How May I Live Without My Name? - Tragedy and the Extraordinary Man in Arthur Miller"s The Crucible
In his essay "Tragedy and the Common Man" written in New York Times only a few months after the premier of his play Death of a Salesman in 1949, Arthur Miller identifies his strong interests in the importance of common man as tragic hero in modern times. The essay was clearly his own response to the criticism that his works deviated way from Aristotelian tragedies. In his essay, Miller makes the case for why heroes in modem tragedies should be different from those in traditional tragedies. Since then, Miller"s essay has been frequently discussed in relation to Willy Loman, the protagonist of the play. However his next play The Crucible introduces a protagonist whose character is different from the trait Miller advocates in his essay as well as from that of Willy Loman. Known as Miller"s political critique on the McCarthy era, literary value of The Crucible was frequently discussed in terms of the cultural context of America"s 1950s. This article is an attempt to analyze the play The Crucible as a failed manifestation of Miller"s essay "Tragedy and the Common Man". My argument has three-fold: first, Miller"s essay stresses personality and action of the modern tragic hero, rather than emphasizing low social status of a protagonist. By giving Proctor a heroic stance, Miller stretches the protagonist"s dignity to the level of martyrdom. Secondly, Proctor is an extraordinary, rather traditional hero viewed from the psychoanalytic frame of Lacan because the hero is an alter-ego of Miller himself who had strong sense of contempt against the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) thus identified with the protagonist. Thirdly, Proctor himself is an oppressor to the women around him, which symbolizes Miller"s position in American literature. The playwright"s dramatic strategy of fictionalizing Proctor"s relationship with women around him is problematic in terms of historical accuracy, twice killing the women who were wrongly accused of being witches in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.
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