Mirror, Mirror: The American Family in the Twentieth Century

Arthur Miller (1915 -  )

Death of a Salesman

Background

  • Born in New York City into the family of a prosperous manufacturer; entry into adolescence coincided with the Great Depression, which seriously affected his father's business.
  • Worked in an auto parts warehouse after graduating from high school in 1932.
  • Entered University of Michigan in 1934, graduated with an A.B. in 1938; won Avery Hopwood Awards for two of his plays in 1936 and 1937, which pointed him to a career in playwriting.
  • Married three times; first, to Grace Slattery in 1940 (divorced, 1956); second to Marilyn Monroe in 1956 (divorced 1961); and third to Ingeborg Morath in 1962. Has two children each from his first and third marriages.

Career

  • Worked briefly in the Federal Theater Project after his graduation from college; also wrote radio plays for NBC and CBS during the war; published an account of military training, Situation Normal, in 1944 and his only novel, Focus, in 1945.
  • Suffered an initial disappointment in 1944 with his first play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, which ran for only four performances.
  • First successful play, All My Sons (1947), won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award; his second, Death of a Salesman (1949), won the Pulitzer Prize.
  • All My Sons, the beginning of Miller's long association with the director Elia Kazan and the actor Arthur Kennedy.
  • Argued for the possibility of modern tragedy in the essay "Tragedy and the Common Man;" tragic hero willing to sacrifice everything to obtain his sense of personal dignity in a world bent on denying him dignity.
  • Became the target of critics who saw the views implied in plays like The Crucible (1953) as dangerously left-wing; subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities; cited for contempt of Congress, but eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court.
  • Two continual preoccupations of Miller's characters, the attempt to understand the relationship between selfishness and altruism and the need to define an achievable code of morality for oneself.

Major Writings

Honors at Dawn, 1936
No Villain: They Too Arise, 1937
The Man Who Had All the Luck, 1944
Focus (novel), 1945
All My Sons, 1947
Death of a Salesman, 1949
An Enemy of the People (adaptation of the Ibsen play), 1951
The Crucible, 1953
A View from the Bridge, 1955
The Misfits (screenplay), 1961
After the Fall, 1964
Incident at Vichy, 1964
The Price, 1968
The Creation of the World and Other Business, 1972 [musical version, Up From Paradise, 1974]
The Archbishop's Ceiling, 1976
The American Clock, 1970
Two-Way Mirror, 1983
Playing for Time, 1986
Danger: Memory! Two Plays: "I Can't Remember Anything" and "Clara," 1987

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volumes 1-4, Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volumes 2, 30, 54 and 76 and Contemporary Literary Criticism, 1-2, 6, 10, 15, 26, 47, and 78.  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online and Contemporary Literary Criticism Select) can be accessed through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com. Contemporary Literary Criticism Select (i.e., online) now contains the full text of critical articles relating to an author.

    Other Gale publications that contain Miller materials include Authors in the News, Volume 1; Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volumes1, 11, 21, and 31; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 7: Twentieth Century American Dramatists; Dictionary of Twentieth Century Culture, Volume 1; Drama Criticism, Volume 1; Major Twentieth-Century Writers. 5 vols.
     

  • Collections of critical commentary
    • "Death of a Salesman: A Symposium, " Tulane Drama Review 2, 1958. [Commentaries by Phillip Gelb and Gore Vidal]
    • Arthur Miller: A Collection of Critical Essays, Robert W. Corrigan, ed., 1969.
    • Arthur Miller: New Perspectives. Robert A. Martin, ed., 1982.
    • Twentieth Century Interpretations of Death of a Salesman, Helene Wickham Koon, ed., 1983
    • Approaches to Teaching Miller's Death of a Salesman, Matthew Charles Roudane, ed., 1995.
    • The Achievement of Arthur Miller: New Essays, Steve Centola, ed., 1995.
    • Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman, Text and Criticism, ed. Gerald Clifford Weales, 1995.
       
  • Some book-length studies:
    • Harold Bloom, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, 1996.
    • Neil Carlson, Arthur Miller, 1982.
    • Sheila Huftel, Arthur Miller: The Burning Glass, 1965.
    • Dennis Welland, Miller: The Playwright, 1985.
       
  • Miller on Miller:
    • The Theatre Essays of Arthur Miller, Robert A. Martin, ed., 1979.
    • Timebends: A Life, 1987.
    • Conversations With Arthur Miller, Matthew Charles Roudane, ed., 1987.
    • Arthur Miller in Conversation, Steve Centola, ed., 1995.
       
  • Review of original production:
    • New York Times Book, February 27, 1949
  • Some studies with special focuses:
    • Richard Evans, Psychology and Arthur Miller, 1981.
    • M. C. Anderson, "Death of a Salesman: A Consideration of Willy Loman's role in Twentieth-Century Tragedy," CRUX, 20.2, 1986.
    • Eugene R. August, "Death of a Salesman: A Men's Studies Approach," Western Ohio Journal, 7.1, 1986.
    • Richard T. Brucher, "Willy Loman and the Soul of a New Machine: Technology and the Common Man," Journal of American Studies, 17.3, 1983.
    • Kay Stanton, "Women and the American Dream of Death of a Salesman, Feminist Rereadings of Modern American Drama, ed. June Schleter, 1989.


Retired Discussion Series



Debbie Sturman, Director
425 South Main Street, P O Box 510
Lusk, WY 82225-0510
Phone: 307-334-3490
© 2014, Niobrara County Library