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Marvellous Miller in Schools

It is Miller time again for both secondary and A-level students. Arthur Miller, to be precise, continues to enjoy a sustained presence in schools across SG. “Death of a salesman” was an O-level text more than  7 years ago. There was “All my sons”, which enjoyed a long bout as one of the JC texts ending only about five years ago, then currently we have “Playing for time” as one of the text in paper 1, Reading Literature for A-levels. An independent school was using “The View from a Bridge” as a text for Lang Arts, and now it is used as one of the many O-level texts for drama for Pure Lit students.

Miller’s plays are deceptively simple given their rather short length, but beyond that there is nothing simple about his plays for there is no mistaking the enormous talent and the courage of Arthur Miller in addressing social and moral taboosThey usually deal with sensitive issues pertaining to the metaphysical conditions of humanity such as man’s conscience, moral responsibility and culpability, alienation and marginalisation, the frailty of human beings, the mulitude of motives that underlines our decisions and actions.

Sometimes I feel his plays are too complex for secondary school students, unsuitably troubling for  impressionable and sometimes confused minds of teenagers. Here I am speaking as a parent, a protective educator…well you cannot blame me for today’s society is a lot more complex and therefore more corrupting than the time of my youth. For A-level students, his plays will stimulate intellectual inquiry and discussion.

I am therefore surprised that “The View from a Bridge” is one of the new O-level plays for Pure Literature students. “Playing for Time”, an option for A-level Literature is one of the least produced plays. Miller like George Bernard Shaw was never one to shun controversial issues. “Playing for Time” is one of the three Holocaust plays – the other two being “Incident at Vichy” and “Broken Glass”. This play which is actually a script written for a CBS TV film that is based on acclamied Jewish musician Fania Fenelons’ autobiography, “The Musicians of Auschwitz”.