The play Arthur Miller 2 Background to All My Sons 3 Synopsis 4 Design 4 Themes 5
The play: characters 6
Practical Exercises 8
For Discussion 8
Other related materials 9
All My Sons by Arthur Miller This production opened at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre on 6 July 2000
Director Howard Davies Designer William Dudley Lighting Designer MarkHenderson Music Dominic Muldowney Sound Designer Paul Groothuis
NT Education Royal National Theatre South Bank London SE1 9PX
Workpack written by Christopher Bigsby Professor of American Studies at the University of East Anglia, author of Contemporary American Playwrights, and editor (with Don Wilmeth) of The Cambridge History of American Theatre.
Editor Dinah Wood Coordinator SarahNicholson Design Patrick Eley
See www.nt-online.org for further production details
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Arthur Miller Arthur Miller was born in Harlem, New York City, in October 1915. At that time the area was largely Jewish and Italian. His father, who had emigrated from Poland at the age of eight, had built up a sizeable companymanufacturing women’s coats. He was the epitome of the American Dream, which proposed that America offered the opportunity to rise from rags to riches, a dream whose material thrust Miller would later question both in All My Sons and Death of a Salesman. The family was rich, with an expensive apartment and chauffeur-driven car. They lost much of their money, however, in the Stock Market crash of 1929 andmoved to the then less fashionable borough of Brooklyn, just across the river from the tip of Manhattan. The Depression which followed made a deep impression on Miller and echoes throughout his work. Together with the Civil War of the 19th century, it was, he believed, the experience that touched the lives of most Americans. He himself learned that it was possible suddenly to lose everything, alesson later reinforced by the treatment of the Jews during the war, and it is worth remembering that Miller is Jewish. When you know you can lose everything you have to decide what really matters in life, what is fundamental. In many of his plays, including All My Sons, he would insist that human relationships and obligations take primacy, that it is necessary to accept responsibility for your ownlife, your own actions, but also to accept that you live in the world and that therefore you are responsible for and to others. The Depression also forced Miller into manual labour in order to earn enough money to get to university. He delivered bread at four in the morning, drove a delivery van, worked in an auto parts warehouse. This, in turn, gave him a respect for those who also struggled ona daily basis. At University, in Michigan, he became radicalised. This, after all, was a radical decade, with the Spanish Civil War raging in Europe (several of his friends went there and died) and strikes and labour unrest in America. He also began to write, winning a series of prizes for plays which also had radical themes. After University he made his money by writing radio plays, often onpatriotic subjects, and by working on a film script about army life, eventually made under the title The Story Of GI Joe. He tried to enlist but an old football injury kept him out of the services so, while writing his plays, he worked as a fitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was to draw on this experience as background for A View from the Bridge in 1955. His first Broadway play, The Man Who Had Allthe Luck, was a failure. It closed after four days. In despair, he turned to the novel and wrote Focus, which took as its subject antisemitism in America, a remarkable choice given the fact that America had been engaged in a war against Nazism abroad. It was published in 1945 and was a considerable success. He decided, however, to have one last assault on the theatre. The result was All My Sons....