Death Of Salesman And Crucible Arthur Miller, winner of many literary and dramatic awards, is an incredibly influential force in American drama. His plays deal with issues common to every society. He makes the audience face fault, weakness, and ignorance; subjects we would typical hide from. At the same time he emphasizes strength, human spirit, and familial love. Alice Griffin believes that Miller’s plays are important internationally (xii). He belongs to an international theater rather than a regional theater (Heilman 170).
His plays are staged and studied by students to understand American life in Russia, P and, Iceland, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, and China to name a few (Griffin xi). Miller’s works thrived in England. The University of East Angelia named it’s center the Arthur Miller Centre (Griffin 1). They can relate to the sense f identity, honor, recognition, and familial love (Griffin Preface). In a production in Beijing, Miller explained to a Chinese actor playing Biff the son’s feelings of guilt and “painfully requited” love for his father, the actor understood as it is v y Chinese (Morath 79). The phenomenon of Death of a Salesman has been the same all over the world. Audiences all have a sense of their life story of their father, uncle, or brother (Griffin 35).
In real life Miller had an Uncle Manny who had two sons ho were in competition with Miller and his brother. Manny ended his own life because he failed at business. Miller’s personal history is demonstrated in his sensitive and passionate writing in Death of a Salesman (Griffin 41). The Crucible (1952) was originally intended to be called Those Familiar Spirits, referring to a spirit that a witch presumably sends out to torment her victims. However, the well area at the bottom of a blast furnace is known as the crucible, it is whe the molten steels collects being entirely broken down due to immense heat. Miller thought that this was a precise metaphor for what happened in Salem. Crucible also means a harsh trial or examination.
John Proctor’s integrity was surely investigated. He chose to die instead of confessing to being evil. According to Raymond Williams, The Crucible is a powerfully successful dramatization of the notorious witch trials of Salem. It is technically less interesting than its previous ones because it is b ed on a historical event which is explicit enough to solve, the difficult dramatic problems which Miller had originally set himself. Miller brilliantly expresses a particular crisis “the modern witch hunt” in his own society, but it is not often, in ou own world, that the issues and statements so clearly emerge in a naturally dramatic form (13).
Miller used the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century, to make an indirect, but assertive comment upon McCarthyism in American life (Richard Watt, Jr. 536). In 1953, when the play was produced, the United States was in social and political turmoil. Joseph McCarthy a Senator from Wisconsin and the play in comparison were both significantly politically infamous. The Senator was responsible for the investiga ons to find communists in the State Department, Hollywood, and the U.S.
Army. These investigations created fear and suspicion within our society. McCarthy was eventually found guilty of misusing his authority (Watts vii). Before being found guilty S ator McCarthy accused the Democratic administration of sheltering and helping Communists in the American government. It was a fearful time similar to that in Salem. The United States government called McCarthy’s activities witch-hunts.
In The Crucibl Miller mentions that McCarthy accuses individuals of being Communist if they opposed him. Any government official who criticized his hearings was soon found to be defending himself against the charge of being involved in a Communist conspiracy. Miller mpared McCarthy to the Salem judges in a broad sense (Cliffnotes 52). In 1953 The Crucible was attacked as a comparison to the current Senate “witch hunts.” Critics said it was not a good play at that time, however, later it was found to be superior. he House Un-American Activities Committee summoned Miller to a hearing.
Miller refused to name others as communist sympathizers. He also said that he would only take responsibility for himself and not others. Miller was fined and given a thirty day s pended jail sentence because he spoke out like John Proctor in The Crucible (Griffin 7). During the McCarthyism period witnesses refused to answer questions and when they did they were scorned (Bentley 302). Thousands of people who refused to answer q stions and confess were executed during the seventeenth century. Authorities believed that “believing in witches was extensive in America and Europe” (Cliffnotes 44 – 45). Eric Bentley provides us with information that “Arthur Miller had tried to apot osize this heroic refusal to speak in dramatic literature (The Crucible).
In real life, unhappily, such refusal was rendered suspect and ambiguous by its whole background in the life and hates of the Communist Party” (302). Cushing Scott states that, “Miller has argued for (the) historical truth (of the play), pointed to its contemporary parallels, and defined its transhistorical subject as a social process that includes, but also transcends, the Salem witchcraft trials a the anticommunist investigations of the 1950’s” (128). However, Miller was interested in the witch trials before he opposed McCarthyism however. He decided to write the play telling about the fear and hysteria McCarthyism caused. His play makes clea the facts from the past that sinners and guilty people were mistaken for witches in Salem (Bu*censored* 128 -129).
Elsom writes that Arthur Miller wrote about witch-hunting in Salem but it was really an indirect commentary on Joe McCarthy and the congression sub-committees investigating un-American activities. (140) Joe McCarthy probably thought of Arthur Miller as a “dangerous communist subversive,” but in Europe he was regarded to be agreeably “left wing” (Elsom 139). After a few years McCarthy had died and the committees were dissolved. The Crucible was included in schools as a modern classic. “A political jou alist might have summed up Arthur Miller’s achievement like this: he had helped to rally the moderates against the forces of extreme right-wing reaction” (Elsom 140). Guilt..
was directly responsible for the’social compliance’ which resulted in McCarthy’s reign of terror in the 1950’s: ‘Social compliance’.. is the result of the sense of guilt which individuals strive to conceal by complying.. It was a guilt, in this historic sense, resulting from their awareness that they were not as Rightist as people were suppose to be (Bu*censored* 133). The Crucible made a statement for the subject of the free man’s fight against emotional terrorism to put him down. Arthur Miller was completely involved with the social and moral problems of American society and inevitably made an impact on the world. he danger from Russian subversion was a more obvious danger than the witch hunts of innocent people in 17th century Massachusetts (Watts viii).
The comparison in 1953 was harmful to Arthur Miller and his drama. The similarities of the two eras dealing ith freedom of judgment against barbaric control remains an issue today. Witch-hunting and the evil Salem trials in The Crucible was a work of social dramatic art making a statement of evil intolerance for global history (Watts viii). Miller wrote The rucible to prevent history frm repeating itself. Miller does not use an ordinary plot in The Crucible. “..
tension inheres in episodic conflicts rather than in an over-all advancing action. The sense of an evolving general situation, so well achieved by tight structure in The Crucible.. is larg y gone” (Heilman 151). Heilman states that Miller, turned to more vigorous characters who cause suffering rather than uncomprehendingly suffer, he portrayed an evil rooted in human nature overwhelming the community, he made advances toward complexity of motive, and he began to discover inner division (160). In Salem, Massachusetts, a black slave woman and twelve teenage girls were caught dancing around a bubbling cauldron in the woods, despite the fact that dancing was not allowed by the Puritans. The Puritan government ruled the church in 1692 and relig n believed that women who dance with the Devil are witches.
Fearing being hanged the girls blamed each other. Everyone in the town panicked and began accusing everyone else of witchcraft. The Puritans believed that the Devil was continually enticing man. If a person sinned they had to confess it, regret it, a perform some act of penance. To avoid being hanged many people in The Crucible confessed to sins they did not commit.
Fearing that she would be damned forever Rebecca Nurse refused to confess. Adultery was one of the worst sins someone could commit. The Puritans also thought that anything pleasant was the work of the Devil, therefore, they were a serious and fearful group. It was an atrocious sin for children to even dance, so to avoid punishment they would pretend to be under the spell of the Dev . The Puritans believed that a person became a witch by entering into an agreement with the Devil.
They further believed that the Devil or one of his witches could take over the body of an innocent person (Cliffnotes 44 – 47). It is a complex story b Miller makes it easier because he starts each new act telling us of the dreadful possibilities and ending each act with the possibilities happening. Miller uses a repetitive style of questions and answers forming the rhythm of the play. The story is t d in John Proctor’s perspective (Barron’s Booknotes 7 – 8). The Crucible has a narrator, a voice not a character, that tells us about the characters and the action and helps us to understand the moral implications. The director of the l958 off-Broadway revival for The Crucible drew the consequences of the revised text and introduced ‘a narrator,’ called The Reader, to set the scenes and give the historical background of the play.
The introduction of a ‘narrator’ element in The Crucible is closely related to Miller’s attempts to have a separate voice present the author’s view of the ‘generalized significance’ of the ‘action’ in the later play (Overland 57). The Crucible has a “series of non-dramatic interpolated passages in the first act, where the playwright takes on the roles of historian, novelist and literary critic, often all at once, speaking himself ex cathedra rather than through his character ex ena” are concerned with motivation. “Psychological, religious and socioeconomic explanations of the trials are given.. Miller has also been seen to depart from the second of his basic principles of playwriting in introducing narrative and expository p sages into The Crucible” (Overland 57 – 60). Overland writes that Miller tends to confuse the characters with the real people with the same names from the seventeenth century, such as Parris, Putnam, Rebecca, and Francis Nurse (60).
“Conflict between a man’s raw deeds and his conception of himself,” poses as the struggle for John Proctor to attain high standards. To understand the character Proctor it is important to realize his sense of guilt, which is made clear to us by Elizab h’s remarks and his behavior. Individual tragedy to John Proctor is the back bone of the play. The first Puritans struggled to survive. John Proctor and John Hale went against the order of the Puritan society in The Crucible. Reverend Hale declares at the Devil can delude God so he can certainly fool humans. (Cliffnotes 43). During the witch trials there would be no half way point it was either black or white.
If guilty you were to be hanged. You had to remain obedient. Rebecca Nurse symbolize a wise woman who knew her place, the place of the church and the dangers of witchcraft. The danger could be brought forth at any time within the play. The confrontations within the play were brought together in precise detail but the powerful were bro ht to a lower level throughout the play. You could not be fearful or you would be among the guilty.
Ezekiel Cheever arrested Elizabeth Proctor, even though he was on her side, because he had no other choice. Abigail Williams was described by Rebecca “the very brick and mortar of the church.” All hell broke loose due to the evil of Abigail Williams, seeking revenge on the Proctors when John stopped the affair. Miller writes as though he belittles his characters and condemns them as he sees fit to unt down all dwellers of the Salem society. The irony was that the purist of the citizens hunted down the innocent people and plagued them with crimes, when they themselves were now a part of the crime of the hunt. Hale was the first to come to the re ity to oppose the view of the court proceedings and terminate his position in the court. It was better to hang innocent people than to admit to a wrong doing.
Old Goodby Osborne was found guilty of witchcraft because she could not remember the commandm ts (Cliffnotes 43). Hale later in the play realizes that this is wrong and tries to convince Proctor to flee for his life which leads to the most dramatic scene of confrontation. John Proctor is caught in the tangled web he has woven between his wife, riends, and himself and the entire Salem community. Proctor did not want to be a part of the trials and was forced to make important decisions. He was also accused of being a witch. His destiny relies on his choices.
He becomes a rebel against the c rch and now he must sign a confession. John Hale tries to convince Proctor’s wife to get him to sign. Elizabeth replies with “I think that be the Devils argument.” Which means John Proctor knows inside himself what he will do and no one else will cha e his mind. John Proctor mulled this over and over and he finally came to a decision. A once weak man now had the authority to make a commitment to mankind.
He has chosen to die an honest man. “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from hi ” Charity and justice are major features of human relationships, both public and private. “These issues, therefore, not only frame the play, but specifically define the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor, and they largely determine the co se of their tragedy” (Bu*censored* 135). We recognize our own victory over evil from our Puritan past because of the struggles for justice in characters like John Proctor.
The Crucible practically has all of the qualifications of a successful tragedy as Miller imagines them to be. “Yet it c not be said to reach ‘those heights where the breath fails’ because it lacks something far more important to drama: that sense of vividly and fully imagined character that made of Willy Loman a kind of modern Everyman” states Clinton W. Trowbridge (44). It is apparent that Danforth and Hathorne are a threat to freedom. Proctor is not a threat to freedom because he does not have the power or authority.
The Puritans became dangerous and powerful in the new world. Also powerful is the richest man in Sa m, Thomas Putnam. He gets land by having his daughter accuse others of witchcraft. Indeed, the apparent difference between Proctor and the Puritans serves only to stress how corrupting power can become in the hands of a certain kind of person, the Puritan American who is obsessed by his own guilt and driven by the desire to determine sanctity in himself and in others, and to make it conform to the visible human being (Bu*censored* 131). It is ironic that Proctor is a victim of what he opposes.
As well as John Proctor adding to his own disaster, the Reverend John Hale finds that in trying to solve a horror he creates a horror. “He could be a tragic hero, but his role is minor: throug him, then, the play has a ‘tragic accent’ ” (Heilman 324 – 325). Arthur Miller was not satisfied with the original version of The Crucible so he added additional data. Overland reports that Miller added a scene to explain Abigail’s behavior even though it was not needed (57). Miller does not accomplish artistic d th in The Crucible “because of his inability to project seventeenth century sensibilities and thus to sympathize with them.” The play, according to many critics, “is not seriously historical and, therefore, not seriously literary or political. This pl seems to fail to reach the social, historical, and moral depth of a great work of art, because it cannot imaginatively conjure the world that it pretends to describe” (Levin 127). The Crucible, some critics say, is a controversial and a modern virtuous lay.
Miller has created a community disturbance too far-reaching to result from an evil plot of a simple villain according to Heilman (144 – 145). “The Crucible is an argument in favor of moral flexibility. The fundamental flaws in the nature of the Puritan elders and by extension of the McCarthyites, as Miller sees it, is precisely their extreme tendency toward moral absolutism” (Bu*censored* 129). wants to abolish these factors. Critics say that there is a balanced cast of sinners and non-sinners who deserve our sympathy.
Despite the continuing serious crimes by judges Danforth and Hathorne, there is a moral education in the characters Hale an Parris. Goody Nurse and Giles Corey symbolize “unabated moral sanity and good will” (Bu*censored* 130). John Proctor is a basic hero who opposes evil. He was, however, indiscreet with Abigail Williams, this of course is only a fabrication by Miller. Mill ‘s plays constantly stress the value of the nuclear family, the ties of loyalty between husband and wife, and their protectiveness towards their children.
Marriage can be destroyed.. soured by nagging sexual guilt (as the The Crucible),.. it nevertheless remains an emotional stronghold, the instinctive centre of people’s lives, without which society itself falls in anarchy and self-destruction (Elsom 140 – 141). Proctor does in some ways represent an enemy to the community because he does not like the representative of the church. He doesn’t go to church regularly and did not take his sons to be baptized. Moral judgments are made by the good people and Salem’ leaders.
“The courts condemn the “witches,” to be sure, and this act is the most flagrant example of over-zealous righteousness in the play” (Bu*censored* 130). The town is unmerciful in its destruction of witchcraft. Miller originally thought of naming his play The Inside of His Head instead of Death of a Salesman. He wanted a huge head to appear and then open up so that we could see inside. This, in dramatic terms, is expressionism, and correspondingly the guilt of William Loman is not.. a single act, subject to public process, needing complicated grouping and plotting to make it emerge; it is rather, the consciousness of a whole life. Thus the expressionist method, in the final form of the play, is not a casual experiment, but rooted in the experience.
It is the drama of a single mind, and moreover, it would be false to a more integrated – or less disintegrating – personality (Williams 11 – 12). Through the years expressionism has become sensitive to the experience of weakening. It can be categorized in two ways, personal and social. “The continuity from social expressionism remains clear, however, for I think in the end it is not Willy Loma as a man, but the image of the Salesman, that predominates,” maintains Williams. The social theme in the alienation of Willy is his transition from selling goods to selling himself.
He becomes the merchandise which will at some time become economicall useless. The convincing sense of Death of a Salesman is one of false awareness, “..the conditioned attitudes in which Loman trains his sons – being broken into by real consciousness, in actual life and relationships. The expressionist method embodies his false consciousness much more powerfully than naturalism could do” (Williams 12). Slang is used perfectly in the play because it is a result of their lifestyle. In 1950 Death of a Salesman was attacked in America as part of a communist movement threatening the American way of life and capitalism.
Stage productions and movie shows were closed because Senator Joseph McCarthy accused individuals in this field o being communists. Actors, writers, and directors confessed to socialist principals to save their careers. Those who denied the charges found themselves unemployed (Griffin 5). Death of a Salesman is one of the lasting plays of our time. It’s strength lies in the ability to evoke sympathy and pity rather than fear and incite anger and controversy (Trowbridge 43). Probably the most significant comment about Death of a Salesm is not its literary achievement but the impact it has had on readers and viewers in America and overseas.
Its influence continues to grow in world theatre (Jackson 36). Death of a Salesman has been described by Professor Francis Fergusson as “poetry n the theatre” (Jackson 35). It is a myth which projects before the spectator an image of the protagonist’s consciousness. The playwright attempts to reveal a tragic progression within the consciousness of the protagonist. He employs, as the instrumentation of vision, a complex theatre symbol: a union of gesture, word, and music; light, color, and pattern; rhythm and movement (Jackson 35). The most important asset that playwright Arthur Miller holds is his knowledge of the theater.
He knows that plays must deal with matters of interest to the public. It is almost impossible to not be impressed with a play by Miller because they are writ n realistically. “A play,” according to Miller, “ought to make sense to common-sense people.. the only challenge worth the effort is the widest one and the tallest one, which is the people themselves” (17). In Tom F. Driver’s writings he states that, We must remember that the only success both popular and critical Miller has had in this country is Death of a Salesman” (20).
He does have weaknesses in his writings. Miller has too narrow a view of man in society. He has not investigated human natu fully, restricting him to a specific social theory. Miller’s idea of the real world in which humans must deal is limited and how he sees life is not extensive. He does not possess the curiosity that would help him to solve problems. One might say that he sees the issues too soon, sees them in their preliminary form of social or even moral debate, but not in terms of dramatic events that disturb the audience’s idea of basic truth, which is the foundation for it’s moral attitudes.
Miller is a playwright who wants morality without bothering to speak of a good in the light of which morality would make sense. Man must be made to create his values and live up to them (Driver 22). According to Harold Bloom, Miller is not an articulate writer but he is not a bad writer either. Miller articulates, in language that can be appreciated by popular audiences, certain new dimensions of the human dilemma (Jackson 36). Both Death of a Sa sman and The Crucible if properly staged are very effective dramas.
Death of a Salesman is the best of the two, ranking as one of the half-dozen crucial American plays. There are still many other questions about the staging of the play that can not be bsolutely answered correctly. Each person will have different ideas as to why Miller used the music the way he did, about the way he uses language, about the comic lines and how they should be read, about the order of the scenes, and about the change f m the present to a scene from the past because of the use of a certain word and phrase (Schneider xx). “Yet its literary status seems to me somewhat questionable, which returns me to the issue of what there is in drama that can survive indifferent or ev poor writing” (1). “Thus with all our efforts, and good intentions, we have not yet achieved a theater; and we have not, I believe, because we do not see life in historic and dramatic terms” (Kernan 2).
“Our greatest novelists and poets continue not see life in historic and dramatic terms, precisely because our literary tradition remains incurably Emersonian, and Emerson shrewdly dismissed both history and drama as European rather than American” (Bloom 2). Whether the play is a narrative or a lyr al one the American style usually leans towards romance and musing, or something bizarre, rather than drama. “Miller, a social dramatist, keenly aware of history, fills an authentic American need, certainly for his own time” (Bloom 3). Bloom question if it has the aesthetic dignity of tragedy, but no other American play is worthier of the term, so far (5). The author has captured a kind of suffering that is universal, probably because his hidden model for this American tragedy is an ancient Jewish e. Willy Loman is not Jewish, but there is something about him that is and according to Bloom, “the play does belong to that undefined entity we can call Jewish literature. The only meaning of Willy Loman is the pain he suffers, and the pain his fate uses us to suffer. His tragedy makes sense only in the Freudian world of repression, which happens also to be the world of normative Jewish memory” (5).
In the Jewish environment everything has already happened and nothing can be new again because the is a meaning in everything and everything hurts. That order known to Jewish memory is the secret strength of Death of a Salesman and the reason for its ability to endure shrewd criticism. Miller wonderfully states that Willy’s decision to die happens hen “he is given his existence..his fatherhood, for which he has always striven and which until now he could not achieve.” Willy is really a good man who only wanted to earn and have the love of his wife and sons. Willy is dying throughout the play n because he wants to be successful but by the common desire to be loved even though he feels he does not deserve it. “Miller is not one of the masters of metaphor, but in Death of a Salesman he memorably achieves a pathos that none of us would be wise to dismiss” (Bloom 6).
Deciding if Death of a Salesman is or is not a tragedy is determined by the reader or viewer interpreting it. “Is Willy, for instance, a born loser, or is he a game little fighter who, having been sold a bill of goods about the American Dream, keeps s gging it out against unequal odds” (Weales xvi)? It is often believed that tragedy only happens to people of higher status. In Barrett H. Clarks writings he states that Miller believes that the common man experiences tragedy as well as kings. Miller els that this should “be obvious in the light of modern psychiatry, which bases its analysis upon classific formulations, such as the Oedipus and Orestes complexes, for instance, which were enacted by royal beings, but which apply to everyone in similar motional situations”(Popkin 537).
Tragedy is the result of man’s total duress to judge himself justly according to Miller (Popkin 537). John Gassner calls Willy a “loud-mouthed dolt and emotional babe-in-the-woods.. and if so, does his love for Biff somehow let him transcend that characterization” (xvi)? Willy has been called a “low-man” by Schneider, a “common man” by Eleanor Clark, “victim” by Wiegand, a “poor, flashy, self-deceiving little man” by Ivor Brown, a’schizophrenic’ by Hynes, and a ‘social-martyrdom image’ by Raymond Williams. “Clurman is interested in him as a salesman, but Fuller, who has understandable interest in alesmen, prefers him as Everyman.” Weales also writes that “Bierman, Hart, and Johnson find a basis conflict between the salesman and the man in him” (xvii). Willy has a complex personality and all of these things at once.
It is because of all the fa s and lies, the realities and fantasies that Willy has the potential to actually kill himself. He does not realize whether he is condemning or defending himself when he speaks (Weales xvii). Many readers feel that the play is about Biff and that it is a play about a son’s troubles with his father. “Willy’s recognition of Biff’s love does not alter his basic self-delusion about success, the audiences attention, sympathy, concern turn to Bi , who.. finds his ‘true self,’ finds understanding, pushing Willy out of the spotlight” (Clurman and Gassner xvii). Schneider states that For me, the Requiem of the play is ironic, the gathering of people who never understand Willy at all, and how much more effective it would be if Biff’s ‘I know who I am, kid,’ were taken as still another sample of Loman self-delusion, the true legacy (the insurance being the false) of Willy (xviii).
Dillingham believes that Linda adds to Willy’s plight, but according to T.C. Worsley Linda is the perfect wife. Willy’s wife interacts with all the people in his life. She cares for their children Happy and Biff. She washes and mends the clothing and rries about paying bills. She loves and admires Willy (Griffin 49).
Most of the critics believe that Linda is the character that the audience should admire. Robert Garland feels that she is “the one character in the play who could see clearly what wa going to happen. There is no doubt about what that means in the context of the play. It is not necessary to decide, that Linda is the central character in ‘Salesman,’ but it is important to decide just what her function is in the play” (xix). Accordi to Schneider the lesser characters should not be ignored. Of importance is Happy’s feeling of guilt because he hates his older brother, Biff.
It is questionable whether Charley, Bernard, Howard, or Ben are acceptable character or stereotypes. “If the lay belongs, as Gassner says it does, in the tradition of American realism, then those characters may stand out as unreal, stock. If, however, Miller’s borrowing of expressionistic techniques allows him to use a type character when he needs one to make point, they may be functioning legitimately within a particular scene” (Schneider xix). Willy is a victim of ignorance. Willy “the protagonist is still only a man to whom things happen, who is not capable of even a belated understanding, and who is seen in a vocational and technological rather than a broadly human context” (Heilman 143).
nd according to Heilman, Miller “wrote pathetic drama, the history of an undivided character experiencing pitiable obsolescence” (160). Miller tracks suffering to the ancient cause, ignorance and he follows Loman’s progress from ignorance, suffering, t enlightenment. “As in Classic tragedy, the price of this ‘Odyssey’ is death, but, through his personal sacrifice, the protagonist redeems his house, and promises to his posterity yet another chance.” Loman’s suicide, as in traditional tragedy, is a con adiction to his victory over the circumstances (Jackson 35). Arthur Miller struc …