Arthur Miller Biography

Biography (History of the World: The 20th Century)

0111201251-Miller_A.jpg(Inge Morath/Magnum) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Considered one of the foremost dramatists in the United States, Miller has penetrated the American consciousness and gained worldwide recognition for his probing dramas of social awareness.

Early Life

On October 17, 1915, Arthur Miller, son of Jewish immigrants, was born in Manhattan in New York. His father, Isadore, ran a prosperous garment business, and his mother, Augusta Barnett, was at onetime a school teacher. When Isadore’s firm began to fail in 1928, the Millers moved to Brooklyn, an area that would be the model for the settings of All My Sons (1947) and Death of a Salesman (1949). He inherited a strong sense of mysticism from his mother that would inform his later work. As a young boy, Miller came to resent his father’s withdrawal from failure. The figure of the failed father would play a significant role in Miller’s plays.

The young Miller came of age during the Great Depression, and seeing once-prosperous people on the streets begging for work deeply affected him. To Miller, the Depression signified the failure of a system and the tragedy of a generation of people who would blame this failure on themselves. The Depression’s impact on the aspects of personal success and failure would lead Miller to probe into individuals’ relations to their work and the price they had to pay for success or lack of it.

Like Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman, Miller was more of an athlete than a scholar. He read mostly adventure novels and some Charles Dickens. Unable to get into college, he worked for his father and became moved by the sad plight of salesmen. After a series of odd jobs, Miller worked in an auto parts warehouse, where he was able to save $500 for college on a $15-per-week job. He recreated this experience in A Memory of Two Mondays (1955). While working, Miller became an avid reader and was especially impressed with Fyodor Dostoevski’s Bratya Karamazovy (1879-1880; The Brothers Karamazov, 1912), a novel that focuses on a failed father, fraternal rivalry, and a trial motif, themes that would repeatedly occur in Miller’s works.

After much convincing, Miller finally got accepted into the University of Michigan, where he became interested in social causes and began to form his liberal philosophy. He studied playwriting under Kenneth Rowe and won two Hopwood Awards, in 1936, for “No Villain” and in 1937, for “Honor at Dawn.” In 1938, he won the Theater Guild National Award for “They Too Arise.” Following the style of the 1930’s, Miller’s early plays focus on young idealists fighting to eliminate social injustice. After college, he worked for the Federal Theater Project and wrote radio scripts. In 1944, he tried to recreate the feelings of the ordinary soldier in his screenplay for The Story of G. I. Joe but was thwarted by motion-picture executives who wanted him to romanticize his work. That same year, he had his first Broadway production, The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944). This drama of a man dismayed by his incredible success was a flop.

Life’s Work

After this initial failure, Miller rose up to become one of the United States’ leading playwrights and gained an international reputation. In 1947, Miller achieved his first success with All My Sons, the tragedy of Joe Keller who, in order to save his business, sells defective airplane parts to the military and leaves his partner to bear the blame. He indirectly becomes responsible for the death of his own son, who condemns his father’s action and flies a suicide mission. Faced with the guilt for many deaths, Keller kills himself.

In 1949, Death of a Salesman achieved unprecedented critical acclaim and established Miller as a significant American playwright. Willy Loman, an unsuccessful salesman, relives his past, trying to discover the reasons for his failure. Unable to accept failure, he pressures his son into far-fetched business schemes and commits suicide in order to leave his son the legacy of his insurance. In 1949, Death of a Salesman won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The play ran for 742 performances. In 1966, the television production played to seventeen million people. In 1975, it was successfully produced at the Circle in the Square with George C. Scott in the lead; in 1984, it played Broadway again with Dustin Hoffman in the lead. In 1985, Hoffman was featured in a new television production of the play. Furthermore, Death of a Salesman has been acclaimed and produced around the world. In his book Salesman in Beijing (1984), Miller documents an unprecedented Chinese production. The play still appears in most college anthologies and continues to be taught as an American classic.

Disturbed by the repressive climate of the 1950’s Cold War, the scare tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the betrayal by his one-time liberal friends who cited names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Miller wrote The Crucible (1953), which connected the witch hunts of seventeenth century Salem with the hunt for Communists of the 1950’s. In The Crucible, Miller shows how an ordinary individual living in a repressive community gains tragic stature by sacrificing his life rather than betraying his conscience. The Crucible opened on Broadway in 1953 to a lukewarm reception but was later revived Off-Broadway with more success. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the screenplay for the French film version of The Crucible, Les Sorcieres de Salem (1955). In 1961, The Crucible was converted into an opera, and, in 1967, it was adapted for television with George C. Scott in the lead role. In 1997, it was made into a motion picture with Miller writing the screenplay. According to Miller, The Crucible is his most frequently produced work both in the United States and abroad.

His next works were two one-act plays: A Memory of Two Mondays (1955) and A View from the Bridge (1955). An expanded version of A View from the Bridge (1956) told the story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who is driven by incestuous desires for his niece to inform on his niece’s boyfriend and other illegal immigrants living with him.

During the mid-1950’s, Miller entered a troubled period of his life. After divorcing his first wife, Mary Grace Slattery, Miller married film star Marilyn Monroe and became involved in her turbulent career. He was also cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to name names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Although acquitted on appeal, this ordeal took a financial and emotional toll on him. In 1961, his marriage to Monroe ended in divorce; in 1962, he married photographer Ingeborg Morath.

After a nine-year hiatus from the American stage, Miller wrote After the Fall (1964) and Incident at Vichy (1964). Both plays dealt with the universal guilt associated with the genocide of the Jews. Miller returned to the form of family drama with The Price (1968), a drama depicting the rivalry of two brothers. Continuing to experiment, Miller wrote The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), a comedy based on Genesis; The American Clock (1980), a montage view of the Depression focusing on the trials of one family; The Archbishop’s Ceiling (1984), a play about power and oppression in a European Communist country; and Danger: Memory! (1986), two short, symbolic dramas exploring the mysteries hidden in past actions.

In the 1990’s, Miller experienced a resurgence. The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991) captures the gaudy materialism and egotistical self-absorption of 1980’s America. As scenes from his life pass before him in his hospital room, an insurance magnate and bigamist lives for the unabated gratification of his pleasures as he struggles with the phantom of death. In The Last Yankee (1991), Miller examines the marital relationships of two women confined to a mental institution—one who cannot adjust to her husband’s apparent failure to achieve the American Dream and the other isolated by the success of a husband who can only give her material comforts. In this play, Miller critiques the immigrant dream of unbridled success and issues a plea for self-acceptance. In Broken Glass (1994), Miller probes the indifference to the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews by exploring the psyche of a Jewish woman in New York who undergoes hysterical paralysis when confronted with both an impotent, demanding husband and a world on the brink of chaos. Mr. Peters’ Connections (1998) captures the inner world of a retired and ailing airplane pilot sitting in a broken-down saloon watching the phantoms of his past inexplicably parade before him. In Mr. Peters’s inability to find continuity in the events of his life, Miller focuses on the alienation of modern humans in an ever-changing world. In the plays of the 1990’s, Miller continued to examine private relationships in light of social criticism.

Between 1997 and 1998, Miller saw the revival in New York of All My Sons, The American Clock, I Can’t Remember Anything (a part of Danger: Memory!), The Last Yankee, and A View from the Bridge, which won Broadway’s Tony Award for Best Revival. Miller continued producing new plays, and the continuous revivals of his dramas both onstage and on television and his burgeoning international reputation have kept Miller in the forefront of American theater.

Miller, a serious dramatist who believes in drama’s ability to effect change, explores the social as well as the psychological aspects of his characters. For him, individual dilemmas cannot be removed from their social contexts. His dramas attempt to go beyond simple protest pieces or self-absorbed psychological studies to deal with moral and ethical issues. He is interested in how ordinary individuals can live in unity and harmony with their fellow humans without sacrificing their individual dignity.

Although labeled a realist, Miller has experimented with a number of innovative dramatic techniques. Also, Miller’s poetic use of idiomatic speech and his subtle deployment of dramatic symbols show that his drama has moved beyond photographic realism. Using a variety of approaches, Miller most often puts characters in confrontation with their past actions so that they may define themselves not only in terms of their social situation but also in terms of their moral convictions. Miller’s ability to probe the human psyche as well as to question the social fabric of the United States has made him a towering presence in the American theater.

Summary

Arthur Miller examines both the psychological and sociological makeup of his troubled characters. His heroes are common men who relentlessly pursue either their firm convictions or their misguided illusions. Using family relationships as a starting point, Miller’s plays confront contemporary moral dilemmas and focus on people’s responsibility to be true to themselves as well as their responsibility to be a part of the human race. In showing how individuals confront their past actions, Miller employs a variety of dramatic forms, including flashbacks, stream-of-consciousness monologues, direct narration, and dynamic symbols. His concern with the struggle to define oneself in a troubled world has made him a popular American playwright and has also gained him worldwide attention.

Bibliography

Bigsby, Christopher, ed. Arthur Miller and Company. London: Methuen, 1990. A series of impressions on Miller’s works from noted writers and theater personalities. Presents a variety of insights into Miller and his work.

Bigsby, Christopher, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. A comprehensive examination of Miller’s work that includes not only his major works but also his fiction and cinema. Contains an exhaustive bibliographic essay and a chronology of Miller’s life.

Carson, Neil. Arthur Miller. New York: Macmillan, 1982. A good introductory work to Miller’s major plays with chapters on his early work and nontheatrical writings.

Schlueter, June, and James K. Flanagan. Arthur Miller. New York: Ungar, 1987. Contains a detailed analysis of Miller’s major and minor plays, a concise biography that includes his political activity, a detailed chronology of his life and works, and a bibliography of his primary works, including radio plays and unpublished manuscripts.

Welland, Dennis. Arthur Miller: The Playwright. 3d ed. London: Methuen, 1985. A thorough analysis of Miller’s major work, including a detailed list of American and British premieres of Miller’s plays and films and a short bibliography.

Arthur Miller Biography

Introduction

Arthur Miller defined American theater in the 1950s with seminal plays such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. But he was not simply a literary phenomenon. He became a pop-culture sensation when he married Marilyn Monroe in 1956. On the whole, his works are about an individual’s struggle with an oftentimes indifferent, harsh, or irrational society—something he learned about firsthand when he stood against Senator Eugene McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities. Before his death in 1996, Miller had also written screenplays, novels, short stories, nonfiction, and an autobiography. He based his works on his family, his friends, and his own life, and he filled them with the rage, the love, and the self-doubt that Miller himself felt.

Essential Facts

  1. Miller got the idea for Death of a Salesman from his uncle Manny, who was a salesman. Manny came to the opening of Miller’s earlier play All My Sons and bragged about his two unfortunate sons. Salesman opened at the Morosco Theatre on February 10, 1949, and closed 742 performances later on November 18, 1950
  2. Due to an old football injury, Miller was ineligible for military service during World War II, so he wrote patriotic plays for the radio. He also volunteered to repair military boats in New York harbor.
  3. Miller’s honors include the Pulitzer Prize, seven Tony Awards, two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Obie, an Olivier, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and honorary doctorate degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University.
  4. Miller was investigated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956, the same year he married Marilyn Monroe. He refused to give up the names of any people he thought might be Communists and was cited for contempt of Congress. The Supreme Court reversed this ruling in 1958.
  5. Miller’s most fateful personal decision was to marry Marilyn Monroe. The tabloids called it a marriage between “the Owl and the Pussycat,” the union of intellect and beauty. Labeled as Miller’s femme fatale, Monroe helped destroy his reputation and was the only person he ever allowed to keep him from writing.

Arthur Miller Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Miller examined both the psychological and sociological makeup of his troubled characters. His heroes are common men who relentlessly pursue either their firm convictions or their misguided illusions. Using family relationships as starting points, Miller’s plays confront moral dilemmas, focusing on the individual’s responsibility to be true to himself or herself as well as part of the human race. His concern with the ordinary individual’s struggle for self-definition in a troubled world not only made him a renowned American playwright but gained for him a worldwide reputation as well. He is one of the most frequently studied playwrights in the American canon.

Arthur Miller Biography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

ph_0111201251-Miller_A.jpgArthur Miller Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Arthur Miller first achieved success as a dramatist with All My Sons. Death of a Salesman, widely regarded as Miller’s most important play, contains many of the themes of identity that give distinction to Miller’s plays: the tension between father and son, the dangerous material lure of the American Dream, the influence of memory on the formation of personality, and the common man in a tragic situation.

Partly in response to the anticommunist hysteria that was led by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities that swept the nation in the early 1950’s, Miller wrote The Crucible. In 1955, Miller was denied a passport by the State Department, and in June, 1956, he was accused of left-wing activities and called before the committee. Unlike the girls in The Crucible, Miller refused to name others, and he was convicted of contempt of Congress in 1956, only to be fully exonerated by the United States Court of Appeals in 1958. During the turbulent summer of 1956 Miller also divorced his college sweetheart Mary Slattery and quickly married the famous actress Marilyn Monroe. Reflections of those two events recur throughout Miller’s works and give shape to the identity of many of his major characters.

After completing the screenplay for The Misfits, which starred Monroe, Miller divorced the actress and married Inge Morath, events which may be reflected in After the Fall. Miller’s later years saw the publication of his influential The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller, numerous revivals of his major plays, and his illuminating autobiography Timebends: A Life. Miller died on February 10, 2005 at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Arthur Miller Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Arthur Miller grew up in New York City with an older brother and a younger sister. His father was a prosperous businessperson until the Crash of 1929, after which the family suffered through the Depression, a period that had a major impact on Miller’s sense of himself, his family, and his society, and one that figures prominently in many of his dramas, essays, and stories. During the Depression, Miller drove trucks, unloaded cargoes, waited on tables, and worked as a clerk in a warehouse. These jobs brought him close to the kind of working-class characters who appear in his plays. His observation of his father’s fall from financial security and of the way the people immediately around him had to struggle for even a modicum of dignity placed Miller in a position to probe individuals’ tenuous hold on their place in society.

Although Miller had been a poor student in school, he was inspired by Fyodor Dostoevski’s implacable questioning of individual impulses and societal rules in The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880), and eventually he was able to persuade the University of Michigan to admit him. Almost immediately he began to write plays that were to receive several Hopwood awards. If Miller was not exactly a Marxist during his college years (1934-1938), he was certainly a radical insofar as he believed that American society had to be made over, to be made fair to the masses of people who had been ruined by the Depression.

His early student plays contain sympathetic portrayals of student militants and union organizers as well as compassionate characterizations of small business owners and professional people caught in the economic and political tyranny of capitalism. In the fall of 1938, after his graduation from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of arts degree in English language and literature, Miller joined the Federal Theatre Project in New York City, for which he wrote numerous radio plays and scripts until 1943. Some of these works express his irrepressible interest in social and political issues. In 1940, Miller married Mary Grace Slattery, and a daughter, Jane, was born in 1944. They divorced in 1956.

From Miller’s earliest student plays to Death of a Salesman, there is an evolution in his treatment of individuals in conflict with their society, a gradual realization of conflicts within individuals that both mirror the larger conflicts in society and define a core of singularity in the characters themselves. Undoubtedly, Miller’s intense involvement in public affairs in the 1940’s and 1950’s—his support of various liberal and radical causes and his subsequent testimony about his political commitments before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 are two examples—reflected and reinforced his need to write social plays.

Miller’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe in 1956, far from being the perplexing and amusing sideshow the press made of it, had a significant impact on his writing, not only by encouraging him to focus on female characters in ways he previously had not but also by stimulating him to enlarge on and reconsider the theme of innocence that he had adumbrated in earlier plays. After his divorce from Monroe in 1961, he wrote some of his finest plays and continued to participate in local, national, and international affairs—including two terms as international president of PEN, the worldwide writers’ organization. He was a delegate to the Democratic conventions of 1968 and 1972. Miller married Ingeborg Morath, a Austrian-born photojournalist, in 1962, and the couple collaborated on several travel books. After serving as a lecturer at the University of Michigan in the mid-1970’s, Miller retired to a large Connecticut estate, where he continued to write and where he indulged in such hobbies as carpentry and gardening. In 1997, he petitioned the Czech government to halt arrests of dissident writers. His international reputation expanded during the 1980’s, when he directed Death of a Salesman in Beijing, China. Throughout the 1990’s, Miller continued to receive numerous awards for distinguished achievement. In early 2002, his wife died and three years later, in early 2005, Miller died at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Arthur Miller Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Along with Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller is usually considered the most important American playwright of the generation that came out of World War II. Miller grew up in a Jewish family in Harlem and in Brooklyn in the years just preceding the Depression. His father, Isidore, was a prosperous businessman until the stock market crash led to the collapse of the economy and to a scarring of his son’s psyche from which he never fully recovered. Arthur Miller spent the 1930’s in a series of odd jobs, including a period in a warehouse that he movingly recollects in A Memory of Two Mondays. He read Fyodor Dostoevski on New York subways and dreamed of attending college. In 1938 he fulfilled his dream, attending the University of Michigan, where he soon became interested in drama and successfully competed for the prestigious Hopwood Prize.

Miller’s student plays are full of passion for social issues. They are schematic and somewhat improbable, for he had not yet learned to create complex human characters. Miller was too intent on showing how the force of circumstances and the dictates of society could ruin people’s lives. This tendency to pick arbitrary plots and dwell on outside forces without sufficiently examining his characters’ motives also marred his first two Broadway productions, The Man Who Had All the Luck and All My Sons. Yet the latter play succeeded, for it ably dramatized what was to become one of Miller’s most important themes: the individual’s responsibility for society and obligation to the greater good.

Death of a Salesman made Miller’s reputation as a great playwright. The play’s main character, Willy Loman, has become a classic American character, and the play itself has become a fixture of the American literary canon. For the first time, Miller achieved a balance between his reading of individual character and societal pressures. On one hand, Loman is the “low man,” the victim of a culture that values success, prizes a man for what he can sell, and lauds people for being popular—“well liked,” to use one of Willy’s obsessive phrases. On the other hand, Willy realizes that he has not measured up to his own standards. In agonizing moments of the play Loman almost reaches the status of a tragic character, when he senses that a flaw in his character has led to his failure as a businessman. He tries to be relentlessly optimistic in a typically American upbeat way, yet his terrible anger, impatience, and pathetic self-delusions show how easily he can be misled. In one of the play’s most telling moments, Willy expresses his preference for Swiss cheese, rejecting the “processed” American cheese his wife offers him. He almost immediately wonders how cheese is processed. It is Willy’s terrible fate that he should be distracted—“processed”—by a mass-marketed society that destroys his individuality. His suicide is a recognition of his own collaboration in this destruction. Loman passes his self-delusion on to his favorite son Biff, hindering his son’s potential by coercing him into accepting a shallow American Dream and believing that charm and popularity supersede a hard-work ethic.

Miller’s play hit American society with enormous force, for the culture was experiencing an explosive consumerism and a shift toward conformity. Economically and politically, the country seemed in no mood to brook individuality or dissent. Miller’s next three plays—An Enemy of the People, The Crucible, and A View from the Bridge—all probed society’s corrosive impact on its members while showing their complicity in their undoing. The Crucible attacks the mass hysteria and deceptions during the Salem witch trials but also serves as Miller’s indictment of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch hunt” for Communists. In A View from the Bridge, Miller focuses on Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who turns in his wife’s relatives (illegal aliens) to the immigration authorities because one of them courts his daughter, for whom he possesses barely suppressed incestuous feelings. As in all Miller’s mature work, the conflicting values in society have their parallel in the individual’s tormented psyche. Nowhere is this clearer than in After the Fall, in which the main character and narrator, Quentin, reflects bitterly on his dishonesty with himself, comparing it to the hysteria and hypocrisy of the United States from the Depression years to the McCarthy period, when the very notion of dissent became branded as subversion. Quentin’s personal tragedy, his subversion of himself, is thus linked to a society that has undermined itself by losing the trust that must exist among individuals and institutions.

In more recent years, Miller has taken a more universal approach to drama. While several of his plays, such as The Price and The American Clock, have American settings, others, such as Incident at Vichy and The Creation of the World and Other Business, possess European and biblical settings, reflecting his desire to explore the roots of human behavior. Incident at Vichy is a searing study of a group of detainees in France during the German Occupation who examine and cross-examine one another’s motivations and responsibilities toward themselves and humanity. The play demonstrates the need for social responsibility through sacrifice. Playing for Time concerns an all-female orchestra in the concentration camp at Auschwitz that performs in order to save the lives of the musicians. The Creation of the World and Other Business is a surprisingly humorous effort to describe the conflicts inherent in any human organization of society. In Broken Glass, a Jewish woman in New York experiences guilt upon viewing newspaper photographs of the mistreatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. Her guilt results in her hysteria and paralysis.

Miller’s later plays suggest a movement away from his early focus on society as the cause of human troubles. In these works he depicts society as a manifestation of contradictions at the very heart of human existence. He has achieved, in his mature work, a melding of psychology and sociology, of the individual and the group, as a way of dramatizing the predicaments not only of his time but also of all times.

Arthur Miller Biography (Drama for Students)

Miller was born in Manhattan, New York, on October 17, 1915. His parents were Jewish immigrants who had come to America in search of...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

Arthur Miller Biography (Drama for Students)

Arthur Miller Published by Gale Cengage

Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915, in New York City. He spent his early years in comfortable circumstances, until his father, Isidore, a prosperous manufacturer, lost his wealth in the economic devastation of the Great Depression. After completing high school, Miller had to take a job in a Manhattan warehouse.

He had not been much of a student, but after reading Dostoevsky's great novel The Brothers Karamazov, he decided that he was destined to become a writer. He had trouble getting into college but was eventually accepted at the University of Michigan, where he began his apprenticeship as a writer and won several student awards for his work.

After college he returned to New York and worked briefly as a radio script writer, then tried his hand at writing for the stage commercially. His first Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944), closed after only four performances, but it did win a Theater Guild award and revealed the young writer's potential.

He had more success with Focus (1945), a novel dealing with anti-Semitism. In fact, at the time he wrote All My Sons (1947), his first dramatic hit, he was better known as a writer of fiction than as a playwright.

All My Sons established Miller's standing as a bright and extremely talented dramatist. The play had a good run and won Miller his first New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. Even the least favorable commentators recognized the playwright's great promise.

Miller followed All My Sons with three of his most critically and commercially successful plays: Death of Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), and A View from the Bridge (1955). In these works, Miller attempted to show that tragedy could be written about ordinary people struggling to maintain personal dignity at critical moments in their lives. With these plays, Miller joined Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams in what in the post-World War II years was generally recognized as the great triumvirate of the American theater.

Miller, a political leftist, gained some notoriety in the 1950s when he refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee and was held in contempt of Congress. From this experience he found thematic material for one of his most famous and controversial plays, The Crucible, which focuses on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

After the 1955 production of A View from the Bridge, Miller took a nine-year hiatus from playwriting. In the interim, Miller married and divorced the famous actress, Marilyn Monroe. He did adapt one of his stories, The Misfits, as a screen vehicle for his celebrated wife but did not complete another Broadway play until 1964, when both After the Fall and Incident at Vichy were produced. The former play, considered Miller's most experimental play, is also his darkest work, with many autobiographical parallels.

His last Broadway success was The Price, produced in 1968. After his next play, The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), failed on Broadway, Miller stopped premiering works in New York. He continued to write plays, and enjoyed some success, but nothing that matched that of his earliest works. Many of his later plays were short one-act plays and works comprised of sketches or vignettes.

His greatest triumphs remain Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Both have been revived with great success. In 1999, for example, the New York production of Death of a Salesman garnered four Tony awards, including one for best revival and one for best direction. At the age of eighty-four, Miller was also presented with a special, lifetime achievement award for his great contributions to the American theater. Miller died from congestive heart failure on February 10, 2005, in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Arthur Miller Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Arthur Miller, son of Jewish immigrants, was born on October 17, 1915, in New York City. His father, Isadore, born in Austria, ran a prosperous garment business, and his mother, Augusta Barnett Miller, was a schoolteacher. When his father’s firm began to fail in 1928, the Millers moved to a suburban area of Brooklyn, an area that would be the model for the settings of All My Sons (1947) and Death of a Salesman (1949). From his mother, Miller inherited a strong sense of mysticism that would inform much of his later work. As a young boy, Miller resented his father’s withdrawal, which was caused by his business failure. The figure of the failed father would later play a significant role in Miller’s writing.

The young Miller came of age during the Depression of the 1930’s. Seeing once-prosperous people on the streets begging for work affected him deeply. To him, the Depression signified the failure of a capitalist system of government and the tragedy of a generation of people who frequently blamed this failure on themselves. The events of the Depression and their impact on personal success and failure led Miller to probe individuals’ relationship to their work and to consider critically the price they must pay for success or for their lack of it.

Like Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman, Miller was more athlete than scholar. His reading consisted largely of adventure stories and some of Charles Dickens’s novels. Unable to get into college, he worked for his father, where he first became moved by the plight of salesmen. After rotating through a series of odd jobs, Miller worked in an automobile parts warehouse, where his savings from a low-paying job enabled him to save enough money to enroll in the University of Michigan. He relates this experience in A Memory of Two Mondays (1955).

While working, Miller became an avid reader and was especially impressed by Fyodor Dostoevski’s Bratya Karamazovy (1879-1880; The Brothers Karamazov, 1912), a novel that focuses on a failed fatherland of fraternal rivalry. It contained the trial motif that Miller frequently returned to as a controlling theme in his own writing. Through sheer persistence, Miller finally convinced admissions officers at the University of Michigan to admit him. At the university, he became interested in social causes and began to develop a strong liberal philosophy. He studied playwriting under Kenneth Rowe and won two successive Avery Hopgood Awards, one in 1936 for Honors at Dawn and another in 1937 for No Villain.

In 1938, he won the Theater Guild National Award for They Too Arise. Following the style of the 1930’s, Miller’s early plays focused on young idealists struggling to eliminate social injustice. After college, he worked for the Federal Theater Project and wrote radio scripts. In 1944, he portrayed the feelings of the ordinary soldier in his screenplay “The Story of GI Joe” but was thwarted by motion-picture executives who wanted him to romanticize his work.

That same year, he had his first Broadway production, The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944), but his drama of a man dismayed by his incredible success was unconvincing and was not well received by critics or audiences. In 1947, Miller finally achieved success on Broadway with All My Sons, a better controlled and more topical work than The Man Who Had All the Luck, which had closed after four performances and had saddled Miller with a debt of over fifty thousand dollars. In 1949, Death of a Salesman achieved unprecedented critical acclaim and established Miller as a significant American playwright.

Disturbed by such repressive elements of the 1950’s as the Cold War, the scare tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the betrayal by his onetime liberal friends who cited names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Miller wrote The Crucible (1953), which connected the witch-hunts of seventeenth century Salem, Massachusetts, to the often irresponsible search for communists in the 1950’s. The Crucible, however, did not achieve immediate success. His next works were two one-acts, A Memory of Two Mondays and A View from the Bridge (both 1955). An expanded version of A View from the Bridge (1956) tells the story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who, driven by incestuous desires for his niece, informs on his niece’s boyfriend and other illegal immigrants living with him. Miller here shows how those who persecute others often have their own personal, hidden agendas, as was the case with McCarthy and his henchmen.

The mid-1950’s were troubling times for Miller. After divorcing his first wife, Mary Grace Slattery, Miller married film star Marilyn Monroe in 1956 and became involved in her turbulent life and career. He was also cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to name names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Although he was acquitted on appeal, this ordeal exacted a financial and emotional toll on him. In 1961, his marriage to Monroe ended in divorce, and, in 1962, he married Ingeborg Morath, a Magnum photographer.

After a nine-year hiatus from the American stage, Miller wrote After the Fall (1964) and Incident at Vichy (1964). Both plays analyze the universal guilt associated with the genocide of the Jews. Miller returned to the form of family drama with The Price (1968), a drama depicting the rivalry of two brothers.

Continuing to experiment, Miller wrote The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), a comedy based on Genesis; The Archbishop’s Ceiling (1977), a play about power and oppression in a European communist country; The American Clock (1980), a montage view of the Depression focusing on the trials of one family; and Danger: Memory! (pb. 1986, pr. 1987), two short symbolic dramas exploring the mysteries hidden in past actions. Although these dramas failed to receive the critical acclaim of his earlier works, the continual revivals of his dramas, both on stage and on television, and his burgeoning international reputation kept Miller in the forefront of American theater.

In the early twenty-first century, having had an impressive career that spanned six decades, Arthur Miller was ill with cancer and heart trouble, and he was receiving hospice care in the Manhattan apartment of his sister, Joan Miller Copeland. At his request, he was moved by ambulance to his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, where he died a few days later, on February 10, 2005, succumbing finally to heart failure. His last play, Finishing the Picture, was produced in the fall of 2004.

Arthur Miller Biography (Drama for Students)

Arthur Miller Published by Gale Cengage

Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915, in New York City, the son of Isidore and Augusta Miller. His father lost his wealth during the Great Depression of the 1920s and the family, like many others, suffered economic hardship and could not afford to send him to college. Miller worked for two years in an automobile parts warehouse, earning enough money to attend the University of Michigan in 1934, where he studied history and economics. He graduated in 1938.

Benefitting from the U.S. Government's Federal Theatre Project, Miller began learning about the craft of the theatre, working with such skilled writers and directors as Clifford Odets (Waiting for Lefty) and Elia Kazan (the famous film and theatre director who later produced Miller's best-known work, Death of a Salesman). His first Broadway production, The Man Who Had All the Luck, opened in 1944 and ran for only four performances. After working as a journalist (work that included coverage of World War II) and writing a novel about anti-Semitism, Miller had his first real success on Broadway with All My Sons (1947); he followed this in 1949 with Death of a Salesman. Along with another early play, A View from the Bridge, and The Crucible, these are the plays for which Miller is best known—though he has continued to write successfully, including a 1996 screenplay adaptation of The Crucible for a major motion picture.

In the 1940s and 1950s, because of his Jewish faith and his liberal political views, Miller was very much involved in contemporary debates that criticized the shortcomings of modern American society-particularly those dealing with inequalities in labor and race. It was also these political areas that were considered suspicious by Joseph McCarthy and his cronies, who sought to expose and erase Communism in America. Miller's association with people and organizations targeted by McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities solidified his belief in the evils of blind persecution (while there may have been Communists who were bad people and a threat to America, this did not mean that all Communists were like-minded and posed a threat to the American way of life).

Earlier, Miller had written an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 1884 play, An Enemy of the People, which, according to his introduction, questioned "whether the democratic guarantees protecting political minorities ought to be set aside in time of crisis." As his later writing in The Crucible suggests, Miller did not believe that Communism was a threat that warranted the response provided by McCarthyism. U.S. authorities disagreed, however, and in 1954 when Miller was invited to Brussels to see a production of that play, the State Department denied him a visa. He then wrote a satirical piece called A Modest Proposal for the Pacification of the Public Temper, which denied that he supported the Communist cause. Nevertheless, he was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee where, although his passport was conditionally restored, he nonetheless refused to give the names of people he had seen at Communist meetings. Because he refused to expose these people, Miller was found guilty of contempt of Congress in 1957.

In his personal life, Miller married Mary Grace Slattery in 1940; in 1956 they were divorced. In June 1956 he married Marilyn Monroe, the famous actress, and their marriage ended in 1961. Monroe subsequently committed suicide. Since 1962, Miller has been married to Ingeborg Morath, a photojournalist. He has four children, two each from his first and third marriages.