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Arthur Miller


Arthur Miller was deservedly described as the leading U.S. theatrical figure of the twentieth century. He was born in 1915 to a manufacturer of women’s clothing, who incurred significant losses due to the economic crisis of the thirties. Living in a period of depression, surrounding poverty shaped the world outlook of the future playwright. The collapse that America experienced, reflected vulnerability and fragility of human existence in the contemporary era and affected most of the Miller’s works. After graduation, the future playwright began to work in a warehouse, where he earned money for attending the University in Michigan. Miller started to write plays while studying. The paper seeks to explore the legendary American essayist Arthur Miller, his life, challenges he faced at the beginning of his professional career, the main works that made him the renowned dramatist and the style of writing that made him prolific, influential, and prominent theatrical figure, whose harsh criticism of social issues defined his genius.

Miller’s Life as a Version of the American Dream

Miller created all his plays with the same objective- to make the world better, even if it indicated to grab and shake people. Arthur Miller was the most political U.S. playwright, who tackled issues ranging from McCarthyism to Reaganism. The failure of the American dream was reflected in a way that helped the society to recognize the issue by demonstrating them a piece of themselves. Miller relentlessly criticized the American government, partly because he passionately believed in all its promises. The author’s own life was mentioned by many intellectuals as version of the American Dream. Miller was born in the family of hard-working migrants, who became prominent because of their son’s talent. Before fighting off McCarthyism using the strength of own principles, Miller married the iconic actress and singer Marilyn Monroe. The playwright was able to change the U.S. theaters as well as the whole country. Despite being a harsh critic of the national policy, he still deeply loved his native land. In a passionate speech, responding to the Kennedy’s murder, Miller declared that since the USA has always been big on promises in comparison with any other nation-state, it should not forget about the implementation of the promised.

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Among the pantheon of influential dramatists, the writer Miller was committed to his ideals. He believed that people with determination, hard work, and passion can make the world a better place. Miller considered writing as an act of courage and defiance and a way to slap individuals across their faces waking them up to reality. According to one drama critic, in play after play, Miller held humans responsible for their actions as well as neighbors’ actions. Although the foreign audience has found parallels to its own culture in Miller’s works, his plays clearly reflected the American life.

The Beginning of a Screenwriting Career

According to Abbotson, Miller was hired as a screenwriter for The Story of G.I. Joe in 1943. Unfortunately, the first Hollywood experience disappointed him, and he decided to quit before the work was done. The first work that had to be performed in the theatre, The Man Who Had All the Luck Failed. It was even closed after several performances. Hard years and professional frustration almost ended the Miller’s career. Although the early failure led to the loss of enthusiasm to write completely, the playwright decided to try again. In the course of time, the play All My Sons received the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. It helped Arthur Miller achieve the theatrical stardom. The drama All My Sons, narrated about a man, who manufactured faulty military materials. The naturalist drama by the Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen strongly affected the Miller’s work. All My Sons got recognition and earned Miller the Tony Award. Miller felt aversion to critics throughout his life and career. He never paid attention to criticism and added that he tried not to save reviews of own works.

Works That Made Miller the Renowned American Dramatist

Along with the successful and recognized play the Death of a Salesman, The Man Who Had All the Luck as well as All My Sons formed a trilogy of plays dedicated to a love triangle of sons and fathers. The drama of the family was the key topic of the Miller’s works. For the audience, it was more prominent in the impressionistic work Death of a Salesman and the realistic play of All My Sons. Death of a Salesman set in 1949 secured the playwright’s reputation as the nation’s foremost theatrical figure. The work mixed the tradition of social realism that informed many Miller’s works with a quite experimental structure including leaps in time as the main personage Loman drifted into the memories of his sons. The protagonist represented a prototype of an ordinary American man, a victim of own delusion, grandeur, and obsession with success and fortune that always haunted him.

The first part of the work Death of Salesman was prepared in less than one day and demonstrated at the Morosco Theatre in 1949. The audience admired it. The play has been revived in the stage versions and television. Miller won the main awards for this work, namely a Tony, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. The famous American actors Brian Dennehy, George C. Scott, and Dustin Hoffman were invited to participate in the film.

After the recognition of Death of a Salesman, Miller started to work on the politically significant play The Crucible produced in 1953. It narrated about the Salem witch trials that contained obvious analogy to the anti-Communist hearings in the fifties. The controversial nature of the political life in The Crucible lauded people, who refused to name names. The play got mixed responses. However, later, it has become the most performed play in the U.S. theaters.

After The Crucible, the playwright was persecuted and called to testify before the Committee. Miller refused to name the Communist writers he saw at the meeting ten years before. Despite the fact that the playwright was found guilty of disrespect and contempt, he later won an appeal. In 1956, he married Marilyn Monroe. Five years later, the two filed for divorce. The Monroe’s last film, The Misfits was based on the Miller’s original play. After divorcing the legendary actress, the playwright wed Ingeborg Morath, who gave birth to the son and daughter. The marriage lasted until Miller’s death in 2005.

Other famous works produced by the foremost theatrical figure included After the Fall as a reflection about his marriage to Monroe, The Price about the family dynamics, The Archbishop’s Ceiling, and The American Clock (Parini, 2004). The recent plays included The Last Yankee, The Ride Down Mount Morgan, and Broken Glass that earned the Olivier Award.

In recent years, the Miller’s works continued to grapple with the personal and social matters. Although the playwright did not write for films, he produced an adaptation for the film version of The Crucible with Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis that earned him an Academy Award nomination. Throughout his career, Arthur Miller has been engaged in the social life bringing compassion, clarity, and conscience to his plays. Miller pointed to the fact that there is a universe of human beings outside, and every person is responsible to it. The playwright’s works are infused with the sense of responsibility to the audience and humankind. Miller always said that the playwrights are nothing without their audience.

Miller’s Writing Style

Miller’s writing and playwright styles are well-known to the contemporaries for honesty and genuine nature of human being. Arthur Miller promoted social awareness, managed to capture the restlessness of the American society in his plays, presenting non-idealized look into the heart of every U.S. citizen.  Intense understanding of social reforms and psychological realism as well as Miller’s ability to evaluate the present-day affairs marked the essayist as the most remarkable contributor to the world, and, in particular, the American literature. Miller’s writing fell into modernism, a literary phase whereby individuals started to question their place in the world and life challenging the beliefs, traditional values, religions. Nowadays, one may say that things have become more unconventional in comparison with the old customs.


An incredible career of Arthur Miller as an influential playwright and writer spanned over seventy years. At the time of his death in 2005, he was deservedly considered as the greatest dramatist of the twentieth century. Numerous respected producers, actors, and directors paid tribute to the renowned essayist, calling him the last eminent practitioner of the U.S. stage. Many theatres darkened light as a mark of respect. Despite the fact that many critics as well as the U.S. audience dismissed many plays set by Arthur Miller, the foreign theater-goers greatly   appreciated them. At last, it is important to mention that the celebrated playwright Miller paid no attention to what the critics said about his works. As long as the world faced challenges, Arthur Miller as the foremost dramatist had something to say.

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