Summary of Major Drama's by Arthur Miller

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The Major Dramatic Works of Arthur Miller are:

The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944)

      Drama about young David Beeves, who owns several prosperous businesses, has a successful marriage, and is a happy father. Viewing the frustration and unhappiness of other people in the small town where he lives, David becomes obsessed with the idea that some disaster awaits him, too, and he tries to precipitate it. Finally, however, he accepts his own superiority and the golden touch of success.

All My Sons (1947)

      Drama about guilt and responsibility. The security of Chris Keller’s middle-class existence is turned into a nightmare when he discovers that his much-loved father Joe was responsible, through his part in supplying defective equipment to the Army Air Force, for the deaths of twenty-one pilots, an offense for which he deliberately allowed his business partner to become the scapegoat. Confronted with Chris’s revulsion and the revelation that his second son, Larry, a pilot long-listed as missing in action, killed himself to expiate his father’s crime, Joe Keller commits suicide.

Death of a Salesman (1949)

      Tragedy in which past and present are mingled in expressionistic scenes involving a middle-aged traveling salesman who, after an unsuccessful attempt to start out on still another selling trip, has just returned home. Willy Loman has been a firm believer in the American myth that success is obtained by being “well-liked,” and his two sons, Happy and Biff, have been raised on this philosophy. But Happy has turned into an insouciant do nothing, and Biff is unable to hold a job or to “find himself”. To escape the harsh reality of unpaid bills and family fiction, Willy’s reminiscences are about happier days when his sons admired him. Back in the present, Linda, Willy’s wife, goads Biff into an attempt to raise money from a former employer for a business venture that has been Willy’s dream. She also urges her husband to ask his own employer for a non-traveling assignment. But Biff fails to obtain the money, and Willy is peremptorily fired. At the restaurant where Willy and his sons had planned to celebrate their new start, the boys abandon their drunken father to go off with some girls. In a flashback, Willy remembers the crucial moment at which Biff's faith in his father was shattered, a scene in which Biff discovers Willy at a hotel with a woman. Once more in the present, ready to leave home, Biff attempts to say good-bye to his father, but the two fall to arguing, Biff pointing out that his father has built both his own life and the lives of his sons on false standards. To redeem himself by an act that he considers one of devotion to his family, Willy commits suicide so that, with his insurance money, they can rid themselves of debt and make a new start. In a final requiem at Willy’s grave, Linda reveals that the mortgage on their home is paid and that they are now “free and clear.” Biff attempts to talk his brother into going west with him, but Happy decides to remain and make Willy’s dream of success come true.

The Crucible (1953)

      Drama about the Salem with trials of 1692, based on court records and historical personages. When the daughter of Salem’s unpopular minister falls mysteriously ill, rumors of witchcraft spread throughout the town. With a group of her young friends, the girl has been secretly engaging in forbidden dancing and cavorting in the woods. When the minister accuses Abigail Williams, the ringleader, of wrongdoing, she transforms the accusation into a plea for help; her soul, she says has been bewitched. Abigail sees in this role the opportunity of getting rid of Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of John Proctor, an upstanding farmer whom she had once seduced. Deflecting charges from themselves, the young girls, led by Abigail, make hysterical accusations of witchcraft against various harmless townspeople whom they do not like. Inevitably, Abigail accuses Elizabeth Proctor. Then, in an effort to expose Abigail’s vindictive motives, John Proctor reveals his past lechery. Elizabeth, unaware of his confession, fails to confirm his testimony; to protect him she testifies falsely that her husband has not been intimate with Abigail. Proctor himself is then accused of witchcraft. Arrested and condemned to death, he refuses the chance to save his life by “confession,” his traffic with the devil, and he goes to his death.

A View from the Bridge (1955)

      Drama concerning the tragic consequences of Eddie Carbone’s incestuous love for his eighteen-year old niece Catherine, whom he adopted after her mother’s death. Eddie’s wife Beatrice hides her cousins Marco and Rodolpho, illegal Sicilian immigrants, in the Carbone apartment while they await forged papers. Young and handsome, Rodolpho falls in love with Catherine, and she with him. Eddie’s unconscious jealousy drives him to violent outbursts of rage and to sneering comments about Rodolpho’s lack of masculinity. Finally, he betrays the two men to the immigration authorities. Although the young couple’s hasty marriage prevents Rodolpho’s deportation, Marco, who has wanted only to earn money for his family in Italy, must return. Enraged by Eddie’s violation of his trust, Marco appears before Eddie’s house and demands vengeance for Eddie’s cowardly betrayal. Catherine and Rodolpho, fearing bloodshed, plead with Eddie not to answer. But Eddie, also bound by Marco’s conception of honor, cannot ignore the accusation made against him and must face Marco to preserve his pride. Beatrice hysterically blurts out Eddie’s real motive for the betrayal; his repressed love for Catherine. Eddie, unable to face the truth and compelled to face his accuser runs into the street to die at Marco’s hands.

A Memory of Two Mondays (1955)

      One-act play that examines a group of factory workers trapped without hope of relief in their mechanical jobs and dreary lives. In two Mondays, separated by a span of years, one in the hot summer, the other in the winter of a new year, the pointless and empty lives of the workers are revealed; only Bert, a poor student, shows some hope of escaping. On the first Monday, Bert starts at the factory in order to earn money for a college education. On the second Monday, Bert takes leave of his friends, whose jobs and whose lives have remained unchanged. Awkwardly, he tries to find the right words for parting. His friends, unable to believe that anyone escapes the factory, all but ignore him. Bert finally leaves, aware that he will soon be forgotten; with him go the hope and optimism that have brightened the factory.

After the Fall (1964)

      Loose stream-of-consciousness drama in which Quentin, a successful lawyer, addresses an anguished and penetrating self-examination to an unseen imaginary “listener”. In an intricate series of flashbacks illustrating the free association of his thoughts, Quentin strives to determine the extent of his guilt and innocence in relation to the people who shaped his life, particularly the three women to whom he committed himself. He and his first wife Louise devote themselves to uncompromising “honesties” that drive them further and further apart until they can no longer love each other but can only philosophize about their inadequacies. Then, in desperation, he seeks Maggie, a simple-minded pop singer, seemingly without principles: “She was just there, like a tree or a cat”. Yet, during their marriage her simplicity exposes an underlying drive to self-destruction. She becomes an alcoholic and several times takes overdoses of sleeping pills forcing Quentin into the role of her murderer if he does not prevent her suicide. Finally, he leaves and she succeeds in taking her life, but he feels no guilt.

      Facing the possibility that he cannot love, he begins to listen. “to take one’s life in one’s arms” and to accept the ugliness and deceit of life with courage. He hopes to love Holga, a German concentration camp refugee who has found the truth that there can be no innocence after the Nazis’ slaughter and who has the honesty to face her own uncertainties. Enlightened by his newfound knowledge of death and of love, Quentin goes to Holga in the hope that he can honestly forgive and live on, for the destruction in other men is part of him too; it must be faced with courage and, when confronted, forgiven.

Incident at Vichy (1964)

      Long one-act drama that investigates the problem of personal guilt in the context of political and racial atrocities. At Vichy, France in 1942, several men and a boy of fifteen, all suspected of being Jews, wait in a barren room to be interrogated. There is a long discussion about the meaning of life and the desire for self-preservation; the threat of death brings each to a personal spiritual crisis. The various points of view crystallize in the conflict between Prince Von Berg, an Austrian aristocrat frantically trying to maintain his indifference, and the Jewish psychiatrist Leduc. The latter, highly intellectual and articulate, forces the Prince to realize that “each man has his Jew....the man whose death leaves you relieved that you are not him”. Von Berg, overwhelmed by this self knowledge, forces his own safe-conduct pass on Leduc, allowing him to escape and ironically, burdening the psychiatrist with his sacrifice.

The Price (1968)

      Drama in which two brothers meet many years after their father’s death to dispose of the family furniture. Victor Franz, a disgruntled police officer, and his wife Esther arrive first. By the time Walter, a successful physician, gets there, Victor has already accepted a bid from Gregory Solomon, an elderly furniture dealer whose strong appetite for life is contrasted with the dissatisfaction of the two brothers. Victor, who had given up his own scientific career by leaving college during the Depression to support their father, accuses his brother of having abandoned his filial, responsibilities. Walter, however, points out that Victor’s sacrifice was unnecessary, for their father had some money left and in any case had been young enough to return to work. Victor contends that his sacrifice had been made necessary by their father’s pathological fear of being deserted and left destitute. Walter rejects his brother’s attempts to saddle him with guilt; he insists that Victor chose to martyr himself unnecessarily. The two brothers part in anger, Esther, who had hoped that Walter would help her husband to a more satisfying and more lucrative career, accepts the fact that their lives will remain unchanged.

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