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Miller’s Life and Death

When I first read about him having been one of Marilyn Monroe’s husbands, I was scandalised. What was this intellectual hunk doing with her. This same sentiment was shared by some of the students I have tutored before. I read in his biography by Christopher Bigsby that neither did he cry at the news of Marilyn’s death nor was he at her funeral. When it was his time to go, he insisted on being taken back to Connecticut to lie on the old bed he made with his own hands. and he passed on, surrounded by family and friends.  He was 89 and the cause of death was congestive heart failure. His beloved wife, Inge Morath whom he married a year after his divorce from Marilyn, had died three years earlier.

Miller led an eventful life and his death did not silence the decades old quarrels in a tumultuous time of the 50s and 60s. The right-wing magazine Criterion marked the occasion with an article headed “Arthur Miller, Communist Stooge. The Wall Street Journal’s obituary was headed: The Great Pretender: Arthur Miller wasn’t well-liked – and with good reason.

But in England, the editor of the “Independent” newspaper cleared the whole front page judging that there was no news more pressing than the death of a writer on another continent who may have been made by America but who belonged to everyone.

Although he was sympathetic to the cause of Communism, he gave up thinking the ideology offered another way for America. Indeed when Vanessa Redgrave went to see him to raise funds for the Worker’s Revolutionary Party, it was in vain for her. Redgrave’s role as Fania Fenelon who wrote “Playing for time” in the CBS drama of the same name was controversial and Miller was criticised for not raising any objections. He wrote the script for the TV drama adapted from Fenelon’s autobiography.

Of his own works, I thought his statment: “I am trying to find out why people destroy themselves the way they do” evinced the focus of his plays. Then his admission that “each of my plays is begun in the belief that it will unveil an unrecognised truth”conveys that he sees his works as a journey to explore the human condition.