After the Fall Analysis
by Arthur Miller

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After the Fall Analysis

After the Fall is a contemporary, introspective play written in two acts, by American Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright and essayist Arthur Miller, first published and produced in 1964. According to some sources, through his main protagonists, Miller portrayed his somewhat failed relationship and marriage with Marilyn Monroe, which is why many consider After the Fall to be a semi-autobiographical play. Miller was criticized for his controversial narrative, mainly because he chose to focus on personal events and details, and his play did not receive the commercial success, critical acclaim and popularity that some of his previous and later works received.

An interesting element of the play is the fact that it does not follow the typical dramatic structure of dramas and films. Instead, there are several scenes which happen inside the main protagonist’s head, and several moments which have significant time jumps from one memory and thought to another. Thus, After the Fall is also considered a memory play, as it incorporates a unique narrative method called stream of consciousness.

The play tells the story of a forty-year-old lawyer named Quentin who recounts his troubled childhood, the tragic death of his mother, and his past intimate affairs with several women. Miller focuses mainly on the failed relationship between Quentin and his second wife Maggie, who is said to be somewhat inspired by Miller's own second wife Marilyn Monroe.

Miller incorporates themes like love, marriage, integrity, loyalty, responsibility, honesty, brutality, lies, self-discovery, denial, addiction, and suicide. The dialogue is very symbolic, metaphorical and occasionally poetic, and the scenery is rather descriptive. In fact, some readers praise After the Fall specifically because of Miller’s intelligent language, his creative stage directions, and his emotional portrayal of broken relationships between adults.

After the Fall had its first premiere in January, 1964, at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre on Broadway, and its last performance the same year, in May.

The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

After the Fall begins with Quentin sitting center stage on a chair in a dim light. In the background is a three-level, colorless stone tower, symbolic of the Nazi concentration camps, on which the people of his past walk in and out of his mind as he talks to himself. Quentin is, as it were, on trial, and he addresses the jury, “the Listener” or audience, in order to justify himself to himself. His monologue then becomes a dialogue with the people of his past as he seeks to alleviate his guilt over destructive relationships with two former wives.

Because the action takes place in Quentin’s mind, the episodes in act 1 are piecemeal and seemingly disconnected, but several major characters do emerge, along with distinctive periods of contemporary history. The first is Holga, an archaeologist and his prospective third wife, through whom he visits the Nazi death chambers of the late 1930’s, discovering in the process that no one is innocent. Holga has a feeling for this place and for her mother who died there, but with a long narrative telling how she kissed an idiot child in a dream, she endeavors to convince Quentin that he must accept the past and go on.

Quentin, though he would like to become a “separate person,” is different from Holga. He lacks any feeling for the Holocaust. He cannot mourn his mother, and after two failures in marriage he is skeptical about his relationship with Holga; indeed, he cannot sign letters to her “With love.” This void does not mean, however, that he is emotionally divorced from former relationships.

There are several women who cloud Quentin’s past: One is Felice, a client whose divorce he managed. He has no feeling for her, though she idolizes him. It is his first wife, Louise, who calls attention to his indifference to women, indeed his use of them as instruments to provide “a constant bath of praise.” The constant quarreling between Quentin and Louise leads to...

(The entire section is 1,681 words.)