Arthur Miller Additional Biography

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.

Biography

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

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.

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...

(The entire section is 672 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 1024 words.)

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.)

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,...

(The entire section is 600 words.)

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 entire section is 1051 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 565 words.)