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Arthur Miller: The Creator of Theatre for Common Man

(i) Dr A S Rao, Asst Professor of English (ii) Pawan Kumar Sharma, Research Scholar
MITS University,Lakshmangarh, Sikar, Rajasthan E-mail: Mob: 09950261775, 09587063792 (Abstract)

Arthur Miller (1915-2005), an era man created a distinct place among the contemporary American literary giants. Arthur Millers theatre of common man and his views of the tragic hero have acclaimed a universal appeal and a yardstick to gauge the theatrical dimensions. It is intended here to highlight that if ordinary people are put into the similar emotional situation of Greek heroes, the same result will appear. Miller explains that the tragic height which has been so far attached to the noble personage is unauthentic, and such dimension can be attained by the commonest individual who is willing to throw all he has into the contest. Willy Loman, an unappreciated prince, John Proctor, a farmer, and Joe Keller, a

peasant like common sense seek to protect their equitable position in the society. Miller judges that common man is an appropriate subject to be a tragic hero because he can also has superior authority and appeal to all class of people. In this sense, we can declare that tragedy is the outcome of a man and total compulsion to evaluate himself justly. Through his popular theatre essay, Tragedy and the Common man, Miller has been successful to draw the attention of playwrights that the tragic intensity and height of the olden plays can be achieved by common man as the hero of the play. Tragedy has always some relevance to our modern society which is no longer bound closely to the facts of princes and queens. Moreover, the study concludes that the catastrophe of commoners in the plays of Miller, according to the position of modern criticism, holds the same social and tragic height in the mind of the audience and stands on equivalent balance with

Greek tragic heroes.

Arthur Miller, one of the leading and major dramatists of 20 th

century American literature, was born on 17 October, 1915 in New York City who studied at the University of Michigan. His chief dramatic works include Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), All My Sons (1947), The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944) and A View from the Bridge (1955). Miller has highlighted in his plays that courage, truth, responsibility and faith must be the central values of man. He was well aware with the life of commoners in America which has been reflected in dramatic works. Arthur millers concept of tragedy is essentially modern, so it is different from the classical view. In his essays, miller laments the lack of tragedies. It is held that the tragic mode only fit for the very highly placed, the kings or the kingly. He protests and opines in his essay, The Tragedy and the Common Man that the common man is an apt subject for tragedy commenting that if the commoners are put in the similar emotional situation of Orestes and Oedipus, the same result will appear. And if the tragic action gets totally on exclusive property, the play will not become the object of whole mankind. Miller brings out that our tragic feelings are evoked only we see a character fighting against odds to restore himself/herself to a rightful position. In this sense, we can state that tragedy is the consequence of a man and total compulsion to evaluate himself justly. As far as the tragic flaw is concerned, it is inevitable to get rid of for anyone if he is living and acting. According to miller, neither our miseries, our indignities nor the society is responsible for the cramping of lives for both do not represent balanced concept of life. Miller writes

that the tragic dimension which has been so far attached to the royal personages is spurious, and such dimensions can be achieved even by the commonest person who is willing to throw all he has into the contest. Miller explains that tragedy is in fact more optimistic from other playwrights who simply take tragedy as a tragic-ending piece of art. In short, miller seeks to draw attention of the playwrights that the tragic intensity and height of olden plays can be achieved by common man as the hero of the play. Since we have no hero or royal personage, we are left only with common people. In millers view there will be no harm if we choose common man as the tragic hero for ordinary man can also has greater influence and appeal to all class of people. Tragedy, as miller states, has always some relevance to our modern society which is no longer bound closely to the facts of princes and queens. He suggests that the social status of a hero does not matter at all. The hero is raised to tragic dignity by the unusual intensity of his feeling and by his inability to walk away from the dangers and pain implied in his situation. Now lets focus on Arthur millers theatre of common man through his major plays and various definitions of modern tragedies given by critics and scholars. If we go through the critical literature on tragedy, we are much amazed by the number of different definitions given to tragedy. Coming to an example, Joseph Wood Krutch states that no modern play is tragic because the protagonist does not have exalted rank. In arguing the question of rank, miller allows for the common man to accomplish the function of tragic hero proving that his life

....engages the issue of, for instance, the survival of the race, the relationship of man to God-the question....whose answers define humanity and the right way to live that the world is a home, instead of a battleground or a fog in which disembodied spirits pass each other in an endless twilight Miller considers the most aspect of tragedy to be the question that arise from the drama: they must define humanity and right way to live. A common thread in observation of tragedy is that the tragic hero should be a representative character of status and virtues but depicting fundamental aspects of human nature so that the audience can identify with him and his suffering, and thereby learn from it. The above given definition of tragedy reminds us about millers striking and popular plays such as Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and All My Sons. In all these plays, the protagonists are representative who struggle to secure their identity and good name in the society. Willy Loman, metaphor for American society, although unwanted and blue but he leaves no stone unturned to secure his rightful position in the society. John proctor and Joe Keller also make a quest to preserve their image in the society. In the play, All My Sons, miller has portrayed to the audience the character, Joe Keller, killer of twenty one American pilots, as an old fashioned ordinary American, with peasant like common sense who commits a serious and blunder mistake by supplying faulty air-plane cylinders to the American air-force and as a result twenty one pilots were killed. On coming to know his mischievous fathers unmendable fault, Chris Kellers fury on Joe brings fear and pathos to the audience:

Chris: (With burning fury) what the hell do you mean you did it for me? Dont you have a country? Dont you live in the world? What the hell are you? Youre not even an animal, no animal kills his own. What are you? What must I do?

Joe Keller is representative of American capitalist society who kills himself in expiation at the end of the play realising that those American pilots who died were equally all his sons as Larry and Chris Keller. In the play, The Crucible, John Proctor, a farmer, is ready to forfeit his life for his good name and dignity when he is forced to either confess to a crime he has not committed or to hanged or to be hanged, he chooses the latter in order to maintain his dignity as he says with a cryBecause I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! ........ How may I live without my name? Representative, as Dorothea Krook asserts, is more important than social status. The tragic hero should represent some fundamental persistent aspect of human nature. Aristotle proposes that the hero possesses grandeur in both status and character but millers theatre argumentedly assumes that rank is unimportant and the hero should be one of us. Because the hero represents humanity, as Leech says, he naturally has a flaw and represents reality. This flaw is not necessarily limited to those of higher status, but is inherent in the common man. The commoners are not completely good or evil, nor are

they pre-eminently virtuous and just, so they should be suitable figure for the role of tragic protagonists. In the view of Joseph Conrad, the tragic hero should be one of us. He is not necessarily virtuous, not necessarily free from profound guilt. What he is, is a man who reminds us strongly of our own humanity, who can be accepted as standing with us. Arthur Miller declares himself to imbue his characters with experiences of struggles, griefs, losses, along with small acts of heroism. His protagonists, Willy Loman (low man), carries the weight of being representative American man, a figure who toils and pusses onward, unrecognised by the world, in presenting such a figure, Miller hoped to raise the fears and empathy of his audience. Miller announces his focus on common Americans struggling for but failing to seize a communal sense of success. Millers works as a whole give evidence to his concentrated consideration on the instabilities and flaws of ordinary Americans. Identical crisis is prevailing everywhere in this world. This concept is equally fit for the protagonists of Miller also. We notice that Willy Loman, John Proctor and Joe Keller also die to sustain their good name and rightful position in the society as Miller states that society is inside of man and man is inside society. Thus the tragedy of Millers tragic heroes can be aptly considered like the tragedy of Greek heroes because Willy Loman, John Proctor, Joe Keller, King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth etc make a quest for their image and dignity in the society of which they become victims. The protagonists of Miller, as T.W. Craik explain, become Millers Everyman who undergo a disintegration of

personality which the playwright attributes to the brutalities of the acquisitive American society.

Millers idea of the common man parallels that of Unamuno. Willy can wholly symbolize in the modern world. What Willy needs, and what Miller does not appear to observe, is to learn to weep. Stenberg claims that the 20th century is the time when the common man could be noticed, exalted, and compared to the characters and tragic figures of earlier epochs. Concludingly, it can be put on writing on the basis of above observation that Arthur Millers theatre deals with common man as Miller takes a innovative step forward by placing his protagonists at the heart of tragedy. For Miller, the tragic flaw in the hero is not essentially a weakness. It is mans opposition to stay passive to what he thinks to be a challenge to his dignity. In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is the tragic hero. Miller makes a case for the Common man protagonist, the low man, as the tragic hero. He is a man who struggles against a stable cosmos to secure what he conceives his right, to defend his dignity. Thus, all the protagonists, in the plays of Miller such as Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and All My Sons are Willy low man but at the same time those ordinary men take on that tragic stature to the extent of their willingness to throw all they have into the contest- the battlefield to secure their rightful place in the world.

1. Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman, Certain Private Conversation in Tow Acts and a Requiem, New York : Penguin Books, 1998.
2. Miller, Arthur: The Crucible, New York: The Penguin Group, 1995. 3. Miller, Arthur: All My Sons, New York, 1957. 4. Miller, Arthur: Tragedy and the Common Man, New York Times, February, 1949. 5. T. W. Craik , ed. The Revels History of Drama in English by Travis B. R. Moody and Walter J. Meserve: (London : Methuen & Co. Ltd. 1977)

6. Steinberg, M. W. : Aspect of Modern Drama, New York, 1960. 7. Lewis, Allen: American Plays and Playwrights of the

Contemporary Theatre (New York Crown, 1966). 8. Krutch, J.W. : The American Drama since 1918, Brazillar, 1957. 9. Miller, Arthur: Collected Plays (with an Introduction), Allied, New Delhi, 1978.