Focus Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Arthur Miller’s first play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, closed after only four performances in 1944, although in the same year, Miller received the Theatre Guild National Award. In this play, Miller was concerned with how people can find a spiritual home in an outside world that often is corrupt and destructive. It was essentially this concern that he explored in his first novel, Focus.

Initially, Lawrence Newman, a corporate personnel manager, is much concerned with propriety, with external appearances, as Willy Loman was in Death of a Salesman. The corporation for which he works gives him the sense of security that he needs, as does his neighborhood in Queens, where he is dependably loyal to the standards of behavior expected by his employers and by his neighbors.

Newman is racially intolerant. He builds his own self-esteem most effectively by categorizing people and filling groups in his mind with those whom he deems inferior to him. As he rides the subway to work every day, he observes the people around him, placing them conveniently into the categories that he has created. He places Jews in the column labeled “Avarice” and, by so doing, feels better about himself because he is a Gentile. Yet this sort of categorization goes still further. When he reads racist statements etched on the wall of the subway station or when he reads in the newspaper about the destruction of a synagogue by vandals, his heart...

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Focus Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. The Crucible: Annotated and with an Introduction by Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.

Brater, Enoch, ed. Arthur Miller’s America: Theater and Culture in a Time of Change. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Carson, Neil. Arthur Miller. London: Macmillan, 1982.

Gottfried, Martin. Arthur Miller: His Life and Work. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2003.

Korrey, Stefani. Arthur Miller’s Life and Literature: An Annotated and Comprehensive Guide. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Martin, Robert A., ed. Arthur Miller: New Perspectives. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

Miller, Arthur. Timebends: A Life. New York: Grove Press, 1987.

Moss, Leonard. Arthur Miller. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1980.

Schlueter, June, and James K. Flanagan. Arthur Miller. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1987.