Family values and affinity in the works of arthur miller a thematic study



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FAMILY VALUES AND AFFINITY IN THE WORKS OF

ARTHUR MILLER – A THEMATIC STUDY
A thesis submitted to the

BHARATHIDASAN UNIVERSITY

in partial fulfillment of the requirements



for the award of the Degree of

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

IN ENGLISH
By

D. PRASAD
Supervisor

Dr. K. SUNDARARAJAN

POST GRADUATE AND RESEARCH DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH

AVVM SRI PUSHPAM COLLEGE (AUTONOMOUS)

POONDI – 613503

THANJAVUR

TAMILNADU – INDIA

OCTOBER - 2011

ABSTRACT
Family is an integral part of the society. Every individual attaches importance to his family. He showers love and affection on his family members and strives for the upliftment of his family.

In this context, most of the plays of Arthur Miller depict the life of an individual in the society, and the values he attaches to his family, the emotions shared with his family members.


Arthur Miller’s plays reveal his deep concern for ordinary people and their values. His plays are obviously family concerned. His heroes are failed husband and fathers because, Miller has recognized that the most impressive family plays from Oedipus have modified the concept of family and of the individual under the pressure of society.

The first chapter gives an introduction to Arthur Miller and his plays. His contemporary American writers, the themes handled by them. It also deals with the role of family in the plays of the writer.

Family in Arthur Miller’s plays has a vital and major role. Miller regards family as a polis. He treats family as a means to delineate the affectional ties among the members of the family. Also he uses family relationships as something wider in social context. He always sees the family as related to the larger group, the society in inseparable and life-giving ways. Miller uses family as a microcosm of society. He feels that there is something beyond family; the society is to be treated as a larger family.
The second chapter analyses the fatherly affection, love, and responsibility shared in a family situation in All My Sons.
All My Sons may be considered as a drama of family relationships. Though it appears to be arguing strongly in favour of certain positive relationship between the individual and society, in All My Sons, family relations are predominant. The play deals with the relationship between the mother and the son, the father and the son, the husband and the wife, the brother and the sister and so on.

All My Sons deals with large social issues which reveal interaction of various family relationships and their interlinked sentiments and affection for one another.
The third chapter brings out the familial affection and mutual love, dedication and sacrifice, portrayed in Death of a Salesman. It depicts the keen interest shown by the father of the family on the upliftment of his sons and to eradicate poverty from his family. In this drama, his emotional attachment and sentiments are brought before our eyes.

The nobility in Willy, the protagonist is found not in Salesman, the symbol for the dream of success, but in father, the symbol of love. Till the end of the play, he tries to buy his son’s love and respect at the cost of his own life. He realizes that he cannot sell himself in life, but can sell himself only in death, by bequeathing to Biff, his paid up life insurance.


Thus Death of a Salesman projects Willy’s obsession with bringing his family up and his great affinity and responsibility for his family member
The fourth chapter discusses the love and passion of the protagonist of A View from the Bridge, Eddie Carbone for his niece Catherine which leads to his disaster. Eddie informs his wife that her two cousins Marco and Rodolpho, the illegal immigrants have safely arrived in the country. Catherine also has a surprise for Eddie, she has been offered a job. Eddie protests for a while as he feels that she should continue with her studies, but finally yields to her desires. However his love for Catherine tends to be over-protective.

Eddie and his family are essentially decent, hard working people, hardly criminals in the usual sense. He wants to help his Italian relatives, Marco and Rodolpho who come to this country (America) to get work. Eddie even agrees to their plan of breaking the immigration rules to enter into America. This shows Eddie’s affection for his cousins.

Due to his too much of love and care for Catherine, Eddie becomes possessive. He is not able to tolerate the fact that Rodolpho and Catherine have fallen in love. Eddie’s love for Catherine changes into hatred for Rodolpho. He tries very hard to break this relationship but in vain. He learns that Rodolpho and Catherine have set plans to marry each other. When he is not able to find any other solution, he calls the Immigration Bureau and informs about the illegal immigrants.

Eddie’s problems in the beginning are predominantly domestic rather than public. His main problem is his love for his niece Catherine. His attitude of protection and fatherly concern is slowly replaced by possessiveness and passin for Catherine as a young woman.

Thus the chapter traces the love, affection, passion, possessiveness of Eddie Carbone.
In the fifth chapter the study shows that love, affection, dedication, sacrifice for family, passion, interest to bring up the family are predominant in the plays of Arthur Miller.

The study makes it clear that family values, sentiments, love for one another are predominant in the plays of Arthur Miller.



INTRODUCTION

Of all the literary genres in America, the Drama has the shortest and most sparse tradition. But in the United States of America, Drama was always incapable of keeping pace with the progress in other branches of literature. Although by the nineteenth century, the puritan prejudice against theatre had completely vanished and a great many plays had been produced, they were anything but insignificant. The majority of the plays transcended mediocrity. If the plays were poor, the playwright was also neglected. The tyranny of the actor and the producer held sway in America too, as it did in England. The people’s need for drama was satisfied often by imported stuff.


The period preceding the end of the nineteenth century was a period of dearth in the history of English drama too. The standards of drama had fallen and the theatre had become impoverished. Henry James, to his dismay, felt that the audiences in London demanded nothing but melodrama. But by the end of the nineteenth century, English drama had felt the envigorating influence of Strindberg and Ibsen. A sudden revival in drama took place and George Bernard Shaw, more than any other single playwright, contributed to this revival, but the American theatre was found far behind the times. There were playwrights of some ability like Clyed Fitch whose plays such as The Truth were very popular.
By the next decade the playwrights became increasingly aware of the richness of the American scene. William Vaughan Moody’s The Great Divide contrasts East and West. In The Faith Healer also, Moody shows signs of the fact that he was feeling his way towards adult-theatre. Themes of wide interest and contemporary significances found their way into the theatre by this time. Edward Shelton’s play The Nigger has as its theme racial tension, whereas in The Boss, the central idea is the antagonism between labour and capital. Augustus Thomas, another playwright sought to dramatize regional peculiarities thus introducing local colour into drama. All these writers however were handicapped by a tendency towards sentimentality and a readiness to follow theatrical convention. The much needed break with conventions took place only with O’Neill. The rise of the Little Theatre Movement marked in America, the liberation of drama from conventional shackles imposed by the commercial theatre. The Province-town players, a group of young artists and playwrights got dynamism from the leadership of O’Neill.

Broadly speaking, the modern American drama originates from the Little Theatre Movement of the second decade of the present century. By the early twenties, the modern drama was already an old story in major European capitals. Ibsen and Shaw had their hey-day. Ibsen was already a classic and Shaw had left his impact on the English managers. America was behind the times although the American stage knew well Ibsen, Shaw and the rest chiefly in so far as certain isolated plays had succeeded on Broadway. These foreigners, however, were deeply influencing modern American playwrights.


In 1929, the American theatre experimented multi directions. It tried to represent life more concretely through abstractions, tried to moralize, satirize, lyricize in terms of new manipulations of space and movement, new concepts and sequences of dialogue, new versions of characterization. It also experimented brilliantly on the matter of stage design; the settings in many cases proved more revealing of theme and motivations than the characters themselves. The novelty was not exclusively a matter of techniques, but part of the general stir of experimental activity in the arts. The most important characteristic of the American theatre after 1916 is its relentless experimentalism – desire to avoid clichés of plot, characterization, dialogue, acting and staging, which had hitherto tended to make the theatre dull and lifeless. In the list of experimentations in dramatic form, T.S Eliot’s attempts at the revival of poetic play and the works of Paul Green and Thornton Wilder can be mentioned.
The major playwrights of this period are Maxwell Anderson, Behrman, Robert E. Sherwood, Philip Barry, Clifford Odets and Lillian Hellman. Anderson wrote plays of many sorts – tragedy, comedy with and without music and melodrama. In one play, Both Your Houses, he successfully caught the tough, slangy, debunking style popular at that time. This play, produced in 1933, suggested that personal and regional concerns carry more weight with legislators than the national interest.
It is not until the early part of the twentieth century that an original American drama came into being, with the emergence of Eugene O’Neill. The other most important Americans writing for the theatre in the twentieth century were Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Edward Albee. Of the five, only O’Neill achieved the reputation and stature of a major playwright. But among the playwrights since the emergence of Eugene O’Neill, the two playwrights of the post war American theatre who gained the status of major dramatist were Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.
By the mid-twentieth century, American drama had developed into an entity in world drama. The factor that contributed to this struggle is the American playwrights’ selection of agony, the emotions and the struggle for success on the part of the American people, as subject matter of their plays. This man-centred literary endeavour can be termed as social drama, for it concerned itself with man’s role in the society. Much playwrighting of this period was socially thoughtful and purposeful.
Arthur Miller has been studied from different perspectives – as a moralist, as a social dramatist, as a dramatist of ideas and his contribution to modern American drama has been universally accepted and applauded. Miller never forsakes realism as an attitude. His aim and intention as a social dramatist, focused on the career issues like man’s ultimate status in the society, a search for stable human relationships and an endeavour to synthesize human dignity with social needs and challenges. His constant preoccupation in his plays with people who are in one way or other denied a sense of community, has its origin in his own experience and his own social attitude. Miller’s early background and some of the biographical facts give an account of the shaping influences of his young imagination and his concern for themes like personal integrity and social responsibility are revealed right through his earliest amateur plays and radio- scripts.
Arthur Miller, born in 1915 in a middle-class Jewish family in New York City, grew up in a religious and conservative background. As a young boy used to the security of the family, Miller was personally affected by the economic crash of 1929 and the events which followed it. His father who had been a prosperous businessman suffered great losses during the Depression and was forced to move the family to Brooklyn. His father’s image as a man and an American, diminished for the boy when the Depression brought poverty to the family. After graduation from High School in 1932, Miller had to discontinue his studies and take up odd jobs to help his father. He worked as an errand-boy where he did not distinguish himself. The young Miller, who planned to go to Cornell or Michigan University, when refused admission, ended up in working for his father. Working in his father’s factory was a revelation. If the economic effects of the Depression have begun to awaken his social conscience, the social conditions shocked him. The arrogance, cruelty, hardness and vulgarity of the buyers in particular, affected him in a way he never forgot. He saw his father and salesman of the company treated like dirt. In a sketch written at that time, In Memoriam, he describes a salesman who committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. The salesman in the sketch for whom he felt sympathy in the 1930’s was the basis for the salesman on whom he based Willy Loman some seventeen years later. His first serious description of the Depression years and the effect of the crash on his family appeared in an autobiographical piece A Boy Grew in Brooklyn (1955)
At the University of Michigan, to which he was finally admitted, he got the chance of getting exposed to the articulation of the despair and analysis of the Depression. The plays, Honors at Dawn (1936) and No Villain (1937) won Miller the Avery Hopwood Award. Both plays, reflecting the spirit of the decade, and the influence of Clifford Odets, were social protest plays, stressing the necessity of integrity and responsibility of the individual at the time of crisis. They Too Arise (1938), an expanded and revised version of No Villain, is the work of the playwright at the beginning of his career. Essentially autobiographical, it focused on a family driven by Jewish values and American values. The protagonist, Abe needing to hold his family together, ultimately has to struggle for his integrity. The play reveals Miller’s belief in the family, his Jewish heritage and the values of the Jewish people.
After graduating from the Michigan University in 1943, he began a new play called The Man Who Had All the Luck. In writing it, according to Miller,
The crux of All My Sons…was formed; and the roots of Death of a Salesman were sprouted.

(Introduction to Collected Plays 15)


In 1945, Miller published Focus. It tells the story of Lawrence Newman, a middle-class worker who on getting a pair of glasses suddenly appears Jewish. As a result, he loses his job, his neighbours shun him and he is harassed unbearably.
These early works of Miller prove beyond doubt that it is the Depression experience that formed the basis of the conception of his family drama. He was a witness to the inevitable changes which accompanied the Depression – mass unemployment, poverty and the gathering social tensions leading to familial breakdown and disharmony. In causing such a sudden disjunction in his life, the depression introduced him to a disturbing dimension of outer reality which plays a shaping role in his formative years. It also unfolded before Miller, a facet of capitalism and revealed the basic vulnerability of the social system based on greed and oriented towards profit. Miller’s effort, as a playwright, was to universalize the horrors and absurdities of the Depression into an image of human suffering, in his plays.

Dennis Welland who published the first full length study of Miller’s plays maintained that:


It was the Depression that gave him his compassionate

understanding of the insecurity in modern industrial civilization, his deep-rooted belief in social responsibility and the moral earnestness that has occasioned unsympathetic and often unjust criticism at the age of the Affluent Society.

(Dennis Welland pp 6-7)
The tragedy of the Depression years taught Miller that there was some vital connection existing between the private destiny of the individual and the vaster economic and social forces and work in the world outside. While in the drama of the 1930’s, the problem of social and political responsibility was most sharply and clearly delineated, Miller is notable for his searing drama of personal and societal failure.
Arthur Miller’s fame as one of the most celebrated American dramatists of our times derives primarily from the four plays of 1947 to 1955 – All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and A View from the Bridge. These plays deal with man’s relation to his family and society, his reason for existence, his personal significance and his morality. Apart from the influence of the Depression, Miller encountered the profound appeal of Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian dramatist of the nineteenth century. Miller found in the dramatic method of Ibsen, the exact way of realizing some of his concerns. He felt drawn towards Ibsen’s art of realism and it is the Ibsen of the middle period with whom Miller identifies himself, that is, with the author of The Pillars of Society, A Doll’s House, Ghosts and The Wild Duck. In these plays Ibsen deals with the perennial tragic problem of the individual versus society and it held profound implications for Miller as he was in search of his own version of drama in the early phase of his artistic career. In the context of American drama, with the exception of O’Neill and Williams, the vital dualism of man and his world is often ignored. That is why Raymond Williams in the essay “Realism of Arthur Miller” praises Miller’s views of the world:
The Key to social realism … lies in a particular

conception of the relationship of the individual to society, in which neither is the individual seen as a unit nor the society as an aggregate, but both are seen as belonging to a continuous and in real terms inseparable process. My interest in Arthur Miller is that he seems to have come nearer than any other post-war writer … to this substantial conception.

(Raymond Williams 141)
The critics are of the opinion that Arthur Miller, as a playwright, has emphasized the idea of familial responsibility in most of his writings. Miller has borrowed Ibsen’s technique of the realistic drama to articulate his obsessive preoccupation with the life of the middle-class. He is a descendant of the playwrights of the Depression thirties.
Miller belongs to a generation which experienced history as a terror. His generation passed through a series of terrible experiences like Jew-baiting in America, economic disaster of the collapse of the share market or the Great Depression of 1929, the Nazi holocaust, the Second World War, the McCarthy hysteria and the crisis of American idealism during the Vietnam War etc. Hence the contemporary history happens to be the main reason for the family-centredness of the protagonists of his plays.
Miller, in his interview with Robert Martin in 1969, reflected upon the spirit of contemporary significance which informs his theatre. Recalling that his plays were mostly expression of ‘What is in the air’ Miller said:
Now look at Death of a Salesman. I don’t know of any

other play which deals with the question of what one could call the ordinary man’s strangulation by the system of values that was going on.

(Robert Corrigan 98)

The humanistic angle which characterized the first half of his artistic career was the result of his deep involvement in the struggles of his times.


His concern for moral integrity has revealed the articulation of Miller’s public consciousness for nearly quarter of a century. At a time when the American democratic institutions became dehumanized under the impact of Red-Scare, Miller, through his plays and articles like A modest proposal for specification of the public temper (1954), pleaded for rational sense and sanity. Miller has chosen a position of moral humanism which gets its strength from the values of justice, compassion and respect for the individual conscience.
Arthur Miller insists that the dramatist must not conceive of man as a private entity and his social relations as something thrown at him but rather he must come to see that society is inside man and man is inside society. Each of his heroes is involved, in one way or another, in a struggle that results from his acceptance or rejection of an image that is the product of his society’s values and prejudices. That society may be as small as Eddie Carbone’s neighbourhood or as wide as the contemporary America of Willy Loman. Miller’s work has followed such a pattern from the beginning. Even Ben, the hero of They Too Arise has to decide whether he is to be the man that his middle-class small businessman father expects or the comrade that his radical brother demands, the play ends, of course, in leftist affirmation, but the conflict has been in terms of opposed images, both of which are assumed to have validity for Ben. The hero of The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944) accepts the town’s view of him as a man who has succeeded through luck not ability. In All My Sons (1947), the hero, Joe Keller, fails to be a good man and the good citizen that his son Chris demands. His fault, according to Miller and Chris is that he does not recognize any allegiance to society at large. Willy Loman of Death of a Salesman, regularly confuses labels with reality. This happens with Miller’s other heroes too.
Miller criticizes the society, a business-oriented society in which corruption, selfishness, indifference, a system that turns men into machines or submarines, yet it is increasingly clear that his primary concern is with personal morality. The individual’s relation to a society in which the various goods are almost as suspect as the vicious methods. So the theme that recurs in his plays is the relationship between a man’s identity and the image that the society demands of him.
Arthur Miller’s first successful play was All My Sons. It illustrates the theme that a man should recognize his ethical responsibility to the world outside his home as well as in his own home. It is the story of Joe Keller, a successful businessman who had earned a lot of money during the war by manufacturing defective cylinders for airplane engines. In the course of the play, the discovery is made that his pilot son Larry, believed to have died in an air-crash, had deliberately smashed his plane to pay for his father’s evil which had taken the lives of several other pilots. It is left to the other son Chris, to bring home the truth to his father. At the end, Joe Keller kills himself by way of doing his penance to his son and the society.
All My Sons is a drama of family relationship. Though Miller appears to be arguing strongly in favour of a certain positive relationship between the individual and society, in All My Sons family relations are predominant. The play deals with relations between the mother and the son, the father and the son, the husband and the wife, the brother and the sister and so on.
All My Sons shows the influence of Ibsen. Its theme may be described as the idea of guilt from the past permeating and destroying the present. The guilty protagonist Joe Keller, and industrialist who, during the war supplied the government with a batch of faulty cylinder heads, when these brought about the death of twenty-one pilots, Keller committed the second crime of putting all the blame on his innocent manager Deever. Deever goes to jail and Keller prospers. This irony is supported by other instances that Miller affords in the example of those who suffer fighting for their country and those who, staying behind flourish. But the success of Keller is not lasting. The climax of the play is the suicide of his son in the army on hearing the news of his father’s crime. And Keller stripped of his sentimental defences, kills himself. Keller’s crime, which he claims to have done for his family, and its complications, are vividly drawn by Miller.

Death of a Salesman was Miller’s next play and an instant success. It was hailed as a modern classic and has put Miller among the foremost playwrights of this century. In Death of a Salesman, as in All My Sons, Miller deals with the father’s concern for his sons, his love and affection, dedication in a family situation. Miller is also concerned with the exploitation of the individual and the evils of a commercial society. However the individual is humanized in detail and depth. The ultimate feeling is that although in many respects man is a victim of society, he himself may be a weak individual who is partially responsible for his failures.
Willy Loman, the protagonist, is an aging salesman whose dreams and fantasies of success and wealth are accompanied by failure and disillusionment in his professional and private life. The company he works for, fires him because he has become too old and useless for business. At the same time, Willy’s dreams of wealth and power become desperately more frequent. At home, Willy’s two sons Biff and Happy grow up to be two average non-entities who belie their father’s desire of greatness and grandeur. The only person who loves and understands Willy is his wife Linda. Willy kills himself in an auto accident in the hope that the insurance money from his death will bring to his family all the comfort and luxury which he could not provide them during his life. Thus the play ends in a heart rending situation.
In Death of a Salesman, Miller only describes the last day in Willy’s memories and day dreams. It was because of this that Miller had at first given this play the title, The Inside of His Head and because of the technique he has employed, the play is said to be written in expressionistic style.

A View from the Bridge was a drama which was a great success and brought Miller several awards. It presents a rough type of realism. The scene is that of a poor neighbourhood on the waterfront. Eddie Carbone, a middle-aged sailor, gives shelter in his house to two illegal immigrants, Rodolpho and Marco from Italy, who are his distant relatives. Also living in his house is his wife’s niece Catherine for whom Edie shows a strong protective paternal attitude. But hidden behind that is also an almost uncontrollable Freudian passion for the girl.
Gradually Eddie becomes jealous of Rodolpho’s interest in Catherine and his hostility towards the two visitors from Italy grows. Finally, in order to get rid of them, he informs the police so that Rodolpho and Marco are arrested. But Eddie has violated the communal code of honour and hospitality by betraying the guests and therefore he is isolated and draws the hostility of everyone in the neighbourhood. In the last scene, Marco challenges him to a fight in which Eddie is killed.
A View from the Bridge is a drama of passion in which Miller introduces a new aspect of human personality – hidden forces of instinct and passion. It is a 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. 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. Engaged 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 honour, 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. Thus the play depicts the love, affection, emotion and passion of Eddie Carbone and other members in the family.
Family is an integral part of the society. Every individual attaches importance to his family. He showers love and affection on his family members and strives for the upliftment of his family.

In this context, most of the plays of Arthur Miller depict the life of an individual in the society, and the values he attaches to his family, the emotions shared with his family members.


Arthur Miller’s plays reveal his deep concern for ordinary people and their values. His plays are obviously family concerned. But his heroes are more than failed husband and fathers because, he has recognized that the most impressive family plays from Oedipus have modified the concept of family and of the individual under the pressure of society.

Family in Arthur Miller’s plays has a vital and major role. Miller regards family as a polis. He treats family as a means to delineate the affectional ties among the members of the family. Also he uses family relationships as something wider in social context. He always sees the family as related to the larger group, the society in inseparable and life-giving ways. Miller uses family as a microcosm of society. He feels that there is something beyond family; the society is to be treated as a larger family.


In All My Sons Keller, the protagonist of the play says that family is everything to him. He even goes to the extent of justifying his criminal act of sending defective cylinders to the Army Air force that he did it for the sake of his family.

Chris, his son, on the other hand thinks above the level of the family. His agony is caused by his realization that he does not have the courage to get his father sent to jail.

Kate is a traditional mother. She is unable to bear the idea that her husband is a criminal, nor she can see her sons in distress. Also she is not prepared to believe that Larry is dead. Nobody can convince her of the reality that Larry is no more.

All My Sons deals with large social issues which reveal interaction of various family relationships and their interlinked sentiments and affection for one another.
Death of a Salesman depicts the keen interest shown by the father of the family on the upliftment of his family especially his sons and to eradicate poverty from his family. In this drama, his emotional attachment and sentiments are brought before our eyes.
Willy Loman, the protagonist is introduced as Salesman, who has lost his ability to sell and therefore in the danger of losing his job as well. He also faces the risk of losing his livelihood and above all his self-respect. He is a little man, a low-man in the eyes of the society, as his name indicates.
Since Willy’s career is based on things that are ephemeral, he is not a success in business. His devotion to his family stands on his way to success in business. His sons fail to understand him though they love him thoroughly.

The work concentrates on family values and especially the father’s affection for his sons. He does not want his sons to become failures in life as he is. Willy and Biff are more like brothers than father and son. The nobility in Willy is found not in Salesman, the symbol for the dream of success, but in father, the symbol of love. Till the end of the play, he tries to buy his son’s love and respect at the cost of his own life.


Willy tries to earn the best for his sons, but unconsciously he tortures them with his ambition for them. He realizes that he cannot sell himself in life, but can sell himself only in death, by bequeathing to Biff, his paid up life insurance.
In the play, A View from the Bridge Eddie, shares a good relationship with his wife Beatrice and niece Catherine. Catherine greets him when he returns home from work. Eddie informs his wife that her two cousins Marco and Rodolpho, the illegal immigrants have safely arrived in the country. Catherine also has a surprise for Eddie, she has been offered a job. Eddie protests for a while as he feels that she should continue with her studies, but finally yields to her desires. However his love for Catherine tends to be over-protective.

Eddie and his family are essentially decent, hard working people, hardly criminals in the usual sense. He wants to help his Italian relatives, Marco and Rodolpho who come to this country (America) to get work. Eddie even agrees to their plan of breaking the immigration rules to enter into America. This shows Eddie’s affection for his cousins.

Due to his too much of love and care for Catherine, Eddie becomes possessive. He is not able to tolerate the fact that Rodolpho and Catherine have fallen in love. Eddie’s love for Catherine changes into hatred for Rodolpho. He tries very hard to break this relationship but in vain. He learns that Rodolpho and Catherine have set plans to marry each other. When he is not able to find any other solution, he calls the Immigration Bureau and informs about the illegal immigrants.

Eddie’s problems in the beginning are predominantly domestic rather than public. His main problem is his love for his niece Catherine. His attitude of protection and fatherly concern is slowly replaced by possessiveness and passin for Catherine as a young woman.

Miller has created a dramatic theory and critical comment on contemporary serious drama. Miller’s aesthetic philosophy may not be on par with Brecht and as a thinker, he may be behind Sartre. But he shares with writers like Brecht and Sartre, a conscious intellectual effort over three decades to formulate the role of the writer. He has formulated a dramatic theory of tragic art which forms yet another aspect of his view of drama.
Miller’s search for an exact dramatic method for realizing his depression-born view of the American situation made him turn to the basic strategy of the plays of Ibsen and the leftist drama of the thirties like Odets, Hellman and Rice. It can be termed as Miller’s traditions in his search for the model for the social drama. Miller has given critical comments on drama and the theatre spanning over three decades, in his book entitled The Theatre Essays of Arthur Miller. He wrote about 1929 as “Our Greek Year” in terms of determinist powers in the universe:
A reality had been secretly accumulating its climax according to its hidden laws to explode illusion at a proper time. In that sense 1929 was our Greek year. The gods had spoken, the gods whose wisdom had been set aside or distorted by a civilization that was to go onward and upward on speculation, gambling, graft and the dog eating dog. Before the crash, I thought ‘society’ meant the rich people in the social register. After the crash it meant the constant visits of strange men who knocked on our door pleading for a chance to wash the windows and some of them fainted on the back porch from hunger in Brooklyn, Ney York, in the light of week day afternoon

(Theatre Essays 117)


This comparison between a passing social phenomenon and the metaphysical absolutes in classical tragedy reveals an aspect of Miller’s aesthetic thinking. From Miller’s point of view, the conviction which lay behind this metaphor was a tested one. This conviction grew out of a whole number of impressions associated with the Depression years which gave him an ominous hint of insecurity. The economic collapse of the decade taught Miller, as it taught a whole generation of artists and intellectuals who turned to Marxism as a possible alternative, the basic vulnerability of a social system based on greed and profit. The slump was a system of a wider malaise which spread over on the ethos of the entire nation. It would be Miller’s effort to uncover this malady.
It was the peculiar destiny of some of the literary generations of the twentieth century to have raised similar cries over the disappearance of the systems of faith which had once provided a near religious feeling of secure bliss. Miller, with intensity, perceives the breakdown of what was once thought to be a way of living. He sought to find in the lessons of the Depression the coordinates of a higher sense of human destiny. Again in one of his theatre essays, Miller said,
My standard is, to be sure, derived from my life in the thirties, but I believe that it is as old as the drama itself and was merely articulated to me in the accent of the thirties. I ask of a play, first, the dramatic question, the carpenter-builder’s question – what is its ultimate force? How can that force be released? Second, the human question – What is its ultimate relevance to the survival of the race?

(Theatre Essays 137)


Though in his long career, Miller has reached other frames of references like psychological and metaphysical, to articulate his shifting insights into the contemporary situation, the Depression philosophy remained a constant element in his dramatic vision. The depression forms part of the social background in his plays like Death of a Salesman (1949) and A Memory of Two Mondays (1955). It becomes an element of the family tragedy and an aspect of the American situation in After the Fall (1964). The Depression experience formed the basis of Miller’s social drama. Certain forms of his creative agony as well as critical intuition spring from a tendency on his part to universalize the horrors and absurdities of the Depression into an image of human suffering.
Dennis Welland in his book Arthur Miller says:
it is the depression that gave him compassionate understanding of the insecurity of modern man in industrial civilization, his deep rooted belief in social responsibility and moral earnestness that has occasioned unsympathetic and often unjust criticism in the age of the affluent society

(Dennis Welland 67)


The tragedy of the Depression years taught Miller that there was a connection between the private destiny of the individual and the vaster economic and social forces at work in the world outside. This feeling of sequence or connection is at the centre of the whole technique of retrospective narration formed by Miller in his social plays. This explains his constant concern with causes, actions and the consequence of action. It is found in All My Sons, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. The characters and incidents are deeply rooted in the past; the plays cannot move forward without moving backward to dig up these roots. In the words of the critic Laurence Kitchin in his book Mid-Century Drama which gives a comparison from architecture about Miller’s plays:
These plays remind one of contemporary architecture where it relies for stability on the central pillars unseen from outside

(Laurence Kitchin 152)


The post-war America used modern psycho-analytical ideas in the theatre. Miller also tried to give a measure of sophistication to the realistic theatre through the use of Freudian motivation and symbolism. It is evident in his plays Death of a Salesman and After the Fall. In Death of a Salesman, the buried guilt in Willy Loman is located in the hotel scene in Boston where Biff witnesses the traumatic destruction of his father-god. This scene which occupies a crucial place in the play’s structure carries clear Freudian overtones. In After the Fall, the playwright makes a subdued effort to trace back his protagonist’s neurotic disaffection to a scene in his childhood where his mother betrayed him by lying about her trip to Atlanta. The lurking memory of the experience of abandonment, which is viewed as a kind of unhealing wound, later turns out to be a source of the numerous betrayals in Quentin’s life. Also the stage mechanics through which Joe Keller’s guilt is brought to light in All My Sons, involving Kate’s ‘slip of the tongue’, carry a hint of psychological method. Hence Miller has used psychological motifs for the evocation of a guilt-laden past which intrudes into the present situation in the true manner of the domestic tragedies of Ibsen.
Apart from Depression, the theatre born out of the Depression influenced Miller’s inner development. The Depression era in American literature is known as ‘The Angry Decade’. Malcolm Goldstein in his perceptive study of this decade in his book The Political Stage: American Drama and the Theater of the Great Depression states:
The theater of this period was affected by an urgent sense of historical crisis; and its moral stridency and ideological ardour, its insistent topicality and single minded rhetoric arose out of a belief shared by many that drama was essentially a weapon in the great struggle of the day. This decade witnessed the rising popularity and a number of young playwrights influenced by the Marxist ideology who seized upon the issues affecting the contemporary society and delivered a warning to the American people faced with the chaos of Depression

(Malcolm Goldstein 309)


There are interesting parallels between Odets’ Waiting for the Lefty and Death of a Salesman. The theme of work-alienation and its depersonalizing effects on the individuals runs like a dark thread through the visions of social disarray conjured up in these plays. Also, the ending of Odets’ Awake and Sing and Death of a Salesman is suggestive of Odets’ influence on Miller. The ending in both plays turns an act of suicide which takes place under similar circumstances. In Awake and Sing, Jacob commits an accident-suicide in a frantic effort to supply the scion of the family with the much needed insurance money. In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman commits suicide in order to help his younger son Biff to make a new start in life. Robert Bechtold Heilman, in his book on Tragedy and Melodrama on the Modern Stage, in a study of the melodramas in the contemporary theatre, interprets the gesture of Jacob and Willy as another version of “death as an opportunity” motif which figures in same of the “money plays” of Odets and Miller belonging to the Great Depression.
Odets, while articulating the dilemma of the society, frustrated by economic breakdown, has offered above all a fervent faith in the possibilities of a new world in which all mankind could awake and sing, a world in which “happiness isn’t printed on dollar bills”. The element which lends strength and maturity to Death of a Salesman is Miller’s avoidance of the simple minded propaganda of the drama in his honest probing into the sources of human failure in an alien social system. Willy Loman is not, like Jacob, stirred by the hope that his suicide is going to change the society and the young generation will triumph over the money orientation which destroyed his life still his act of sacrifice remains as a question mark thrown to a materialistic society ruled by the business sense of life where the death of Willy Loman is worth twenty thousand dollars while his continued existence does not seem to be, in such quantified terms, worth anything to anybody.
Miller is always concerned with larger issues, values, morality and justice. His interest is that attention must be paid to the aspiration, worries and failures of all men especially, of the little man who is the representative of the society. According to Miller, truth, courage, responsibility and faith must be the central values of men. In most of his plays, he has dealt with the individual’s relation to his family and society which demands his responsibility to maintain social equilibrium.
In his plays, Miller analyses the individual’s social relationship and the social needs of an individual is exteriorized in terms of social concept. He differs from his contemporaries by forming the concepts of moral responsibility with in the family. He emphasizes that, it is immoral for one man to accumulate more wealth at the expense of many. His plays are mainly concerned with the inner life of an individual which is substantial. But in the modern society, where science has brought many developments, modern man has begun to serve the machine. This, in turn, has made man give first place or importance to the needs of efficient production than of human values.
The present study aims at analyzing the nature of familial responsibilities and the familial values like love, affection, passion, dedication, sacrifice etc. shared by the members of a family among one another in a family situation as depicted in Miller’s plays.

CHAPTER - II


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