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Arthur Miller's first success came in 1947 with All
My Sons for which he won the New York Drama Critics Circle award.
Although it lacked the originality of some of his later works, this family
drama, which told the story of a factory owner who caused the death of
several American pilots during World War I by selling defective parts to
the government, dealt with issues of guilt and dishonesty that Miller
would revisit and expand upon in some of his more memorable plays.
His next play, Death of a Salesman, stunned audiences with its brilliance and was quickly earmarked as a classic of the modern theatre. It also sparked heated debates over the true nature of tragedy. Some critics criticized Miller for infusing the play with a deep sense of pity for the commonplace salesman Willy Loman. They insisted that Willy was a "little man" and therefore not worthy of the pathos reserved for such tragic heroes as Oedipus and Medea. Miller, however, argued that the tragic feeling is invoked whenever we are in the presence of a character, any character, who is ready to sacrifice his life, if need be, to secure one thing--his sense of personal dignity. And the "little" salesman was determined to do just that, no matter what the cost.
Arthur Miller was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for Death of a Salesman. He has come to be considered one of the greatest dramatists in the history of the American Theatre, and his plays, a fusion of naturalistic and expressionistic techniques, continue to be widely produced.
Arthur Miller died in February 2005.