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September 01, 2007

The Death of a Playwright's Image

Well, it seems playwright Arthur Miller was a phony. The man hailed as the conscience of a generation, whose writings told America how it should behave, put his own son into an institution because the boy had Downs Syndrome. Miller even cut his son out of his will, until actor Daniel Day-Lewis convinced him otherwise.

Sure, it could be argued that many of his generation would have done the same, but Miller - we're told - was different. The New York Times extolled his "fierce belief in man's responsibility to his fellow man." I guess that responsibility ended, though, with having a son whose condition made him either an inconvenience or an embarrassment.

I should admit - I've always hated Miller's two best-known plays - "The Crucible" and "Death of a Salesman." The heavy-handed, pedantic moralism contained in both of those works smothers any story Miller was trying to tell. It always seemed to me Miller was more interested in message than art, which always made his plays and the adaptations of them seem more like sermons than stories.

When I read this news about Miller, a quote by Nathanial Hawthorne comes to mind: "No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true." Miller's public face has finally come into conflict with his private behavior, and the end result is not flattering to the playwright.


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posted by Slublog at 09:39 PM

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