Personality of the Week: Arthur Miller

Death of an Intellectual

Arthur Miller did not need to die to become famous - he was the face of the American Intellectuals who were unafraid to raise important social issues and to ask questions about their society, presenting the other side of the Great American Dream, of which Miller was a part.

Born on October 17th 1915 into a family of Polish immigrants in New York City, Arthur Miller's family was deeply affected by the Great Depression in the 1930s, which changed their standard of living dramatically for the worse. Arthur Miller later confessed in an interview to The Guardian newspaper (2002) that all his generation was affected by the experience.

Naturally, his works reflected the social preoccupations he saw around him in his adolescence and he saw in Marxism a way out: "Marxism seemed to be the key to our problems. Money was in the wrong hands. We needed to rebuild our society", said Miller, although later in life he was less convinced about Marxism as a social model.

Arthur Miller began writing plays while studying journalism and English at the University of Michigan and in 1944, his first play to appear on Broadway (The Man who had All the Luck, 1944) won a New York City Theatre Guild Prize but only appeared for four nights due to lack of audiences. However, five years later, he reached the pinnacle of success with Death of a Salesman, a masterpiece about the fragility and precariousness of a man's life and career which won the most important prizes attributed to the theatre: The Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics Circle Award.

The social preoccupation of his works brought the animosity of the right-wing establishment and Arthur Miller was hauled before the McCarthy's Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities after writing The Crucible, set in New England in 1692, whose main theme was hysterical witch-hunts. However, he refused to denounce any of his left-wing friends, declaring that "I do not believe that a man has to become an informer to be able to continue practising his profession freely in the United States". For this he was denied a passport and considered in contempt of the House, a decision which was overturned in court in 1958.

As President of the International Pen Club, Arthur Miller visited the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1965.

An admirer of Chekov, Arthur Miller decided to become a writer after reading Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

He wrote a number of plays which enjoyed a great number of major successes spanning six decades - All My Sons (1947), Drama critics Circle Award; Death of a Salesman (1949), Drama Critics Circle Award and Pulitzer Prize; The Crucible (1953), Tony Award; A View from the Bridge (1955); After the Fall (1964), Incident at Vicky (1964); The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972); The Ride down Mount Morgan (1991).

Several of his plays were made into films and Miller also wrote a number of screenplays, among which were The Story of GI Joe (1945) and The Misfits (1961).

Miller also wrote several books, among these Focus (1945), I Don't Need You any more (1967), In Russia, a travel book (1969), Chinese Encounters (1979),Timebends: A Life (1987) which was an autobiography.

Later on in his life, Arthur Miller won the Laurence Olivier Prize (1995) and the Prince of the Asturias Prize (2002).

"Attention, attention must finally paid to such a person." (from Death of a Salesman)

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Author`s name Andrey Mikhailov