Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 367
After the Fall is a two act play written by Arthur Miller in 1964. This play is not one of Miller's more popular plays. Miller is also the author of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Some believe that this play is a personal critique written by Miller about...
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After the Fall is a two act play written by Arthur Miller in 1964. This play is not one of Miller's more popular plays. Miller is also the author of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Some believe that this play is a personal critique written by Miller about his divorce from Marilyn Monroe. Some also say that the main character and Miller have a lot of similarities. Because of these reasons, this play is considered semi-autobiographical.
This play is interesting and different from typical plays in the fact that most of the scenes take place in the main character's head. It is as if the play is moving from one memory to the next. Overall, this play has two major plot lines, one being about a lawyer named Quentin his love interests while the other is about Quentin's decision to defend his friend who is accused of being a Communist.
The relationships that are described in this play include Quentin's marriages and his new relationship with a woman named Holga. Holga is a German woman who is haunted from memories of World War II. Quentin's first marriage is also discussed. This marriage was to a woman named Louise. Louise becomes angered with Quentin because she does not believe he values her as a person. Quentin's second wife was a lady named Maggie. Maggie is the character most similar to Marilyn Monroe because her relationship with Quentin is riddled with addiction and suicide attempts. Quentin's relationship with his own mother and his family is also examined through this play. It is through the memories of his past relationships that Quentin decides whether or not to pursue a relationship with Holga and what the future holds for this relationship.
The second storyline of this play has to do with Quentin's occupation as a lawyer. Quentin defends his friend Lou, who is accused of being a Communist. This becomes an issue because Quentin's boss does not like the fact that Quentin is defending a Communist and how this reflects on his firm.
Throughout the play and because of his experiences, such as visiting a concentration camp, Quentin learns about the fall from Eden and his own shortcomings in life.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 894
After the Fall demonstrates one man’s struggle to survive in a fallen world. The fall from Eden is a recurrent theme in American literature—America, after all, was established as a kind of New World Garden, a bountiful paradise that would yield endless riches. It would bring forth an ideal community in which all individuals could live together in harmony and prosperity. The possibility of a fallen Eden, however, always lurked in the Puritan commitment to the individual’s natural propensity for evil. Some of the greatest American authors—Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry James, and William Faulkner—have treated the theme of the fall. In After the Fall, Miller explores this theme in the light of the modern world. Quentin, the main character, who feels that there is no God to judge his actions, is an alienated man. He tries to plead his case to a sympathetic listener who is neither seen nor heard.
Quentin, a once-successful lawyer, examines his own conscience and becomes aware of his own fall from innocence. Through Quentin, Miller explores the historical context which has led humanity into a state of universal guilt. With his new girlfriend, Holga, Quentin visits a Nazi concentration camp. At the site, he is amazed to realize that human beings created such atrocities to slaughter nameless victims. According to Miller’s ethics, a hero dies affirming his identity by retaining the dignity of his name. Anonymous slaughter is anathema. The atrocities of the camps have made everyone, especially the survivors, guilty. Innocence is no longer possible, for the Holocaust of the Jews has violated all the principles of Judeo-Christian morality. The image of the concentration camp haunts Quentin throughout the play, a constant reminder that the world has fallen.
Quentin also experiences the guilt inherent in being part of a family. His father went bankrupt in the Depression, another symbol of the fall—a fall from economic stability that changed the American system and made once-successful men feel guilty for their own falls from prosperity. Quentin’s mother blames his father for the father’s failure to avoid economic disaster. Quentin becomes an accomplice as he begins to share her contempt for his father, inherent in which is the message that he himself must succeed. Dan is the brother who has remained loyal to the family, while Quentin, who sees through his father’s phoniness, has separated himself from the family. In his quest for self-knowledge, Quentin tries to go beyond blaming his troubles on the actions of his parents. Quentin tries to see family life as part of a fallen world in which betrayal and loss of faith prevail.
Quentin defends his friend Lou, caught up in the national hysteria promoted by the investigations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, another sign of the fall. The American system is being distorted by petty publicity seekers who have no conscience about destroying people’s lives. People break faith and name names in absurd public confessions. They compromise their consciences for economic security.
The guilt, however, lies not only with the Committee. Lou, who once believed in the ideals of a communist brotherhood, has written a book distorting the facts about Russian life. The great idealistic cause of leftist sympathizers, such as Lou and Mickey, has been a fraud. The utopian vision that has been so much a part of the American consciousness has again failed; everyone is a “separate person.” Mickey is willing to betray Lou; Max, Quentin’s boss, will not easily tolerate Quentin’s support of a communist. Quentin finds himself stymied by the breach of communal fidelity and is groping for answers in a fallen world.
Another sign of the fall from Eden is seen in the sexual fall and in the presence of Eve as temptress and betrayer. In After the Fall, betrayal has its locus in women. Quentin comes to realize that his wife, Louise, is not his innocent, unfilled Eve. Quentin’s mother holds his father in contempt and refuses to share in the responsibility for their failure. Louise tries to separate herself from Quentin and to maintain her innocence. Maggie, the star singer whom Quentin subsequently marries, always sees herself as an innocent victim and forces Quentin to realize that he cannot save her from herself. The women in Quentin’s life are judgmental and often label men as idiots. Only through Holga, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, does the alienated Quentin learn to accept the responsibility for his actions and to persevere.
After the Fall was partially inspired by Albert Camus’s La Chute (1956; The Fall, 1957), which Miller saw as a book about troubles with women and about the impossibility of rescuing a woman who does not want to be rescued. The critics, however, could not divorce Miller’s play from its author. Miller was accused of being cheap and sensational in publicly exploiting his relationship with Marilyn Monroe. The play was labeled a self-indulgent confession. Others found it confusing and uneven. Miller, in turn, accused the critics of not seeing beyond certain autobiographical allusions in order to penetrate the deeper meaning of the play. After the Fall opened on January 23, 1964, as the first production of the new Lincoln Center Repertory Theater. The play was adapted for television in 1974 and was revived Off-Broadway in 1984, with Frank Langella in the leading role.