Paper on Arthur miller

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arthur miller




Arthur Miller, winner of many literary and dramatic awards, is an incredibly influential
force in American drama. His plays deal with issues common to every society. He makes
the audience face fault, weakness, and ignorance; subjects we would typical hide from. At
the same time he emphasizes strength, human spirit, and familial love.

Alice Griffin believes that Miller's plays are important internationally. He belongs to
an international theater rather than a regional theater (Heilman 170). His plays are
staged and studied by students to understand American life in Russia, Poland, Iceland,
Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, and China to name a few (Griffin).
Miller's works thrived in England. The University of East Angelia named its center the
Arthur Miller Centre (Griffin 1). They can relate to the sense

f identity, honor, recognition, and familial love (Griffin Preface). In a production in
Beijing, Miller explained to a Chinese actor playing Biff the son's feelings of guilt and
"painfully requited" love for his father, the actor understood as it is v

y Chinese (Morath 79). The phenomenon of Death of a Salesman has been the same all over
the world. Audiences all have a sense of their life story of their father, uncle, or
brother (Griffin 35). In real life Miller had an Uncle Manny who had two sons

ho were in competition with Miller and his brother. Manny ended his own life because he
failed at business. Miller's personal history is demonstrated in his sensitive and
passionate writing in Death of a Salesman (Griffin 41).

The Crucible (1952) was originally intended to be called Those Familiar Spirits, referring
to a spirit that a witch presumably sends out to torment her victims. However, the well
area at the bottom of a blast furnace is known as the crucible, it is when the molten
steels collects being entirely broken down due to immense heat. Miller thought that this
was a precise metaphor for what happened in Salem. Crucible also means a harsh trial or
examination. John Proctor's integrity was surely investigated. He chose to die instead
of confessing to being evil. According to Raymond Williams, The Crucible is a powerfully
successful dramatization of the notorious witch trials of Salem. It is technically less
interesting than its previous ones because it is bed on a historical event which is
explicit enough to solve, the difficult dramatic problems which Miller had originally set
himself. Miller brilliantly expresses a particular crisis "the modern witch hunt" in his
own society, but it is not often, in our own world, that the issues and statements so
clearly emerge in a naturally dramatic form (13). Miller used the Salem Witch Trials of
the 17th century, to make an indirect, but assertive comment upon McCarthyism in American
life (Richard Watt, Jr. 536).

In 1953, when the play was produced, the United States was in social and political
turmoil. Joseph McCarthy a Senator from Wisconsin and the play in comparison were both
significantly politically infamous. The Senator was responsible for the investigations to
find communists in the State Department, Hollywood, and the U.S. Army. These
investigations created fear and suspicion within our society. McCarthy was eventually
found guilty of misusing his authority (Watts vii). Before being found guilty, Senator
McCarthy accused the Democratic administration of sheltering and helping Communists in the
American government. It was a fearful time similar to that in Salem. The United States
government called McCarthy's activities witch-hunts. In The Crucible, Miller mentions
that McCarthy accuses individuals of being Communist if they opposed him. Any government
official who criticized his hearings was soon found to be defending himself against the
charge of being involved in a Communist conspiracy. Miller compared McCarthy to the Salem
judges in a broad sense (Cliffnotes 52). In 1953 The Crucible was attacked as a
comparison to the current Senate "witch hunts." Critics said it was not a good play at
that time, however, later it was found to be superior. The House Un-American Activities
Committee summoned Miller to a hearing. Miller refused to name others as communist
sympathizers. He also said that he would only take responsibility for himself and not
others. Miller was fined and given a thirty-day spended jail sentence because he spoke
out like John Proctor in The Crucible (Griffin 7). During the McCarthyism period
witnesses refused to answer questions and when they did they were scorned (Bentley 302).
Thousands of people who refused to answer questions and confess were executed during the
seventeenth century. Authorities believed that "believing in witches was extensive in
America and Europe" (Cliffnotes 44 - 45). Eric Bentley provides us with information that
"Arthur Miller had tried to apotheosize this heroic refusal to speak in dramatic
literature (The Crucible). In real life, unhappily, such refusal was rendered suspect and
ambiguous by its whole background in the life and hates of the Communist Party" (302).

Cushing Scott states that, "Miller has argued for (the) historical truth (of the play),
pointed to its contemporary parallels, and defined its Tran historical subject as a social
process that includes, but also transcends, the Salem witchcraft trials a

the anticommunist investigations of the 1950's" (128). However, Miller was interested in
the witch trials before he opposed McCarthyism however. He decided to write the play
telling about the fear and hysteria McCarthyism caused. His play makes clear the facts
from the past that sinners and guilty people were mistaken for witches in Salem
(Bu*censored* 128 -129). Elsom writes that Arthur Miller wrote about witch-hunting in
Salem but it was really an indirect commentary on Joe McCarthy and the congressional
sub-committees investigating un-American activities. (140) Joe McCarthy probably thought
of Arthur Miller as a

"dangerous communist subversive," but in Europe he was regarded to be agreeably "left
wing" (Elsom 139). After a few years McCarthy had died and the committees were dissolved.
The Crucible was included in schools as a modern classic. "A political journalist might
have summed up Arthur Miller's achievement like this: he had helped to rally the
moderates against the forces of extreme right-wing reaction" (Elsom 140).

Guilt... was directly responsible for the 'social compliance' which resulted in McCarthy's
reign of terror in the 1950's: 'Social compliance'... is the result of the sense of guilt
which individuals strive to conceal by complying... It was a guilt, in this historic
sense, resulting from their awareness that they were not as Rightist as people were
suppose to be (Bu*censored* 133).

The Crucible made a statement for the subject of the free man's fight against emotional
terrorism to put him down. Arthur Miller was completely involved with the social and
moral problems of American society and inevitably made an impact on the world. The danger
from Russian subversion was a more obvious danger than the witch hunts of innocent people
in 17th century Massachusetts (Watts viii). The comparison in 1953 was harmful to Arthur
Miller and his drama. The similarities of the two eras dealing with freedom of judgment
against barbaric control remains an issue today. Witch-hunting and the evil Salem trials
in The Crucible was a work of social dramatic art making a statement of evil intolerance
for global history (Watts viii). Miller wrote The Crucible to prevent history from
repeating itself.

Miller does not use an ordinary plot in The Crucible. "... tension inheres in episodic
conflicts rather than in an over-all advancing action. The sense of an evolving general
situation, so well achieved by tight structure in The Crucible... is largely gone"
(Heilman 151). Heilman states that Miller,


turned to more vigorous characters who cause suffering
rather than uncomprehendingly suffer, he portrayed an
evil rooted in human nature overwhelming the community,
he made advances toward complexity of motive, and he
began to discover inner division (160).

In Salem, Massachusetts, a black slave woman and twelve teenage girls were caught dancing
around a bubbling cauldron in the woods, despite the fact that dancing was not allowed by
the Puritans. The Puritan government ruled the church in 1692 and religion believed that
women who dance with the Devil are witches. Fearing being hanged the girls blamed each
other. Everyone in the town panicked and began accusing everyone else of witchcraft. The
Puritans believed that the Devil was continually enticing man. If a person sinned they
had to confess it, regret it, a perform some act of penance. To avoid being hanged many
people in The Crucible confessed to sins they did not commit. Fearing that she would be
damned forever Rebecca Nurse refused to confess. Adultery was one of the worst sins
someone could commit.

The Puritans also thought that anything pleasant was the work of the Devil, therefore,
they were a serious and fearful group. It was an atrocious sin for children to even
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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