a complete disaster getting scathing reviews. After Miller wrote his first novel, Focus, about anti-Semitism in the post-War America in 1945, his career got a significant boost. To promote his success, he wrote one of his most popular plays, All My Sons, that turned him into a Broadway celebrity. He even received his first Tony Award for Best Author.
But it was Death of a Salesman that established his status of an iconic playwright with an exceptional sense of humor and a deep understanding of social insecurities faced by the American society. Most critics believe this play to be one of the best plays written in the 20th century. The plot focuses on the relationships in the ordinary American family, their confrontations, and inability to face the reality. Miller had a brief experience of a psychiatric aide which came to be very handy in his description of human characters. Staged on Broadway in 1949, this play was eventually performed 742 times. It took Miller six weeks to complete the play which later earned him both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.
The Crucible is another well-known play written after the US government initiated a series of investigations and arrests of alleged communist spies within the entertainment field. Senator Joseph McCarthy initiated that “witch hunt” creating a special anti-Communist organ which interrogated the suspects and asked them to name other possible communists. Many writers, actors, directors, and entertainers were blacklisted and labeled traitors. Soon it was revealed that these accusations were false and there were no evidence to prove their guilt. Miller used the notorious witchcraft trials in Salem in the 17th century as an allusion to the politics of McCarthyism.
Another reason why the general public paid attention to the writer was his marriage with the Hollywood celebrity Marilyn Monroe. After 5 years of marriage, the couple split up and 10 months later the actress dies of a drug overdose. It’s believed that Miller depicted his relationships with the actress in his next play, After the Fall. A lot of readers recognized the traits of his dead wife depicted by one female character. Even though the autobiographical character of the play is pretty obvious, the playwright denied it having any connection with Monroe. In 1965 Miller was elected to be the first American president of PEN International. Altogether, writer’s notable achievements in literature and humanities were distinguished numerous times.