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Arthur Miller Dead

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Montesquieu
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All I can say is good riddance. Not only was his fiction odious, but so was his non-fiction. Particularly his attempts to paint the search for communists in the 50's in the same light as the Salem witch trials. Other than that, he's been washed up for years, and frankly I thought he was already dead. Finally this salesman of bad writing and dopey ideas is actually dead.

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All I can say is good riddance. Not only was his fiction odious, but so was his non-fiction. Particularly his attempts to paint the search for communists in the 50's in the same light as the Salem witch trials. Other than that, he's been washed up for years, and frankly I thought he was already dead. Finally this salesman of bad writing and dopey ideas is actually dead.

Politics aside, Arthur Miller was powerful and innovative playwright. I have read The Crucible several times and seen perhaps a half dozen stagings of it. The play's themes (reason vs. superstition, the individual vs. the collective, freedom vs. theocracy) should find favor with anyone who has enjoyed Rand's books. Miller was an opponent of Senator McCarthy, but The Crucible was specifically about the Salem witchcraft trials, and although it necessarily condenses events, it is in most respects an accurate account of religious hysteria in Puritan America.

Some critics of Death of a Salesman dismiss it as an anti-capitalist diatribe. In fact, it is a drama about the tragedy of growing old. Certainly, it is a sad play, but it offers a fascinating portrait of a complex man, who worked hard, achieved much, but who engaged in a great deal of self-deception. The play's plot is about all those deceptions coming home to roost. Actions have consequences.

Washed up? Had I written two plays that are read by millions of students each year and are performed regularly in theatres across America, I wouldn't consider myself a failure.

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who the heck was Arthur Miller?

by the way you so eloquently described him, I should be glad I didn't know him.

I am still waiting for Noam Chomsky to croak. Everything that comes out of that viper's mouth is nauseating.

He wrote "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible" which are common staples of high school English courses all over the country.

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Politics aside, Arthur Miller was powerful and innovative playwright.  I have read The Crucible several times and seen perhaps a half dozen stagings of it.  The play's themes (reason vs. superstition, the individual vs. the collective, freedom vs. theocracy) should find favor with anyone who has enjoyed Rand's books.  Miller was an opponent of Senator McCarthy, but The Crucible was specifically about the Salem witchcraft trials, and although it necessarily condenses events, it is in most respects an accurate account of religious hysteria in Puritan America.

I agree with this. The Crucible details a struggle between that which is real, and that which is arbitrary. Miller artistically and emotionally demonstrated the harsh and painful consequences which often follow a denial of reason and reality. Even if you don't agree with its political innuendo, you must agree with the play's underlying philosophical foundation.

Arthur Miller may not have been the world's best playwright, but I certainly wouldn't say of his death, "Good riddance."

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I agree with this. The Crucible details a struggle between that which is real, and that which is arbitrary. Miller artistically and emotionally demonstrated the harsh and painful consequences which often follow a denial of reason and reality. Even if you don't agree with its political innuendo, you must agree with the play's underlying philosophical foundation.

Arthur Miller may not have been the world's best playwright, but I certainly wouldn't say of his death, "Good riddance."

I think what you are saying here is that Arthur Miller was not pathetic. He was an effective and eloquent writer. He was a force. A force for evil. Keeping in mind the whole context, he wrote furiously and eloquently to destroy the good and apologize for the evil. Death of a Salesman is one of the loudest influences against capitalism in the culture today. Good Riddance.

(from Montesquieu)  Other than that, he's been washed up for years, and frankly I thought he was already dead.

That was laugh out loud funny.

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I think what you are saying here is that Arthur Miller was not pathetic.  He was an effective and eloquent writer. He was a force.  A force for evil.  Keeping in mind the whole context, he wrote furiously and eloquently to destroy the good and apologize for the evil.

Anyone who has read or seen The Crucible can appreciate its indictment of religious tyranny, regardless of any parallels with the 1950s that its author might have intended. The bad guys in the play are in fact very bad.

Death of a Salesman is one of the loudest influences against capitalism in the culture today.  Good Riddance.

That was laugh out loud funny.

I would suggest that Death of a Salesman is about a whole lot more than capitalism.

Edited by Tom Robinson
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As to Mr. Miller's plays, why not read what he wrote about the plays himself, what did he mean them for? The Crucible was written specifically to condemn the search for communists, Mr. Miller wrote an essay outlining this concern and told anyone who would listen that that was his purpose in writing the play. Particularly read his 1996 essay titled, "Why I Wrote The Crucible," prompted by his working on the movie with Daniel Day Lewis. Here is one odious paragraph from that essay,

McCarthy's power to stir fears of creeping Communism was not entirely based on illusion, of course; the paranoid, real or pretended, always secretes its pearl around a grain of fact. From being our wartime ally, the Soviet Union rapidly became an expanding empire. In 1949, Mao Zedong took power in China. Western Europe also seemed ready to become Red—especially Italy, where the Communist Party was the largest outside Russia, and was growing. Capitalism, in the opinion of many, myself included, had nothing more to say, its final poisoned bloom having been Italian and German Fascism. McCarthy—brash and ill-mannered but to many authentic and true—boiled it all down to what anyone could understand: we had "lost China" and would soon lose Europe as well, because the State Department—staffed, of course, under Democratic Presidents—was full of treasonous pro-Soviet intellectuals. It was as simple as that.

here is another

The more I read into the Salem panic, the more it touched off corresponding images of common experiences in the fifties: the old friend of a blacklisted person crossing the street to avoid being seen talking to him; the overnight conversions of former leftists into born-again patriots; and so on. Apparently, certain processes are universal. When Gentiles in Hitler's Germany, for example, saw their Jewish neighbors being trucked off, or farmers in Soviet Ukraine saw the Kulaks vanishing before their eyes, the common reaction, even among those unsympathetic to Nazism or Communism, was quite naturally to turn away in fear of being identified with the condemned. As I learned from non-Jewish refugees, however, there was often a despairing pity mixed with "Well, they must have done something." Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.

The article appeared in the New Yorker. Arthur Miller was no friend of freedom, of reason, and certainly not of capitalism. Any suggestions that he was is uninformed and ignores his own strident claims to the contrary.

Edited by Montesquieu
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Here is one odious paragraph from that essay,

Thank you for posting that. If I may, I'd like to retract my statements concerning your original "Good riddance" sentiment.

It's unfortunate that many skillful writers are often such lousy individuals. In the interest of my own pleasure, however, I find it occasionally acceptable to seperate the writer's personal views from his work. In this sense, The Crucible is not at all negative, and in fact stands as a wonderful work-- but having his quotes in my mind certainly does a fair job of lowering my enthusiasm for it.

:D Disappointed, but further informed. Argh, ignorance is bliss sometimes. Oh well. :)

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Thank you for posting that.  If I may, I'd like to retract my statements concerning your original "Good riddance" sentiment.

It's unfortunate that many skillful writers are often such lousy individuals.  In the interest of my own pleasure, however, I find it occasionally acceptable to seperate the writer's personal views from his work.  In this sense, The Crucible is not at all negative, and in fact stands as a wonderful work-- but having his quotes in my mind certainly does a fair job of lowering my enthusiasm for it.

:D  Disappointed, but further informed.  Argh, ignorance is bliss sometimes.  Oh well.  :)

I will concede that if you separate out the context in which it was written and the author's declared intentions, The Crucible can have a good message. But only in a broad superficial way in that Mr. Miller tied his allegory to a real event and could therefore not portray a heroic struggle to put an end to a witch trial, but instead had the evil of Salem win out as it did historically until it was ended by higher political authorities.

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As to Mr. Miller's plays, why not read what he wrote about the plays himself, what did he mean them for?  The Crucible was written specifically to condemn the search for communists, Mr. Miller wrote an essay outlining this concern and told anyone who would listen that that was his purpose in writing the play ...

I'm not going to write an apology for Miller's politics, nor does anyone who has enjoyed Miller as a playwright need to. What I will say is that a work of art can stand on its own without an author's exegesis. An author's ideological objectives are given zero weight in my evaluation of a work's artistic merit. The Crucible deals perceptively and powerfully with the consequences of religious absolutism and paranoia. The characters are vivid, the dialogue intelligent. There is nothing in the work itself that would arouse an Objectivist's disapproval. Indeed, there is much about it, both in substance and style, that one can admire. Let’s examine another work from the same decade, the movie High Noon, which was also written as a protest against officials rooting out communists. The fact that the screenplay was an angry response to anti-communism does not in the slightest way keep the movie from being very good, and expressing values (courage, integrity, refusal to compromise) that rational people can endorse.

Edited by Tom Robinson
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I'm not going to write an apology for Miller's politics, nor does anyone who has enjoyed Miller as a playwright need to.  What I will say is that a work of art can stand on its own without an author's exegesis.  An author's ideological objectives are given zero weight in my evaluation of a work's artistic merit. The Crucible deals perceptively and powerfully with the consequences of religious absolutism and paranoia.  The characters are vivid, the dialogue intelligent.  There is nothing in the work itself that would arouse an Objectivist's disapproval.  Indeed, there is much about it, both in substance and style, that one can admire.  Let’s examine another work from the same decade, the movie High Noon, which was also written as a protest against officials rooting out communists.  The fact that the screenplay was an angry response to anti-communism does not in the slightest way keep the movie from being very good, and expressing values (courage, integrity, refusal to compromise) that rational people can endorse.

The problem is that we know the source and what message the artists wanted to be sent. Namely, that trying to find communists in the government (an effort largely vindicated by serious historians in recent years) was an irrational, almost mystical, and certainly evil effort comparable to the Salem Witch Trials. This is an utter absurdity and we should not forget this when judging any work of art that was produced for similar reasons. I don't think the Crucible deals with religious absolutism or paranoia effectively at all because there is no reason, anywhere in the play (that I can remember, and I don't have a copy so I beg pardon in advance and thank whoeverso corrects me in advance) why we should feel sorry for the convicted witches. Where is the opposition in the play? Who mounts a defense of the witches and shows that the premises of the trials are invalid? I recall peripheral points being made about the ease with which people could be accused and the ridiculous rules of evidence, but not the actual premise of the trials, namely that witches exist and should be punished. Miller didn't write the play to show (or, more importantly, to explain) the perils of religious paranoia, but to show that efforts to protect the government and people of the United States from a real threat, communist spies paid by the Soviet Union, were as irrational, if not more, as the pursuit of phantom witches in Salem in the 1690's. The play was a veiled, very thinly, attempt to make this point without getting himself in trouble, which I am actually sympathetic to, I don't think he should have had to worry about congress threatening him for being a communist sympathizer. Out of this context the play is of little import and would not have been a success I think without the backdrop of McCarthyism.

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The problem is that we know the source and what message the artists wanted to be sent. Namely, that trying to find communists in the government (an effort largely vindicated by serious historians in recent years) was an irrational, almost mystical, and certainly evil effort comparable to the Salem Witch Trials. This is an utter absurdity and we should not forget this when judging any work of art that was produced for similar reasons.

Except that there is nothing in The Crucible about anti-communism. Readers and theatre-goers may properly consider the play on its own. They need not read Miller's other writings or anything else to enjoy and learn from the drama. If evaluation of a work of art depends on what we know of the artist's political agenda, then we'd have to do a background check on every writer, painter and composer before making up our minds about anything in the world of entertainment.

I don't think the Crucible deals with religious absolutism or paranoia effectively at all because there is no reason, anywhere in the play (that I can remember, and I don't have a copy so I beg pardon in advance and thank whoeverso corrects me in advance) why we should feel sorry for the convicted witches.

The play gives you reasons:

a) Those convicted were not really witches, i.e. they were not agents of "The Devil."

B) They were given capital punishment, when they had committed no acts for which that punishment was deserved.

c) The case against them was fueled in many instances not only by religious folly but also by envy, a desire to settle old scores, or political opportunism.

Where is the opposition in the play? Who mounts a defense of the witches and shows that the premises of the trials are invalid?

John Proctor eventually finds his courage and speaks out against the hysteria. Is there a character who condemns the proceedings on good, solid Objectivist principles? No, because such persons simply did not exist in 1600s Massachusetts.

I recall peripheral points being made about the ease with which people could be accused and the ridiculous rules of evidence, but not the actual premise of the trials, namely that witches exist and should be punished.

It happens to have been one of the more unfortunate facts of reality that within this early American religious colony there just weren't that many freethinkers or skeptics who could demolish every philosophical error of Puritanism and deliver a Galt-like speech. Nor were there any such characters in Nathaniel Hawthorne's fictional works about the Puritans, but that didn't exempt him from Ayn Rand's admiration.

Miller didn't write the play to show (or, more importantly, to explain) the perils of religious paranoia, but to show that efforts to protect the government and people of the United States from a real threat, communist spies paid by the Soviet Union, were as irrational, if not more, as the pursuit of phantom witches in Salem in the 1690's. The play was a veiled, very thinly, attempt to make this point without getting himself in trouble, which I am actually sympathetic to, I don't think he should have had to worry about congress threatening him for being a communist sympathizer. Out of this context the play is of little import and would not have been a success I think without the backdrop of McCarthyism.

Again, one does not have to know or care about an author's intentions to find merit in a work of art.

Edited by Tom Robinson
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Thought you all might appreciate this excerpt from a tribute to Arthur Miller by playwright David Mamet, posted to an email discussion list for a theater group I occasionally work with:

We are freed, at the end of these two dramas ["Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible"], not because the playwright has arrived at a solution, but because he has reconciled us to the notion that there is no solution — that it is the human lot to try and fail, and that no one is immune from self-deception. We have, through following the course of the drama, laid aside, for two hours, the delusion that we are powerful and wise, and we leave the theater better for the rest.

Bad drama reinforces our prejudices. It informs us of what we knew when we came into the theater — the infirm have rights, homosexuals are people, too, it's difficult to die. It appeals to our sense of self-worth, and, as such, is but old-fashioned melodrama come again in modern clothes (the villain here not black-mustachioed, but opposed to women, gays, racial harmony, etc.).

The good drama survives because it appeals not to the fashion of the moment, but to the problems both universal and eternal, as they are insoluble.

To find beauty in the sad, hope in the midst of loss, and dignity in failure is great poetic art.

P.S.: I don't know Miller's works well enough to have an opinion about them, or him.

Edited by Kevin Delaney
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I second the "Good Riddance" motion.

I suffered through reading both of his famous plays in High School or Jr High School, with a combination of boredom and disgust. Salesman conveyed malevolent naturalism and hopelessness pretty effectively. And high school teachers couldn't wait to use "The Crucible" to pounce on the McCarthyism theme, which was the real point of its inclusion in just about any curriculum.

The malevolent universe premise, hopelessness, and naturalism of these plays is a strong argument against seeing them. I wish I'd never heard of them. Just thinking back 20 years, and reminding myself of these plays by looking at their outlines brings back memories of the disturbed, unlclean mental state Miller evoked. Yuck.

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Some critics of Death of a Salesman dismiss it as an anti-capitalist diatribe.  In fact, it is a drama about the tragedy of growing old.  Certainly, it is a sad play, but it offers a fascinating portrait of a complex man ...

The bottom line is, Arthur Miller saw man as a pygmie. Ayn Rand grew old. Hugh Akston grew old. I'm growing old. What's so tragic about that? Death of a Salesman presents nothing but the squalid, the corrupt, the festering. If you accepted his view of life ... wouldn't that make you want to commit suicide?

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  • 6 years later...
Keeping in mind the whole context, he wrote furiously and eloquently to destroy the good and apologize for the evil. Death of a Salesman is one of the loudest influences against capitalism in the culture today.

<br />

<p>The view that "Death of a Salesman" achieves a criticism of capitalism is itself a loud influence against capitalism. Claiming that this play finds a chink in capitalism means you don't understand the strength of capitalism. Unfortunately this is a common view. </p>

<br />

<p>I saw this play last weekend with a local theater critic and he made the same claim. In fact the theater's promotional material says, "Exploring the struggle to define one's own identity in a world where a man's worth is defined by his ability to make money."</p>

<br />

<p>Yet the anti-hero protagonist is juxtaposed with another man, his helpful, insightful neighbor Charley. Charley says, "Why do you have to be liked? JP Morgan wasn't liked... but when he put his pockets on, they loved him." </p>

<br />

<p>Willy was a second-hander, experiencing life through the dreams of others and living life through the stories he told to others. It is a tragic, but honest description of a common malady. </p>

<br />

<p>This is my review of <a href="http://www.thefullertonian.com/Blogs/tabid/97/ID/448/Stages-Shows-ldquoDeath-of-a-Salesmanrdquo.aspx">the performance</a> at a local theater.</p>

<br />

<p>Where does it criticize capitalism?</p>

Edited by xgenx
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Third the motion. Bad rubbish.

The crack about his being the second husband of Monroe might have had a humorous intent but if her death was by suicide Miller probably contributed to the reason. He made fun of her in public right from the beginning. His script for “The Misfits” (only a small part of which I’ve seen) was intended to make her look bad.

After her death he wrote “After the Fall”, a roman à clef – or whatever you say when it’s a play (I haven’t seen it, only read about it) – making her out as a shrew and jeering at her.

A truly repulsive creature.

Don’t believe the whitewash some of his biographers apply to this creep.

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