Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman an American Dream

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“The tragic right is a condition of life, a condition in which the human personality is able to flower and realize itself. The wrong is the condition which suppresses man, perverts the flowing out of his love and creative instinct. Tragedy enlightens—and it must, in that it points the heroic finger at the enemy of man’s freedom. The thrust for freedom is the quality in tragedy which exalts. The revolutionary questioning of the stable environment is what terrifies. In no way is the common man debarred from such thoughts or such actions.”

Arthur MillerTragedy and the Common Man (1949)

Arthur Asher Miller [born in 1915 in Harlem, New York City–died in 2005 in Roxbury, Connecticut] with Marilyn Monroe [born Norma Jeane Mortenson; 1926–1962] circa 1950s. Miller and Monroe were married for five years, between 1956 and 1961; she converted to Judaism to become part of the family. Monroe no doubt is a tragic figure, who wanted freedom and love while living in a capitalistic system devoted to neither, which is what Miller’s plays are primarily about. Death of a Salesman (1949), All My Sons (1947) and The Crucible (1953) are the three stage dramas that I remember most by Miller, and I remember them in that particular order. I suspect that many readers of literary dramas tend to name these three, although the order might differ, as most memorable. Who could ever forget Willy Loman?  He is not high-born, but low-born, the representative of the common man as the tragic figure, an idea that Miller wrote about in an essay, Tragedy and the Common Man (1949). I here cite the last line in this essay: “It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man.” This is what makes Miller's plays so memorable and moral and humane; it about the common man’s search for dignity. The search is always difficult and filled with unbearable sadness, but it is also heroic. One can’t run away from sadness. Lee J. Cobb [born Leo Jacoby] was the first Willy Loman; the play opened at The Morosco on February 10, 1949.  For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].