Miller, Ibsen, and Organic Drama

Sheila Huftel

“You have such a talent for ignoring things.” This exasperated accusation is made by Chris in All My Sons, which, like Miller’s adaptation of An Enemy of the People, deals with the clash between people who can and people who cannot walk away from things. Both plays are about evasion and commitment, a wilful blindness and a need to see. Joe Keller and Peter Stockmann can settle for an unprincipled practicality; Chris and Dr. Stockmann cannot.

Keller protests, in excuse, “Chris, a man can’t be a Jesus in this world!” It is meaningless to Chris: without his commitment there would be no person left. Through Jim Bayliss, Miller shows what would have become of Chris had he followed the “practicality” urged on him. Jim was a doctor committed to research who imagined that he could give it up, accept a small-town practice, and not be lost. He is, in fact, destroyed far more deeply than Keller. “These private little revolutions always die. The compromise is always made … and now I live in the usual darkness; I can’t find myself; and it is even hard sometimes to remember the kind of man I wanted to be.” But for Miller compromise is not obligatory, and in these plays it is rarely made. Chris, Willy Loman, John Proctor, the helplessly driven Eddie Carbone, all preserve their selfhood by standing out against Jim’s assumption; it is the compromises made in After the Fall that cripple Quentin.

-33-

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Arthur Miller's All My Sons
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Modern Critical Interpretations iv
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • The Question of Relatedness 5
  • Thesis and Drama 15
  • Joe Keller and His Sons 19
  • The Living and the Dead in All My Sons 27
  • Miller, Ibsen, and Organic Drama 33
  • The Failure of Social Vision 47
  • All My Sons and the Larger Context 63
  • "The Action and Its Significance- Miller’s Struggle with Dramatic Form 77
  • Two Early Plays 91
  • All My Sons 101
  • Realism and Idealism 107
  • The Dramatic Strategy of All My Sons 113
  • Bad Faith and All My Sons 123
  • Chronology 135
  • Contributors 137
  • Bibliography 139
  • Acknowledgments 141
  • Index 143
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