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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

14. Becoming Visible

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- James Baldwin
- Saul Bellow
- Gwendolyn Brooks
- Ralph Ellison
- Bernard Malamud
- Paule Marshall
- Arthur Miller
- N. Scott Momaday
- Grace Paley
- Philip Roth
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Arthur Miller (b. 1915)

For Justice and Peace
[8611] Wives of the Hollywood Ten, For Justice and Peace (1950), courtesy of Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries.

Arthur Miller Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Arthur Miller was born in Manhattan to a German Jewish family. His father, a successful clothing manufacturer, lost the business in the 1929 stock market crash, and the family was forced to move to Brooklyn. After working two years to earn tuition, Miller enrolled at the University of Michigan to study journalism and began writing plays as well. Following graduation he worked for the Federal Theater Project, writing for radio, and eventually married Mary Slattery. His first Broadway success, All My Sons, was produced in 1947 and won the Drama Critics' Circle Award. Death of a Salesman (1949) won the Pulitzer Prize. He also has won Tony Awards, an Obie, and the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award and has earned honorary degrees from Harvard and Oxford Universities.

Miller's inspiration for The Crucible (1953) came from the McCarthy hearings in Washington, during which those suspected of communist sympathies were subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee and "confess" as well as name other "suspected" subversives. Miller himself was a victim of McCarthyism and in 1957 was convicted of contempt for refusing to identify writers with supposed communist allegiances, a conviction which the Supreme Court overturned on appeal a year later. The Crucible, a rather transparent allegory of the communist witch hunts of that era, received unfavorable reviews. Nevertheless, this morally complex play has remained one of Miller's most powerful and popular creations.

Miller is perhaps best known for Death of a Salesman, a tragic homage to the average American middle-class, mid-century man, personified by salesman Willy Loman. Alienated from work, community, and family, Loman hungers for prosperity and personal glory but is trapped by his circumstances.

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