In Arthur Miller’s autobiographical drama After the Fall, Quentin, a forty-year-old lawyer, is haunted by his disastrous affair with Maggie, a needy sex symbol who is generally accepted to be based on Miller’s second wife, Marilyn Monroe.
In the play, Quentin reexamines his troubled life, trying to decide if he should marry Holga, his most recent love.
QUENTIN. (of Holga) I don't know what I'd be bringing to that girl.
When the play was first performed, it was criticized for its unconventional, nonlinear structure—characters stay on stage and appear, disappear, and reappear in a seemingly random progression of scenes—and for Miller's use of a "stream of consciousness" technique, through which he attempts to show the workings of Quentin's mind moving from one thought or memory to the next.
The play was also criticized for Miller's unflattering depiction of Maggie, specifically with the parallels between Maggie's life and suicide and the life and suicide of Marilyn Monroe. Additionally, the production of the play occurred within just a few years of Marilyn Monroe's death in August of 1962.
The stage directions, written by Miller, clearly define the premise of the play.
The action takes place in the mind, thought, and memory of Quentin. ...
People appear and disappear instantaneously, as in the mind...
The effect, therefore, will be the surging, flitting, instantaneousness of a mind questing over its own surfaces and into its depths.
The play opens with Quentin talking to an unseen "Listener." Miller writes in the stage directions that the "Listener," "if he could be seen, would be sitting just beyond the edge of the stage itself." In other words, the audience is the "Listener."
Quentin's scenes with Holga appear to take place in the present, but all of the other scenes and all of the other characters are memories from Quentin's past who move in and out of scenes as they move through Quentin's mind.