The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

As The Ride Down Mt. Morgan opens, Lyman Felt is lying half-conscious in a hospital bed with a leg and an arm in casts. The night before the action begins, Lyman crashed his Porsche while driving down a treacherous stretch of Mount Morgan in the middle of an ice storm in upstate New York. While he has been unconscious, the hospital contacted his family in Manhattan and, as he awakens from what seems to be a dream about his father, he learns that his wife and daughter have just arrived. This does not make him happy; in fact, it seems to terrify him. He cries, “It can’t happen, it mustn’t happen!” He then slips out of the rear of the leg cast and moves across the stage, still in his hospital gown, while the empty cast remains in the bed. As he watches, the setting changes to the hospital waiting room, and he imagines a scene in which his wife, Theo, and his daughter Bessie meet Leah, his second wife, and all of them learn his secret: For the past nine years Lyman has been a bigamist, lying to and betraying everyone who loves him.

Throughout the rest of the play, Lyman moves in and out of the bed, back and forth between past and present, observing and imagining scene after scene—participating in some conversations, overhearing others—as events of his life are reenacted on the stage. Although the play consciously blurs the lines between reality and dream, fact and fantasy, tragedy and farce, the outlines of his story gradually emerge. Lyman is a rich, well-known insurance executive...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Because Miller is usually considered a realist concerned, above all, with moral, social, and political issues, his mastery of dramatic form is sometimes forgotten or underestimated. He once told an interviewer that he comes out of the tradition of the Greeks and playwright Henrik Ibsen, “where the past is the burden of man and it’s got to be placed on the stage so that he can grapple with it. That’s the way those plays are built. It’s now grappling with then, it’s the story of how the birds come home to roost. Every play.” Certainly this is also the story of The Ride Down Mt. Morgan.

Still, if the essential subjects and concerns of Miller’s plays have not changed much over the years, his dramatic techniques certainly have. Many of his plays—such as All My Sons, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, Incident at Vichy, The Price, The Last Yankee (pb. 1991, pr. 1993), and Broken Glass (pr., pb. 1994)—are straightforward dramas in the realist tradition. However, throughout his career, Miller also has drawn on other traditions. Death of a Salesman, for example, was originally titled The Inside of His Head. This earlier title was “conceived half in laughter,” Miller has explained, since “the inside of his head was a mass of contradictions.” He went on to say, however, that the point he was making with this early title was expressed in the final play, explaining that the image in Death of a Salesman was imbued...

(The entire section is 636 words.)


(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Centola, Steve, ed. The Achievement of Arthur Miller: New Essays. Dallas, Tex.: Contemporary Research Press, 1995.

Corrigan, Robert W., ed. Arthur Miller: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969.

Miller, Arthur. The Portable Arthur Miller. Rev. ed. Edited by C. W. E. Bigsby. New York: Penguin, 1995.

Miller, Arthur. The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller. New York: Viking, 1978.

Roudane, Matthew Charles, ed. Conversations with Arthur Miller. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1987.