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Arthur Miller's Global Theater

Women's Literature.. Email is not visible to others. Share This Link. MyVishwa Venture: ePaperGallery. Download App. Forgot Password? Remember Me. First Name. In Miller's work, then, the allegorical structure of Focus , in which social forces conspire against fellow-citizens marked by difference, yielded to the more effective rhetorical strategy of fabulism. In the stories non-human surrogates for the Jew suffer and die as sacrifices to the machinery of an overwhelming socio-economic system insistent on its comforts, privileges, and hegemonic power.

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Miller's willingness, in his fiction as in his plays, to declare No! James Fenimore Cooper's description of the massacre of passenger pigeons in The Pioneers and Melville's depiction of the slaughter of whales in Moby-Dick are canonical nineteenth-century texts in this mode, and modern versions are ubiquitous, for example the fable of mass extermination in James Agee's classic story, "A Mother's Tale," and the bear-hunting in Norman Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam?

The fatalistic strain of such fictions reminds us that literary distinction in America frequently rests on the perceived oppositional character of an author's writing. The author achieves eminence by articulating subversive truths that audiences both resist and surrender to as workers in systems they acknowledge to be harmful to public well-being.

The superior status of the writer, even or especially when he is marginalized, derives from being a reproachful conscience within a culture busy with getting and spending. The culture's dismissive term for such writers is "moralistic" or "didactic," as opposed to "entertaining. An account of thematic concerns in Miller's fiction would be incomplete without some attention to the positivism imbedded in his stories—a positivism that belongs to the ethical claims he has always mounted for dramatic literature.

In Timebends he refers to "my conviction that art ought to be of use in changing society," a belief that he rightly links to the Enlightenment assumptions of the s liberal and radical tradition: that reason and socialism, as personal and political principles respectively, would effect a more humane world, a third force beyond the competing ideologies of capitalism and fascism including the Stalinist form of fascism.

Miller's fiction, beginning with a novel he scrapped in order to rewrite the same story as his first Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck , shows an increasing sophistication about the constituents of a moral document capable of persuading mankind to choose good rather than evil. It may be useful to chart his progress in craft by focusing on the role of women in his fiction. Miller acknowledges in Timebends that he specialized in "father-son and brother-brother conflicts.

Focus offers the most programmatic case in which the main character's evolution of consciousness proceeds by denying the claims of women upon his achievement of superior moral status. In the early portion of the novel Newman fantasizes some perfect woman to share his life in a Romantic dream of ideal union. Yet the woman he chooses to court and marry, Gertrude, is attractive to him in part because she shares his loathing of Jews and his desire to conform to the anti-Semitic neighborhood that plots against the lone Jew at the end of the block, Finkelstein.

The Fiction of Arthur Miller

Constantly Gertrude pleads with Newman to strike out at Finkelstein and make peace with the Jew's tormentors. She serves as a kind of Jungian shadow, a malignant anima who seeks to put Newman on the road to success and riches significantly, imagined as a Hollywood career. Newman's disabled mother offers him no guidance; in her few appearances she stays glued to the radio.


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Newman's breakthrough into a redeemed life, as a New-Man of the American era that will succeed the era of fascism, comes when he rejects his wife and takes up arms with Finkelstein against their mutual enemy, battling the local thugs in the street with baseball bats and declaring that they will not be moved from their homes by threats or violence.

The earliest of Miller's short stories, "Monte Sant' Angelo," published in , belongs to the male-bonding tradition of his work of the s. Two friends, one Jewish-American and the other Italian-American, visit an Italian town in search of Vinny's family origins. Timebends provides the autobiographical matrix for this narrative. Bernstein is delighted that his friend makes contact with some distant relatives but feels bereft of a personal heritage. A visit to Vinny's aged aunt, an inarticulate, lonely, and altogether scary figure, arouses in Bernstein a deeper longing for some connection to his own people, a longing that is satisfied when he recognizes in the ritual gesture of a male citizen of the town some Jewish habits from his own American elders, and concludes that this man, who knows nothing of Judaism, is a revenant from the past, a mediator of the ancient and modern practices of an identity-bearing system of belief he shares with the old man no less than Vinny shares his name and history with ancestors memorialized in the churches of Monte Sant' Angelo.

Looked at from this angle of regard, Miller's imagination of a social world inhabited importantly by women as well as men seems to take shape with "The Misfits" and its later change of form into The Misfits , film and novel both. The short story of , as already noted, dramatizes the conventional frontier bonding of male buddies, doomed no less than the wild mustangs hunted to extinction. Gay and Perce think occasionally of Roslyn back in the frontier town, an Eastern schoolteacher with whom Gay lives in a quasi-domestic arrangement.

Roslyn disapproves of their occupation and as they rope the horses for slaughter they hear her reproachful voice in their heads. She is the opposite of Gertrude in Focus , who sides with the powerful against the weak. In Timebends Miller defines stupidity as "the want of empathic power. The novel that Miller made of this short story, like the film of which it is a virtual transcript, features as its most significant change the foregrounding of Roslyn as a major character. The inspiration or exigency driving this change is clearly the entrance of Marilyn Monroe into the re production process, providing box-office dynamite for what would otherwise be an all-too-straightforward film narrative of futility and defeat.

Monroe entered and captured the story because she had first entered Miller's life, so that the film achieved a parabolic status from the first day it was announced. And with Monroe's screen persona comes a radical shift in the nature of Roslyn's character. In the short story we are led to believe that she is one of those "college graduate divorced women" from the East who rebound into Gay's arms after shedding their unsatisfactory mates Nevada style.

In the long version Roslyn becomes an "interpretive" dancer who has dwindled to performing in dance halls, and has found even shadier ways of supporting herself.

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By making her less intellectual and more of a class match for Gay, Miller guarantees that their relationship will not be an uneven struggle in which each partner exerts a formulaic exploitive power over the other her snob condescension, his sexual allure, the obverse of what the union of Monroe and Miller represented to the general public. The story begins in Reno, "Divorce Capital of the World" a billboard informs us , no less Babylon than the New York of Focus , though here the moral disorder seems more appealing. Displaced people gamble and sin, hucksters ply their trades, and in venues thematically related to Reno, such as the rodeo town, a kind of barbaric "lewdness" erupts constantly into view.

An older woman, Isabelle Thelma Ritter in the film , has befriended the insecure Roslyn, a high school dropout whom Isabelle compares to a little child and chaperones a short distance till Gay assumes the commanding role. Isabelle has a toughmindedness that recalls Miller's description of his mother in Timebends ; in a minor mode she anticipates the heroine of "Homely Girl, A Life. She is, in fact, a rather obvious trope for Nature itself, an Earth Mother who in one scene embraces a tree in a wild dance. As a figure for the life force she contains immense power to change other people by withholding sanction for their ruthless behavior, but she too must undergo change as a human being in a social community far from utopia.

She must, for one thing, escape her rote sentiments about the holiness of life and understand Gay's need to capture the wild mustangs in ritual acts of violence.

She must acquire a masculine vision of experience if she expects Gay to move a commensurate distance toward her nurturing piety toward nature. The captured colt is the critical figure in the evolving narrative that brings Gay and Roslyn together. The colt represents the child potentially possible between them, their future as a contracted couple.

If Gay sacrifices it for the few dollars it would bring in meat and the colt's mother another thirty dollars or so , he will forfeit the joyful life they might have together beyond the reach of a rapacious commercial system both he and Roslyn despise. The immense pathos of the short story, in which he does, unhappily, accede to financial necessity and his outworn code of honor, yields in the longer version to a happy ending in which he permits Roslyn and Perce to let the mustangs go, except for a stallion which he wrestles into submission and then frees to show that he is still in control.

At the end of the novel she mentions the child she believes they can conceive a line deleted from the film version , and Gay remarks in the last scene, "I bless you, girl. That the novel is a romance, a fairy tale in the form of a realistic narrative about modern people on the frontier, is more apparent to us when we read it through the retrospective lens of the Miller-Monroe marriage and through Miller's highly unromantic autobiographical play, After the Fall Yet the figure of Roslyn is clearly readable in the vulnerable Maggie of that play; Maggie calls herself "a joke that brings in money" and yet her intellectual husband admires her giving nature.

The Misfits is not sentimental about Roslyn; for one thing, she is too sentimental herself to attract the reader's wholehearted sympathy. One gets tired of her fixed angelic nature, what Miller in Timebends speaking of Marilyn calls "a purely donative femininity," and also of the constant kvetching and sniffling and sobbing she carries on throughout the second half of the book. But the reader is snapped back to respect for her powerful feelings of tenderness when she lashes out at Guido, the veteran pilot, constantly evoking the memory of his dead wife as he propositions Roslyn, bargaining with her to save the mustangs if she'll shack up with him:.

In speeches like this we hear the proleptic voice of the counter-culture in America preparing its critique of the one-dimensional men who prosecuted the Vietnam War later in the s. Roslyn emerges at the end of this narrative as the idealized figure of resistance to the American leaders who justified the slaughter of millions of Asians by turning them into nothing but data. And in summoning the nuclear holocaust, Miller takes aim at the ultimate culmination of the genocidal impulse dramatized in hisfabulist fictions.

That Roslyn can embody such a range of moral imperatives—not, admittedly, without straining dramatic credi bility—speaks well for the relevance of The Misfits in a feminist era. Two later stories develop the theme of female empowerment initiated by The Misfits. Indeed, it dramatizes the struggle of wills among a group of female characters. The story begins as if it will be an appreciative study of a famous architect, Stowey Rummel, but he is quickly banished from the narrative and the focus turns to his wife, Cleota, and a house party she mounts in her well-appointed country home.

Cleota possesses a determined, even rigid demeanor; she looks on most of her invitees with disdain, especially her husband's sister Alice and a fortune teller who later in the story prophesies that Alice will outlive her brother. Cleota also learns that her longtime friend Lucretia has just been abandoned by her husband.

Arthur Miller interview (1994) - The Best Documentary Ever

The emotional turmoil of these messy lives, in addition to a quantity of alcohol, stirs up Cleota and she makes an impulsive pass at another guest, Joseph, who fends her off. The next day Stowey returns and the couple resumes their married life, more satisfying, perhaps, for Cleota's momentary breakout from the puritanical habits that have brought her a measure of despair. Plot summaries rarely do justice to complex fiction, and this story, especially, uses a melodramatic structure to generate a considerable number of ideas about love relationships—ideas presented as such in the midst of conversation among intellectuals, or through the consciousness of the characters, the fiction writer Joseph preeminently.

Of central importance to our purpose, the story elevates Cleota above the welter of mere ideas some of them on the futility of thinking when intuitive action is called for , and concludes with her in a state of near ecstasy, "cherishing a rapture, the clear heart of those whose doors are made to hold against the winds of the world.