Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
After the Fall is a play about the death of love. Drawing upon Albert Camus’s La Chute (1956; The Fall, 1957), Miller—in contrast to earlier plays where he stressed communal responsibility—here moves to the existential theme of moral separateness. Quentin’s trial is a device to establish to the jury his “innocence,” yet this would-be exercise in self-justification leads him ultimately to acknowledge his complicity in the suffering of those whom he has loved.
The setting of the play is meant to remind the audience of the hollow, cavernous condition of humankind. In act 1 Miller tries to suggest, through the scenery and the archaeologist Holga, man’s responsibility for the Holocaust, but unlike Holga, Quentin has no feeling for the event or the people destroyed in it. He processes his client Felice’s divorce, but he returns none of her exuberance or desire to become close. He is not sure, after two broken marriages, whether he can relate as a lover to Holga.
Act 1 sets up the more focused act 2, which goes back in time to detail the gradual destruction of the love between Maggie and Quentin. As thoroughly innocent as she is physically beautiful, Maggie gives herself to Quentin unconditionally. If she is the apple of his eye, however, she is also the fruit of his fall. The more he tries to protect her, the more she becomes angry and joyless—qualities of an isolated person, doomed mentally and...
(The entire section is 382 words.)
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