Tragic heroes

Modern development of tragedy, the main futures of the hero. A short biography and features a creative way of Arthur Miller, assessment of his literary achievements and heritage. Tragedy of Miller in "The crucible", features images of the main character.

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Our work is devoted to the analysis of the novels by Arthur Miller. The plots of there novel generally revolve around the subject of tragedy of the main heroes and lay emphasis especially on its tremendous importance.

Arthur Miller was an American playwright who was born in 1915. He grew up in New York to a Jewish family. He is American playwright who combined in his works social awareness with deep insights into personal weaknesses of his characters'. Miller is best known for the play DEATH OF A SALESMAN (1949), or on the other hand, for his marriage to the actress Marilyn Monroe. Miller's plays continued the realistic tradition that began in the United States in the period between the two world wars. With Tennessee Williams, Miller was one of the best-known American playwrights after WW II. Several of his works were filmed by such director as John Huston, Sidney Lumet and Karel Reiz.

The aim of our work is to reveal the tragedy of people in the novels by Arthur Miller

The aim has defined the next tasks:

to research the biography of Arthur Miller;

to research the main futures of tragedy and tragic hero;

to investigate the tragedy of Arthur Miller in «The Crucible» and «All my sons».

The practical value is that it can be useful for anybody who is interested in life and work of the novels by Arthur Miller.

While making our research we used the works of such linguists as Vinokur G.O., Suvorov S.P., Arnold I.V. and many others. During our work we used the works on the translation theory of such linguists as Levitskaya T.R., Fiterman A.M., Komissarov V.N., Alimov V.V., Shveytser A.D., Garbovskiy N.K., Dmitrieva L.F., Galperin I.R., Arnold I.V., Yakusheva I.V., van Deik, Kolshanskiy and others. We used also the articles from the the periodical editions.

Concerning the aim and the tasks we have used such method as a descriptive one, the method of the experience, the contextual method and the comparative method. These methods weren't used as the isolated methods, they were used in their complex to satisfy the aim and the task in the best way.

1. Modern development of tragedy

The term `Tragedy' is used in a common parlance, and yet it cannot be reduced to a formula, for it has so many shades that it actually defies a logical analysis. An American critic has admirable summed up Tragedy in a few words: «Courage and inevitable defeat.» Now-a-days we can never think of a Tragedy without an unhappy ending. But the Greeks did. Philoctetes by Sophocles, for example, has no unhappy ending. There is a similarity between the ancient Greek Tragedy and a modern Tragedy. The hero and certain other characters are caught in a difficult situation.

The character and plot in most of Tragedies are linked up. In Greek Tragedies fate played a very important part, but after the Renaissance character became more and more prominent. In some of Shakespearian Tragedies, despite the importance of character, the motivation of action comes from the supernatural forces or even external circumstances. In modern Tragedies, the hero is often the victim of social forces.

Aristotle defined Tragedy as «a representation of an action, which is serious; complete in itself, and of a certain length; it is expressed in speech made beautiful in different ways in different parts of the play; it is acted, not narrated; and by exciting pity and fear it gives a healthy relief to such emotions.» [12, 121].

Tragedy must be spoudaious i.e. noble, serious, and elevated. The Greek root for Tragedy is tragoidia, which means something serious, but not necessarily a drama with an unhappy ending. Plato has called Homer's Odyssey a Tragedy, though it is not drama. Seriousness of subject is what really matters.

Tragedy, F.L. Lucas maintains, had three different meanings in the three periods of literary history. In ancient times, a Tragedy meant a serious drama; in medieval times, a Tragedy meant a story with an unhappy ending; and a modern Tragedy is a drama with an unhappy ending.

«Tragedy is an imitation of an action.» And `action' again gives rise to a lot of troubles. A novel or an Epic is narrated, while a drama, be it a Tragedy or a Comedy, is acted. Can there be action without narration? The answer is obvious. The Greek Dramaturgy did not allowed any act of violence on the stage. Even a romantic playwright like Shakespeare had some of the murders reported by messengers. Lucas rightly points out, «Not everything permits itself to be acted. `Let not Medea slay her sons before the audience': things like that, at least, on the Greek stage were relegated to a Messenger's speech.»

With regard to «an action which is complete in itself,» the controversy has been raging for a long time. What is actually meant by completeness? An action having a beginning, a middle, and an end is said to be complete. T.R. Henn defines `completeness' as totality which Matthew Arnold later called `architectonice'. Aristotle himself, in different chapter of the Poetics, has saught to define `completeness'. If the play begins abruptly, the reader or the audience may not understand what it is about. Let not the reader ask «What happens then?» The work of art should be rounded off. The Greek art, whether plastic or non-plastic, always insisted on symmetry [12, 127]. Along with symmetry there is frugality. The details are not extraneous. On the contrary, it is an organic unity. If there are details, they are not ornamental, but functional, Aristotle means by `completeness' the organic unity.

The organic unity is linked up with the size of the work of art. If the art has no appropriate limit or size, it loses its symmetry. «Whatever is beautiful, whether it be a living creature or an object made up of various parts, must necessarily not only have its parts properly ordered, but also be of an appropriate size for beauty is banned up with size and order.» If a thing is a thousand miles long, that will also not be beautiful, for the whole thing cannot be taken in all at once, and the unity of the art will be lost sight of Aristotle while speaking of the Plot, again emphasis that the plot of a play, being but representation of an action, must present it as an organic whole. Aristotle says that the Tragedies «should center upon a single action, whole and complete, and having a beginning, a middle and an end, so that like a single complete organism the poem may produce a special kind of pleasure.»

Aristotle emphasizes that the Tragedy should be «expressed in speech made beautiful.» But in the modern age, Tragedies have become realistic, and therefore, the language has become drab and colourless. Another part of Aristotle's definition of Tragedy is that it should be «acted, not narrated.» This also is a bone of contention.

In modernist literature, the definition of tragedy has become less precise. The most fundamental change has been the rejection of Aristotle's dictum that true tragedy can only depict those with power and high status [13, 78]. Arthur Miller's essay 'Tragedy and the Common Man' exemplifies the modern belief that tragedy may also depict ordinary people in domestic surroundings. British playwright Howard Barker has argued strenuously for the rebirth of tragedy in the contemporary theatre, most notably in his volume Arguments for a Theatre. «You emerge from tragedy equipped against lies. After the musical, you're anybody's fool,» he observes.[13]

Although the most important American playwrights - Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller - wrote tragedies, the rarity of tragedy in the American theater may be owing in part to a certain form of idealism, often associated with Americans, that man is captain of his fate, a notion exemplified in the plays of Clyde Fitch and George S. Kaufmann. Arthur Miller, however, was a successful writer of American tragic plays, among them The Crucible, All My Sons and Death of a Salesman.

1.1 The main futures of tragic hero

Tragic hero is the main character in a tragedy who makes an error in his or her actions that leads to his or her downfall. Tragic heroes appear in the dramatic works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Webster, Marston, Corneille, Racine, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Strindberg, and many other writers.

Some common traits characteristic of a tragic protagonist: [10, 117]

· The hero discovers his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him.

· The hero sees and understands his doom, and that his fate was revealed by his own actions.

· The hero's downfall is understood by Aristotle to arouse pity and fear.

· The hero is physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death.

· A tragic hero is often of noble birth, or rises to noble standing (King Arthur, Okonkwo, the main character in Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart.)

· The hero learns something from his/her mistake.

· The hero is faced with a serious decision.

· The suffering of the hero is meaningful.

· There may sometimes be supernatural involvement (in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar is warned of his death via Calpurnia's vision and Brutus is warned of his impending death by the ghost of Caesar).

· The Shakespearean tragic hero dies at some point in the story, for example Macbeth. Shakespeare's characters illustrate that tragic heroes are neither fully good nor fully evil. Through the development of the plot a hero's mistakes, rather than his quintessential goodness or evil, lead to his tragic downfall.

· The hero of classical tragedies is almost universally male. Later tragedies (like Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra) introduced the female tragic hero. Portrayals of female tragic heroes are notable because they are rare.

2. The tragic heroes of Arthur Miller books

2.1 Some words about Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller was an American playwright who was born in 1915. He grew up in New York to a Jewish family. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1938 where he began to distinguish himself as a playwright. His first plays were Honors at Dawn (1936) and No Villain (1937) which won the University of Michigan Hopwood Awards. His Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer prize in 1949. Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953 during the McCarthy period when Americans were accusing each other of Pro-Communist beliefs. Many of Miller's friends were being attacked as communists and in 1956, Miller himself was brought before the House of Un-American Activities Committee where he was found guilty of beliefs in communism. The verdict was reversed in 1957 in an appeals court. Miller married Marylin Monroe in 1956 but divorced her in 1961.

The Crucible is set against the backdrop of the mad witch hunts of the Salem witch trials in the late 17th century. It is about a town, after accusations from a few girls, which begins a mad hunt for witches that did not exist. Many townspeople were hanged on charges of witchcraft. Miller brings out the absurdity of the incident with the theme of truth and righteousness. The theme is conveyed through the struggles of Miller's main character, John Proctor.

2.2 Tragedy of Arthur Miller in «The Crucible»

Act one begins with Reverend Parris praying over her daughter, Betty Parris, who lies unconscious on her bed. Through conversations between Reverend Parris and his niece Abigail Williams, and between several girls, the audience learns that these girls, including Abigail and Betty, were engaged in occultic activities in the forest lead by Tituba, Parris' slave from Barbados. Parris caught them and jumped from a bush startling the girls. Betty fainted and had not recovered. During this session, Abigail drank chicken blood to kill Elizabeth Proctor. She tells the girls that she will kill anyone who mutters a word about what happened. The townspeople do not know exactly what the girls were doing but there are rumors of witchcraft.

John Proctor enters the room where Betty lies faint. Abigail is still in there and she tries to seduce him. Proctor is a farmer who has had an affair with Abigail a while ago, but now he wants to forget it [11, 127].

Reverend John Hale is summoned to look upon Betty and the research the incident. He is an expert in occultic phenomena and he is eager to show his knowledge. He questions Abigail who accuses Tituba as being a witch. Tituba, afraid of being hanged, confesses faith in God and accuses Goody Good and Goody Osborne of witchcraft. Abigail and Betty, who has woken up, claim to have been bewitched and confess faith in God. They name several other people whom they claim they saw with the Devil.

Act two begins eight days after the discussion at Parris' house. Between act one and act two, Deputy Governor Dansforth came to Salem to oversee the court proceedings. Fourteen people have been arrested for witchcraft, and there is talk of hanging. Elizabeth Proctor asks John to go to the court and testify against Abigail and the other girls. John doesn't want to get involved. There is tension between Elizabeth and John since Elizabeth has not forgiven John for the affair. Marry Warren enters. She was in court testifying against the townspeople. She gives Elizabeth a doll which she has made in court. In the middle of their discussion, Hale enters to question John and Elizabeth, suspicious of witchcraft. Later, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse enter to seek advice after both their wives had been arrested. Next, the marshal arrives with a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. Elizabeth was accused by Abigail for stabbing Abigail with a needle through a doll. John Proctor protests but Elizabeth is taken away in chains. Proctor demands Mary that she goes to court and testify against the girls. He vows that he will fight the proceedings, even if it means confessing his own adultery.

Act three takes place in court. Francis Nurse, Giles Corey, and John Proctor present their case against the girls to Deputy Governor Dansforth and Judge Hathorne. Proctor presents a petition signed by 91 people testifying to the good character of their wives, and Dansforth issues warrants for the questioning of all of them. Corey charges Putnam on inciting his daughter to accuse Corey of witchcraft in order get his land. Corey has a witness but will not name him for fear of getting the man arrested. Corey is arrested because of contempt of the court.

Proctor presents his case and a deposition by Mary Warren saying that she never saw the devil or any spirits. Abigail says that Mary is lying and she and the girls pretend to be bewitched by Mary. Proctor, frustrated at the gullibility of the court, grabs Abigail by the hair and exclaims to everyone that she is a whore confessing that he had an affair with Abigail. Elizabeth is brought in to be questioned about whether this is true. Elizabeth tells the court that John Proctor never had an affair with Abigail in order to save his name, however, this destroys Proctor's testimony. Mary crumbles under the peer pressure and returns to Abigail's side, accusing Proctor of being a witch [11, 139]. The girls pretend to be bewitched by Proctor. Proctor accuses Danforth of being afraid to reveal the truth. Dansforth acts more to keep the reputation of the court rather than for justice. Reverend Hale now sees the evil in the court and denounces the proceedings. Proctor is arrested.

Act four begins in prison where Sarah Good and Tituba wait to be hanged. They have gone insane and believe that Satan will take them both to Barbados.

There is rumors of an uprising in a nearby town due to similar witch trials. The townspeople are afraid of a similar riot in Salem.

Hale and Parris are now terrified. They go to visit the innocent people in the jail and beg them to make false confessions in order to save their lives. Hale believes that the blood of the people who are being hanged is on his hands. He asks Elizabeth, who is now pregnant, to tell John to confess to save his life but Elizabeth will not. While Elizabeth is talking to John, she tells him that she has forgiven him of his affair and tells his that he can do as he will. John Proctor confesses that he is a witch, but will not say the others are. After a few moments, Proctor is fed up with the court, tears up his confession, and goes out to be hanged with Rebecca Nurse. Hales pleads that Elizabeth ask Proctor to confess, but she says, «He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!»

In The Crucible all the event flow naturally from one event to the next. Everything happens naturally from the natures of the characters. The fact that the story isn't contrived, and even more that it is based on a true story is interesting. The result is so unbelievable. The incident begins with the girls dancing in the forest and snowballs into a huge witch hunt. The plot was exciting. There was sufficient conflict to keep my interest aroused. There are a lot of tension and suspense in the story [14, 56]. It covers basic human instincts and qualities. It shows the human necessity for survival, and the lengths at which a person will go to save his life. There is the idea of honor and truth. Proctor tries to keep his reputation but gives it up to reveal the truth. Through his struggle he achieves righteousness. All these things keep the plot moving. Proctor's relationship with Elizabeth can be seen to grow and mature. He continually grows more pure in Elizabeth's sight until she is able to forgive him in act four. Proctor' character also improves. He doesn't want to get involved in the court proceedings in act two but stands up for the truth in act four.

Each character has his own distinct quality. Most characters are distinctly good or evil though few characters are really developed. The reader is only able to see one side of each character. Even John Proctor, the main character isn't as developed as it could be. This is probably due to the restrictions of time and narration of this particular genre.

Parris - A minister in Salem who is more worried about his own reputation than the town or the truth.

Betty - Parris' daughter. She is faint in the beginning of the play and later accuses various people for witchcraft.

Abigail - Parris' niece and Proctor's mistress. She is the leader of the girls who accuses people of witchcraft during the trial.

Tituba - Parris' slave from Barbados. She is the first accused with being accused by Abigail.

Mrs. Putnam - Wife of Thomas Putnam. She first plants the idea of Betty being bewitched.

Ruth - Daughter of the Putnams. She is one of Abigail's friends who accuses people at the trial.

Mercy Lewis - Putnams' servant. She is also involved in the accusations of the witches.

John Proctor - Main character. He is a good man, but has committed adultery with Abigail.

Elizabeth Proctor - John Proctor's wife. She is an upright woman who is accused of being a witch. She couldn't forgive Proctor for adultery until just before he died.

Mary Warren - Proctor's servant. She is one of Abigail's friends and plants evidence on Elizabeth.

Reverend Hale - Self proclaimed expert on witchcraft. He is a minister who at first believes the girls accusations but eventually sees the evil in the court.

Deputy Governor Dansforth - Deputy Governor of Massachusetts who believes the testimony of the girls despite evidence to the contrary. He works more to keep the reputation of the court than to seek justice.

Judge Hathorne - Judge presiding over the witch trials.

Rebecca Nurse - Respected, upright wife of Francis nurse. She is accused of witchcraft.

Francis Nurse - Rebecca's Husband. He had land disputes with the Putnams.

Giles Corey - Old cranky villager who accidentally causes his wife to be accused.

Sarah Good - She is an accused witch who becomes insane while awaiting her hanging.

Susanna - One of Abigail's friends who takes part in accusing the villagers.

Cheever - He arrests the witches.

Herrick - Also arrests the witches. Is the jail keeping.

Hopkins - Messenger.

The play takes place in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17 century. Since this story is based on a true story, the setting is real. The fact that the story takes place during the 17 century is important. The community needed to be superstitious and gullible in order for this incident to actually happen. Also, the event needed to be in a Puritan society to have such an aversion to witches. People in the twentieth and even the nineteenth centuries would be too skeptical about the supernatural to believe the girls [14. 78]. Also, they would be likely to dismiss the act of dancing in the forest as just a little game.

Miller's style is very simple. He uses simple sentences and words which are easy to understand. He brings out the evil quality of Abigail and the other girls and also the gullibility of the judges. His style is easy to understand and should be in order to be successful as a play. While using the simple style, Miller doesn't take anything away from the suspense in the plot. The dialogues of his character are like actual speech. His words are used effectively and doesn't include anything not necessary for making a good play. Many clever figurative devices are used. For example, Abigail says that John «sweated like a stallion.» The writing is really that memorable since it was not really written as prose or poetry. However, certain images as the one previously mentioned are hard to forget.

The theme of the story was rising over adversity, and standing for the truth even to death. This is the theme for many stories and is always an exciting one. John, in the beginning, wanted to keep distant from the trials. He did not want to have a part, whether good or bad. When Elizabeth was arrested, he was forced to become part of it [3, 145]. He went to court first to set his wife free but after watching the proceedings, he saw that the evil was not only being done to his own wife but many others like his wife. As a result, he worked even harder to free the other innocent people, getting himself arrested. Despite this drawback, he did not give up. He had the chance to free himself if he testified against the others but he realized that this would be wrong, and even though he wanted to free himself, he would not if it meant bringing trouble upon others. He cleansed himself at the trial, standing for what he knew was right and died a righteous person. Though he stayed away from church, he became more pure than the common Puritans, dying as a martyr like the original apostles. He learned what truth meant through his suffering.

Through Proctor's struggle, Miller displays the struggles within each of our own hearts. Many times we have witnessed some wrong happening to some other person and wished not to get involved. However, sometimes, like Proctor, there might be something that forces us in. Would we be quit after only saving our wife like Proctor could have done, or would we go for the entire community as Proctor did?

2.3 The tragedy in «All my sons»

The action of the play is set in August 1947, in the mid-west of the U.S.A. The events depicted occur between Sunday morning and a little after two o'clock the following morning.

Joe Keller, the chief character, is a man who loves his family above all else, and has sacrificed everything, including his honour, in his struggle to make the family prosperous. He is now sixty-one. He has lost one son in the war, and is keen to see his remaining son, Chris, marry. Chris wishes to marry Ann, the former fiancйe of his brother, Larry. Their mother, Kate, believes Larry still to be alive. It is this belief which has enabled her, for three and a half years, to support Joe by concealing her knowledge of a dreadful crime he has committed.

Arthur Miller, the playwright, found the idea for Joe's crime in a true story, which occurred during the second world war: a manufacturer knowingly shipped out defective parts for tanks. These had suffered mechanical failures which had led to the deaths of many soldiers. The fault was discovered, and the manufacturer convicted. In All My Sons, Miller examines the morality of the man who places his narrow responsibility to his immediate family above his wider responsibility to the men who rely on the integrity of his work.

Three and a half years before the events of the play, Larry Keller was reported missing in action, while flying a mission off the coast of China.

His father, Joe Keller, was head of a business which made aero engine parts. When, one night, the production line began to turn out cracked cylinder heads, the night foreman alerted Joe's deputy manager, Steve Deever as he arrived at work. Steve telephoned Joe at home, to ask what to do. Worried by the lost production and not seeing the consequences of his decision, Joe told Steve to weld over the cracks. He said that he would take responsibility for this, but could not come in to work, as he had influenza. Several weeks later twenty-one aeroplanes crashed on the same day, killing the pilots.

Investigation revealed the fault in the cylinder heads, and Steve and Joe were arrested and convicted. On appeal, Joe denied Steve's (true) version of events, convinced the court he knew nothing of what had happened, and was released from prison. Before his last flight, Larry wrote to his fiancйe, Ann, Steve's daughter. He had read of his father's and Steve's arrest. Now he was planning suicide [6, 122].

Three and a half years later, Ann has told no-one of this letter. Kate Keller knows her husband to be guilty of the deaths of the pilots and has convinced herself that Larry is alive. She will not believe him dead, as this involves the further belief that Joe has caused his own son's death, an intolerable thought. She expects Larry to return, and keeps his room exactly as it was when he left home. She supports Joe's deception. In return she demands his support for her hope that Larry will come back. Ann and her brother, George, have disowned their father, believing him guilty. But George has gone at last to visit his father in jail, and Steve has persuaded him of the true course of events.

The play opens on the following (Sunday) morning; by sheer coincidence, Ann has come to visit the Kellers. For two years, Larry's brother, Chris, has written to her. Now he intends to propose to her, hence the invitation. She is in love with him and has guessed his intention. On the Saturday night there is a storm; a tree, planted as a memorial to Larry, is snapped by the wind. Kate wakes from a dream of Larry and, in the small hours, enters the garden to find the tree broken [4, 111].

Western drama originates in the Greek tragedies of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, all of whom wrote in Athens in the 5th century B.C. In these plays the tragic hero or protagonist (= first or most important actor) commits an offence, often unknowingly. He (occasionallly she) must then learn his fault, suffer and perhaps die. In this way, the gods are vindicated (shown to be just) and the moral order of the universe restored. (This is a gross simplification of an enormous subject.)

These plays, and those of Shakespeare two thousand years later, are about kings, dukes or great generals. Why? Because in their day, these individuals were thought to embody or represent the whole people. Nowadays, we do not see even kings in this way. When writers want to show a person who represents a nation or class, they typically invent a fictitious «ordinary» person, the Man in the Street or Joe Public. In Joe Keller, Arthur Miller creates just such a representative type. Joe is a very ordinary man, decent, hard-working and charitable, a man no-one could dislike. But, like the protagonist of the ancient drama, he has a flaw or weakness. This, in turn, causes him to act wrongly. He is forced to accept responsibility - his suicide is necessary to restore the moral order of the universe, and allow his beloved son, Chris, to live, free from guilt.

The play has two narrative strands which finally meet. These are:

· Chris's and Ann's attempt to persuade Kate that Larry is dead, so they can marry. Joe wishes to support them, but sees that he cannot;

· the attempt by George, then by Chris, to find out the truth of what happened in Joe's factory in the autumn of 1943.

A slip of Kate's tongue tells George of Joe's guilt, but he leaves without persuading Chris. Chris and Ann insist on marrying and Joe supports them. This drives Kate (who sees this as a betrayal) to tell Chris the truth. Ann's showing Larry's letter to her convinces Kate that Larry is dead. The letter also answers Joe's repeated question about what he must do, to atone for his crime. He cannot restore life to the dead, but he can give life (free from a sense of moral surrender) back to his living son, Chris.

Joe Keller is not a very bad man. He loves his family but does not see the universal human «family» which has a higher claim on his duty. He may think he has got away with his crime, but is troubled by the thought of it. He relies on his wife, Kate, not to betray his guilt.

Chris Keller has been changed by his experience of war, where he has seen men laying down their lives for their friends. He is angry that the world has not been changed, that the selflessness of his fellow soldiers counts for nothing. He feels guilty to make money out of a business which does not value the men on whose labour it relies.

Kate Keller is a woman of enormous maternal love, which extends to her neighbours' children, notably George. Despite her instinctive warmth, she is capable of supporting Joe in his deceit. To believe Larry is dead would (for her) be to believe his death was a punishment of Joe's crime (an intolerable thought), so she must persuade herself that Larry still lives. Joe sees this idea to be ridiculous, but must tolerate it to secure Kate's support for his own deception.

Ann Deever shares Chris's high ideals but believes he should not feel ashamed by his wealth. She disowns her father whom she believes to be guilty. She has no wish to hurt Kate but will show her Larry's letter if she (Kate) remains opposed to Ann's marrying Chris.

Dr. Jim Bayliss is a man who, in his youth, shared Chris's ideals, but has been forced to compromise to pay the bills. He is fair to his wife, but she knows how frustrated Jim feels. Jim's is the voice of disillusioned experience. If any character speaks for the playwright (Arthur Miller), it is Jim.

Sue Bayliss is an utterly cynical woman. Believing Joe has «pulled a fast one», she does not mind his awful crime, yet she dislikes Chris because his idealism, which she calls «phoney», makes Jim feel restless. She is an embittered, rather grasping woman, whose ambitions are material wealth and social acceptance. She does not at all understand the moral values which her husband shares with Chris.

George Deever is a soul-mate of Chris. When younger, he greatly admired him. In the war, like Chris, he has been decorated for bravery. He follows Chris in accepting that Steve is guilty. Now he reproaches Chris for (as he sees it) deceiving him. He is bitter because he has grown cynical about the ideals for which he sacrificed his own opportunities for happiness.

Lydia Lubey is a rather one-dimensional character: she is chiefly in the play to show what George and Chris (so far) have gone without. She is simple, warm and affectionate, rather a stereotype of femininity (she is confused by electrical appliances). Her meeting with George is painful to observe: she has the happy home life which he has forfeited [4, 76]. We understand why George declines her well-meant but tactless invitation to see her babies.

Frank Lubey (unlike George, Larry, Chris and Jim) is a materialist. He lacks culture, education and real intelligence, but has made money in business, and has courted Lydia while the slightly younger men were fighting in the war. His dabbling in quack astrology (horoscopes) lends support to Kate's wild belief that Larry is still alive.

Throughout literature works of tragedy have been significant, for example, Hamlet or King Lear. Their plots were generally tragic, but the themes introduced such as the tragic hero brought up deep ideas that could be discussed and thought about extensively. One problem with modern literature is that very few tragedies have been written. One of the few authors that did write tragedies was Arthur Miller. He even wrote an essay commenting on the lack of modern tragedies, believing this to be because people thought they were «fit only for the very highly placed, the kings or the kingly». He believed that the «common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were.» From this belief he wrote several tragedies that won him awards and respect from his peers. One such tragedy was All My Sons, which was about the lies and immorality of a man and the resulting actions and consequences. The themes presented-dishonesty and immorality-intensify the tragic mood of the play. These themes are developed due to the actions of one man, Joe Keller, who could be a considered a tragic man. These negative themes that are brought up by the actions of Joe Keller, the tragic man, prove why this play is a modern tragedy.

The themes in All My Sons are mainly derived from the concept of morals, the laws that man follows through our conscience. One of the themes that branches out from this is morality, the principles about human life. This theme is evident when related to the Keller family, where a conflict between morality and the loss of it takes place. Joe Keller, the father of the Keller family, was responsible for sending out faulty cylinder heads during World War 2, which resulted in the deaths of 21 fighter pilots. He believed those deaths were justified, because he kept his business, which in turn kept his family fed and healthy «You lay forty years into a business and they knock you out in five minutes, what could I do…Chris, I did it for you…For you, a business for you!» (All My Sons, pg. 69,70). His wife, Kate Keller, supported him because if he was responsible for those deaths then he could have been responsible for his sons death, Larry Keller, a fighter pilot «Your brother's alive, darling, because if he's dead, your father killed him.» (All My Sons, pg. 68). Just like Joe, she did not see the full scope of his crime, only caring about the family. Joe's justification and Kate's ignorance of murder for the benefit of the family causes the loss of morality to be evident in the Keller household.

The two children of the family, Chris and Larry Keller, have views on morality that contrast those of their parents [2, 99]. Once Chris found out about his fathers crimes, he demanded an explanation for his actions «Then you did it. To the others…you killed twenty-one men…You killed them, your murdered them!» (All My Sons, pg. 68,69).

He was disgusted that his father did this, and when his father tried to justify it, he was shocked and furious:

For me! - I was dying every day and you were killing my boys and you did it for me?…You're not even an animal, no animal kills his own, what are you?…I ought to tear the tongue out of your mouth.»

Chris' views on morality began the conflict with his father, but once Larry's views were revealed, this conflict escalates «I read about Dad…How could he have done that?…if I had him here now I could kill him…I can't bear to live any more.» (All My Sons, pg. 83). Due to his embarrassment of his father's crime Larry committed suicide. The sons of the Keller family had different views on morality from their parents, holding them to a very high standard. These conflicting views between the parents and children resulted in the suicide of Joe Keller. His morals encompassed only his family, therefore when he realized his actions resulted in the death of his son, he committed suicide not being able to bear the moral crime he committed. This conflict resulted in suicide, making this a tragic theme.

Another theme that branches from morals is honesty. This theme is significant because it involves mostly every character from the play. One character that is significant is Joe Keller. He lied to all his friends, even to parts of his own family, stating that he was not involved with the production of the faulty cylinder heads. The truth about his crime was revealed when his wife did not go on with the lie about being sick during the war «Well, sure…I meant except for that flu. Well, it slipped my mind, don't look at me that way.» (All My Sons, pg. 65). Only when Chris interrogated Joe did he reveal the truth about his crime. He even lied to Herbert after telling him he would take the blame for the faulty cylinder heads. When the time came to admit he was the one that ordered the shipment of the faulty cylinder heads, he denied involvement and resulted in Herbert going to jail. The loss in honesty spread to other characters. Dr. Jim Bayliss was not fond of Chris, but he never told him this. It was revealed to the audience because Sue, Jim's wife, told Ann, Chris's fiancйe «My husband is unhappy with Chris around…Every time he has a session with Chris he feels as though he's compromising by not giving up everything for research.» (All My Sons, pg. 44). The neighbours' dishonesty was primarily directed at Joe, believing he was responsible for the faulty cylinder heads, from Sue «Everybody knows Joe pulled a fast one to get out of jail» (All My Sons, pg. 45) to Jim «What'd Joe do, tell him?…Don't be afraid, Kate, I know. I've always known.» (All My Sons, pg. 74). This dishonesty encompassed most of the characters in the play, making this theme tragic.

Joe is described as a bad character with no sense of morality or honesty, but he once was a good and honest worker and was a very friendly person. His flaw is tragic because it turned a good and honest man into a killer. This is called a «tragic flaw», present in the tragic hero in tragedies. Miller believes that tragedy does not only befall a hero, but the common man as well «I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kinds were» i. This belief lead him to create the tragic man, and with the creation of the tragic man came Joe Keller. He is seen as a polite man through his personality, a man who likes to socialize and keep everyone on a positive spirit «Without Frank the stars wouldn't know when to come out…Take it easy, Frank, you're a married man.» (All My Sons, pg. 28). This is true for the common man and hero as well, who by Aristotle's definition has good and bad characteristics. Joe had bad characteristics as well, which ended up being his tragic flaw. Miller believed the tragic flaw was «the flaw, or crack in the character and was really nothing-and need be nothing-but his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity» i. Joe's unwillingness to let his company go bankrupt forced him to decide whether his family's wealth or the lives of fighter pilots was more important to him. Unfortunately, he chose wrong, loving his family so much he would do anything for them «Chris, I did it for you…For you, a business for you!» (All My Sons, pg. 70). This was his tragic flaw because due to his decision, his son committed suicide, which in turn caused Joe to commit suicide realizing his guilt in the matter «Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were» (All My Sons, pg. 83). The tragic hero is meant to create sympathy because of the lost potential. Due to Joe Keller's tragic decision with the faulty cylinder heads, he went from a polite and friendly man into a disrespected man among his neighbours and his own family.

Great tragedies have always focused on the tragic hero, like Hamlet in «Hamlet», Macbeth in «Macbeth» and Oedipus in «Oedipus Rex». These plays show that focusing the story on the tragic hero is not a bad idea, giving good reason why Arthur Miller did this in All My Sons. Miller's purpose was to bring the beauty of tragedy to modern literature, proving it wasn't only meant for the upper classes of aristocracy. He succeeded, making a modern tragedy partially based on the form of past Shakespearean masterpieces, leaving the death of the tragic hero towards the end of the play for example. The conflicts between the Keller family and between all the characters brought up tragic themes. These themes, in conjunction with the plot, made a tragic hero out of Joe Keller, or in Miller's case, a tragic man. This tragic man fits the play perfectly with the themes associated with him. All My Sons can be considered a modern tragedy because of the creation of the tragic man and how his actions created several tragic themes. These actions resulted in his death, which occurs to most tragic men and heroes in great tragedies


On the basis of above-stated we came to a conclusion, that the story reminds its readers of an ugly blemish on human history. It reminds us that man is not perfect, and that we can make mistakes. However, even with these mistakes, we can cleanse ourselves and purify ourselves by making what is wrong right. The sufferings become to the sufferer like a crucible.

Miller's plays often depict how families are destroyed by false values. Especially his earliest efforts show his admiration for the classical Greek dramatists. «When I began to write,» he said in an interview, «one assumed inevitably that one was in the mainstream that began with Aeschylus and went through about twenty-five hundred years of playwriting.» (from The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller, ed. by Christopher Bigsby, 1997)

Great tragedies have always focused on the tragic hero, like Hamlet in «Hamlet», Macbeth in «Macbeth» and Oedipus in «Oedipus Rex». These plays show that focusing the story on the tragic hero is not a bad idea, giving good reason why Arthur Miller did this in All My Sons. Miller's purpose was to bring the beauty of tragedy to modern literature, proving it wasn't only meant for the upper classes of aristocracy. He succeeded, making a modern tragedy partially based on the form of past Shakespearean masterpieces, leaving the death of the tragic hero towards the end of the play for example. The conflicts between the Keller family and between all the characters brought up tragic themes. These themes, in conjunction with the plot, made a tragic hero out of Joe Keller, or in Miller's case, a tragic man. This tragic man fits the play perfectly with the themes associated with him. All My Sons can be considered a modern tragedy because of the creation of the tragic man and how his actions created several tragic themes. These actions resulted in his death, which occurs to most tragic men and heroes in great tragedies


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