biography of arthur miller

Arthur Miller


Biography of Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller was born in gin New York City on October 17 1915. He was a second born son of Augusta and Isidore Miller. Arthur Miller graduated from Abraham Lincoln High school, but he was not able to attend college due to the Great depression (Wikipedia, 1). After the great depression Arthur Miller was left with little money hence he did several unskilled jobs and was able to go to the University of Michigan by paying his own tuition fees. Arthur Miller married Mary Slattery in 1940 and had two offspring’s, a son (Robert) and a daughter (Jane). In 1956 Miller divorced Mary and married the famous actress Marilyn Monroe. The famous playwright died in 1995.

Miller has won numerous major awards acknowledging his lifetime achievement in American theater: in 1959, the National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded him a Gold Medal; in 1984, the Kennedy Center Honors; in 1995, the William Inge Festival Award; in 1996, the Edward Albee Last Frontier Playwright Award; in 2000, he was inducted into the Jewish American Hall of Fame (Arthur Miller Society, 1). For his eightieth birthday in 1995, tributes to the playwright were held at the National Theatre in London, and at the Town Hall in New York City

The author’s rearing was Jewish; hence it endowed him with a sturdy ethical and principled center which is obvious in his works and vitality. On various occasions when he was distressed it also gave him a sense of comfort and distinctiveness. There is a temptation to describe Miller as a realist, because his plays often seem to present speech and situation as they appear in everyday life. However, Miller dislikes definitions of his writing as realistic, because he sees himself as one who is not attempting to create reality, but rather interpret it. Constantly trying out new techniques, Miller has created works whose artistic form is part of their message. His influence on American theater has been a profoundly moral one, through which he has reintroduced humanistic concerns which place mankind’s improvement as uppermost, and popularized a social theater which promotes social reform. Miller’s recognition, depiction, and insistence of tragedy as it exists in everyday people’s lives has been one of his most controversial contributions. He has also made stylistic innovations, such as the “subjective realism” mode of presentation devised for Death of a Salesman, or the poetic diction he has created for many of his characters, which have further influenced the development of American drama, and show his importance in American literary history.

Although Miller is known first and foremost as a playwright, he has, over his career, turned his hand to numerous forms of writing. Aside from his plays for radio, television, and stage, he has published a successful novel, numerous short stories, a children’s book, an autobiography, books of reportage, and many important articles and essays.

Death if a Salesman:

Death of a Salesman is a play written by Arthur Miller. It depicts the failure of man to cope with the self and his tendency to behave as a Rip Van Winkle, failing to keep up with the changes that the self and the society embody with the passage of time. The play revolves around the last 24 hours in the life of Willy Loman, his suicide and funeral serving as the end. Recollections, dreams, skirmishes and arguments are the tools that the playwright uses to address the theme of the play.

The Loman family, comprising Willy, Linda, Biff, and Happy are the tools that Miller utilizes to erect an automatic and continuing saga that has refutation, disagreement, and a tug between order and disorder at its helm. (Bloom, 10) Involved in an affair almost 15 years ago, Willy tries to put a curtain on it throughout his life. This is the thread on which Miller builds the play, putting light as to how an incident and the following cover up tell of a person in the eyes of the world. An example is Willy’s son Biff. Biff was a huge fan of Willy, advancing comprehensive belief in the tales that Willy told him. Willy had a belief that man could achieve anything provided he was “well-liked.”  Billy readily approved of this too. However, on apprehending Willy’s disloyalty to Linda, Biff’s perception of Willy and his values undergoes a metamorphosis. The man known to the society and to Willy himself was nothing but a phony impression of the real Willy.

The play has a major theme which also breeds divergence in that the family in general and Willy in particular are unable to draw a line between reality and illusion. Willy is unable to comprehend the stature of himself and his sons. Under a false impression that the father and sons are gifted enough to overcome the odds, he is in fact blinded by not coming to terms with their inability to attain success.

This fault is embedded in the characters of Willy, Hap, and Biff; although in the case of Biff it is found on a very limited scale. The play highlights this on a number of occasions, most notably Willy living under the impression or illusion that success is an outfall of being well liked or whole heartedly accepted by society. Often in the play, one finds Willy having bouts of recollections comprising dialogue and circumstances dating back years. This represents his lack of capacity to come to terms with reality.

Willy’s fall from the sky is an outfall of this tug between reality and illusion. Towards the end, he adopts the notion that man can be “worth more dead than alive.”(Miller 32) This notion is refuted by Charlie, as he serves as the ambassador of reality. He says “A man isn’t worth anything dead” in response to Willy’s earlier remark. (Miller, 35)

The American Dream has escaped Willy. The play serves as an interpretation of society. Willy ended up nowhere, used as if a “piece of fruit”, although his whole life was spent under the shadow of Democracy and Free Enterprise. (Bloom,8)

The performance of the play constitutes an exceptional occurrence for the spectators. There is a traditional aspect to the play as the play embodies socialization between actors, a story line, and certain dramatic rudiments. These include exposition, rising action, conflict and climax. But the play also has a few characteristics that distance it from a traditional stature. This is embedded in the way Miller contrasts Willy’s mental state using time and space as his tools. This technique allows Miller’s spectators to observe Willy’s psychological unsteadiness and join in it.

However circuitously, the play completes the tragic pattern of the past becoming the present and it affirms the tragic dictum that there are inevitable consequences to choices, that “the wages of sin” must be paid. Lacking a singular tragic protagonist, it offers a composite figure of father and sons who embody the tragic conflict between the imperative of success and the “system of love.”(Miller, 98) Leaving society unredeemed, it ends in a sacrifice to reclaim the family and restore love. Death of a Salesman is something more than melodrama or “low tragedy” in its revelation of tragic vision, choice, awareness and consequence. (Bloom, 28)

Other Plays by Arthur Miller:

Arthur Miller is a traditional figure, but his works have an independence of occasion which contrasts very markedly with this alternative American tradition.

Arthur Miller wrote countless plays, his first Broadway play The Man Who Had All the Luck(1944) was a big failure but some of the most famous plays written by the author are, All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), Incident at Vichy (1964) ,The Crucible (1953), After the Fall (1963),  A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), The Misfits (1961), A View from the Bridge (1955), Playing for Time (1981)  and  The Price (1968), etcetera. (Wikipedia , 1)

Miller has been relatively fortunate in finding apt metaphors to signify the implications of a “gap between the private life and the social life.” Most of his symbolic images, it is true, are drawn along simple lines a carousel that conceals hatred ( Focus); a fruitful tree destroyed in its prime ( All My Sons); “green leaves” blotted out by the hard outlines of apartment buildings, a flute song displaced by childish nonsense from a wire recorder, a wife’s praise erased by a whore’s laugh ( Death of a Salesman)(Doollee, 1); a dingy warehouse harboring hopeless inmates ( A Memory of Two Mondays); a herd of mustangs moving toward extinction ( The Misfits); a ruined tower that memorializes horrors committed by “ordinary” men ( After the Fall); feathers and a broken pot guarded as if they were life itself ( Incident at Vichy); a “massive,” discarded armchair ( The Price). (Otten , 165)

Just as obviously, many of Miller’s workers, a fearful personnel manager in an anti-Semitic corporation ( Focus) and an unscrupulous industrialist ( All My Sons), a frustrated salesman ( Death of a Salesman) and a dispirited policeman ( The Price), dehumanized laborers ( A Memory of Two Mondays) and displaced cowboys ( The Misfits) find little spiritual “sustenance” in their trades (Otten,168). Men who look for a satisfying social role in a productive occupation Chris Keller, Biff Loman, Kenneth and Bert, Gay Langland, Quentin, and Walter Franz are disappointed; even the reborn Lawrence Newman faces a future as a “glorified usher to salesmen.” (Doollee, 1)Miller’s experimentation with expressionistic, realistic, and rhetorical styles, has been conditioned by his overriding desire to declare objective truths about man in society

Miller’s tragic aesthetic differs in many significant respects from traditional classical and Christian theories. In part, these differences can be traced to more recent ideas. For example, it owes a great deal to the romantic celebration of heroes such as Satan, Prometheus and Faust. But it is also a product of Miller’s own exploration of dramatic form. Miller’s construction, if rarely flawless, is never formless. His metaphors, if at times palpable, are occasionally subtle. It is the dialogue that swings between extremes of brilliance and insipidity. Colloquial speech may be heard in an amazing variety of accents Irish, Swedish, German, Sicilian, Slavic, Barbados, Yiddish, Puritan, Brooklyn, Southwestern, and Midwestern.


Miller has penned a large number of articles and essays during his career, many of which have sparked off major controversies. A number offer his views on various political, social, and moral issues, including the Holocaust, anticommunism, Marilyn Monroe, and P.E.N. There are many more which comment on other artists, writing plays, and the nature and function of theater itself. In 1978 many of these were collected into a book entitled The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller, which was updated in 1995. In a number of these articles, Miller is very critical of the American theatrical scene’s capacity for producing serious drama, seeing it as having been ruined by commercialism and a serious lack of subsidy. He has also granted numerous interviews over the years, in which he has further commentated on art and life in general.


Miller, Arthur. Death of a salesman. Penguin (Non-Classics); (October 6, 1998). Page Number 32-35, 98.

Otten, Terry. The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller. University of Missouri Press. Columbia, MO. (2002). Page Number: 165-168

Bloom, Harold. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Chelsea House, New York. (1988) Page Number: 8-10, 28

Wikipedia, Arthur Miller. The free encyclopedia (2007). Retrieved from:

The Arthur Millers Society. BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF ARTHUR MILLER’S LIFE AND WORKS. (2007), Retrieved from:

Doollee. Arthur Miller. The Playwright database. (2007). Retrieved  from :

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