In the business of theology it is hard not to be controversial - Jurgen Moltmann

Saturday, 12 February 2005

Death of a Playwright 劇作家之死 (2nd augmented edition)

Arthur Miller died yesterday in his home in Connecticut, USA.

1915-2005; 89 years old.

Arthur Miller is the great signpost in American literature of the 20th century, a giant in contemporary drama, a man of tremendous political and social integrity.

Every student of literature must have studied Death of a Salesman 推銷員之死, which won him a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award in 1949 when he was just 33. And we should also at least be able to spell out the titles of The Crucible and A View from the Bridge 橋頭遠眺, even though we may have never truly read them.

But the most memorable thing about him (apart from his legendary marriage with Marilyn Monroe) was his strong stance against the McCarthy Inquiry in 1950s Hollywood, which was a witchhunt for 'communists' among media people. He put himself at stake for what he stood up against. He put this contempt into his work, and wrote The Crucible which is set in the horrifying witchhunt in late 17th century Salem (Massachusettes, USA).

I was too young when I studied his work back in college, too inexperienced in life, too simple and naive. I never really understood what he was all about. The closest I ever got to him in those days was in Chung King Fai's class of 'Acting and Directing', when I played a conversation scene between the two brothers in Death of a Salesman. Nothing beyond that. Shame.

It was many many many years later that I gradually began to feel little bit of Arthur Miller's critique of the social myth of upward mobility (the so called 'American Dream'), and especially his warmth and acceptance toward the weakness in humanity, and the like.

Gone is the playwright as a conscience of his nation.

Obituary from BBC:

Complete works of Arthur Miller:

The legacy of Arthur Miller:

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