Death of a Salesman

Miller, Arthur

Arthur Miller, 1915–2005, American dramatist, b. New York City, grad. Univ. of Michigan, 1938. One of America's most distinguished playwrights, he has been hailed as the finest realist of the 20th-century stage. Miller's plays are, above all, concerned with morality as they reflect the individual's response to the manifold pressures exerted by the forces of family and society. Recurring themes of his major works involve the overwhelming importance of personal and social responsibility and the moral corruption that results from betraying the dictates of conscience.

Miller's masterpiece, Death of a Salesman (1949; Pulitzer Prize), is the story of a salesman betrayed by his own hollow values and those of American society. The Crucible (1953) is both a dynamic dramatization of the 17th-century Salem witch trials and a parable about the United States in the McCarthy era (see McCarthy, Joseph Raymond); it has been his most frequently produced work. In A View from the Bridge (1955; Pulitzer Prize) Miller studies a Sicilian-American longshoreman whose unacknowledged lust for his niece destroys him and his family. Miller's tumultuous life with his second wife, Marilyn Monroe, to whom he was married from 1956 to 1961, is fictionalized in his After the Fall (1964), and a barely disguised version of the glamorous but troubled actress also appears in his last play, Finishing the Picture (2004).

Miller's other plays include The Man Who Had All the Luck (1940), All My Sons (1947), Incident at Vichy (1965), The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), The American Clock (1980), The Ride down Mount Morgan (1991), Broken Glass (1994), and Resurrection Blues (2002). He also wrote the screenplay for The Misfits (1961); the television dramas Playing for Time (1980) and Clara (1991); a novel, Focus (1945); and two books of short stories (1967, 2007). Miller's The Theater Essays (1971, rev. ed. 1996) is a collection of writings about the craft of playwriting and the nature of modern tragedy, and Echoes down the Corridor (2000) is a collection of essays (1944–2000), many of them autobiographical. He collaborated with his third wife, the photographer Inge Morath (1923–2002), on several books; their In Russia (1969) is a study of the Soviet Union.

See his autobiography, Timebends (1987); M. C. Roudane, Conversations with Arthur Miller (1987), S. Centola, Arthur Miller in Conversation (1993), M. Gussow, Conversations with Miller (2002); biographies by M. Gottfried (2003) and C. Bigsby (2008); J. Meyers, The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe (2010); studies by B. Nelson (1970), R. Hayman (1972), J. J. Martine, ed. (1979), D. Welland (1979, repr. 1985), L. Moss (rev. ed. 1980), H. Bloom, ed. (1987), J. Schlueter and J. K. Flanagan (1987), N. Carson (1988), P. Singh (1990), S. R. Centola, ed. (1995), A. Griffin (1996), T. Otten (2002), C. Bigsby (2004), and E. Brater, ed. (2005).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Play: A Critical Anthology
Eric Bentley.
Prentice Hall, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 is Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman"
Understanding Death of a Salesman: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Brenda Murphy; Susan C. W. Abbotson.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1988
Willy Loman
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1991
Student Companion to Arthur Miller
Susan C. W. Abbotson.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Tragedy: Death of a Salesman"
Arthur Miller
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Death of a Salesman: Tragic Myth in the Modern Theatre" begins on p. 27
The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller
Terry Otten.
University of Missouri Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Death of a Salesman"
"I'm Not a Dime a Dozen! I Am Willy Loman!": The Significance of Names and Numbers in Death of a Salesman
Ardolino, Frank.
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, August 2002
Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960
Judith E. Smith.
Columbia University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "The Creation of an Ordinary American Tragedy: Death of a Salesman" begins on p. 223
Death of a Salesman: Deracination and Its Discontents *
Novick, Julius.
American Jewish History, Vol. 91, No. 1, March 2003
Like Father, like Sons: Miller's Negative Use of Sports Imagery in Death of a Salesman
Ardolino, Frank.
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 1-2, March 2004
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