Early Life

Arthur Miller was born in New York in 1915. He was the second child in the wealthy Jewish family. His father was a successfully businessman who operated a fashion business that hired hundreds of employees. However, the family wealth was quickly broken apart due to the bad investments Miller’s father made in the stock market during the Great Depression (Garner). As a result, young Miller had to start working at early ages to help support the family. After graduating from high school, he worked in an auto parts company for two years. After saving some money, he entered the University of Michigan. In 1947, his All My Sons was staged and became famous. The play won the New York Drama Award of the year, and his play continued to receive attention. In 1949, The Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Award, the Tony Award, etc., thus reinforcing the position of Miller in the American theater world (Garner).

Marilyn Monroe

In July 1956, Arthur Miller and Hollywood movie star Marilyn Monroe were married, and the public was stunned by the news. They had fallen in love at first sight in 1951, but Miller, who was the father of two children and had a virtuous wife, struggled for four years. In the words of American writer Norman Mailer, their marriage put “the Great American brain” and “the Great American body” together (Garner). Miller became the focus of attention and the topic that people talked about, and the popularity brought by the marriage has far exceeded the numerous theater awards that his works had won. Miller appreciated Monroe’s unique humor and innocence, as well as the neglected intelligence behind the sexy appearance. Monroe’s tragic past had also aroused his desire to protect, while Monroe admired the solemnity and knowledge of the cultural elite. She vowed to be a good wife and a good mother. However, the reality was that Monroe’s serious self-destructive tendency had made Miller exhausted. In 1960, their marriage ended.

The Death of A Salesman

As a child who had witnessed the decline of his own family and the shattering of the American dream for his father, Miller had started observing the life of the working class closely. Based on human nature, Miller borrowed from the small figures in the society to profoundly interpret the melancholy spiritual conditions that needed to be cared for under the shadow of society. The beautiful dreams were crushed by the cruel reality, and people were full of inner struggles and helplessness (Emami 355). In The Death of A Salesman, Miller carefully combined realism and expressionism. On the stage, the boundaries of time and space are completely broken. The switching of lights represents the shift of time and space. Even different time and space appear at the same time, and the whole stage is fantastically changed. The protagonist Willy Loman constantly splits himself and represents himself in a way that is monologue and self-talking (Emami 355). These innovative ways of expression have made the play one of the most fundamental works in America drama history.

Miller and China

During Miller’s life time, China was going through tremendous social and political disturbances. The playwright showed great concerns over the cultural revolution and the anti-Japanese wars in China. After the establishment of the Sino-US diplomat relationship, Miller was among the first Americans to visit China. Arthur Miller’s works have also been well received by the Chinese audience (Wu, Li, and Zhu 2). His influence on Chinese drama has been tremendous. First, along his realism spirit, a series of realistic masterpieces emerged on the Chinese stage. These works were all about reality and the pressing social issues that modern people face nowadays. The psychological and techniques of Arthur Miller’s works are also widely used in the creation of drama in China, and are more understood and accepted by people (Wu, Li, and Zhu 8). The origin of many innovative play writing ideas can be traced back to Miller’s works.

Contributions and Influences

Miller was an Ibsen-style social drama writer who has always opposed Western commercialization and purely entertaining vulgar drama. He believed that drama is a serious undertaking that reflects social reality. The stage should be more important than pure entertainment. The medium of thought communication should serve a serious goal. He pointed out that if the playwright does not investigate all the causal relationships that society has as an obvious and crucial part, it is impossible to create a truly high-level serious artwork (Tallack). Miller’s plays deeply dissect the issues of the American society, revealing the hidden dangers, enabling people to be mentally alert and enlightened. The classic characters such as Willy Loman is actually the people themselves. His plays have been so profound in capturing human nature and the distortion of the commodified society that they remain relevant even in the present day. Meanwhile, Miller has also inspired modern playwrights to focus more closely on social issues.