Two Early Plays

Dennis Welland

As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan Miller achieved, with at least two plays, a success that did not attend his first Broadway piece, The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944). It won a Theatre Guild prize, and the shortness of its run attracted from the Burns Mantle Yearbook the comment that this “unusually interesting and well-played comedy was mistakenly withdrawn, it seemed to this writer, after only 4 performances. It was at least worth a three-week chance to find itself and its public.” Although Miller chose not to include it in Collected Plays, its anticipations of the later works merit discussion.

In the printed version (which is not identical with the version staged) David Frieber, a garage mechanic in a small midwestern country town, prospers in business and in private life by a series of chances, despite a conviction that things must sometime go wrong. Eventually, to satisfy himself that skill matters more than luck and the generosity of his friends that have so far shaped his life, he mortgages everything to start a minkfarm. Adverse weather conditions and a delivery of diseased fish threaten the success of the minks’ whelping, on which everything is staked, but disaster might still have been averted were it not that Hester, his wife, sensing his superstition, forces him to let them die: “It’s not that they must die. It’s that you’ve got to kill them … I want you to know once and for all that it was you who did it.” Like the characters in Miller’s later plays, though more artificially, David is thus forced into an acceptance of moral responsibility.

From Miller: A Study of His Plays. © 1979 by Dennis Welland. Eyre Methuen, 1979.

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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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