Arthur Miller was a renowned playwright who lived from October 17th, 1915, to February 10th, 2005. His literary career began when he was a student at the University of Michigan. He was the recipient of multiple Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and the Praemium Imperiale Prize (“Arthur Miller”). Miller was also briefly married to Marilyn Monroe and was furthermore notorious for not “naming names” during the Red Scare, despite the repercussions (“Arthur Miller”). Arthur Miller worked hard to “[combine] social awareness with a searching concern for his characters’ inner lives” (“Arthur Miller”), and his work was therefore not just able to make an impact within its own time, but to achieve a literary legacy that allows for his works to still be significant, and discussed, to this day.
Arthur Miller contributed a great deal to the literary field, not only in the quality of his work but also in the quantity. His works range from plays to novels to short stories to screenplays. Miller was able to use an array of mediums to tell the tales he thought to be important. All My Sons (1947), The Death of a Salesman (1948), The Crucible (1953), A View from the Bridge (1955), The Misfits (1961), After the Fall (1964), Incident at Vichy (1964), I Don’t Need You Anymore (1967), The American Clock (1980), Timebends (1987), Mr. Peters’ Connections (1998), Resurrection Blues (2002), and Finishing the Picture (2004) are only a few of the many works that Miller accomplished throughout his lifetime. Looking closely at one of his more well-known works, The Crucible, we can see the impact that he had not only on the literary field, but also more specifically on the ghost-story genre.
Arthur Miller’s works were influenced greatly by the era he grew up in. Having borne witness to the great depression, the holocaust, the second red scare, and the anti-Vietnam/anti-war movement to name a few, Miller was able to draw on the political and social movements around him in order to create impactful works of literary significance. In this way, Miller’s works contribute greatly to the ghost-story genre, especially of American literature, because it draws attention to the haunting that history can have on a nation. When Miller was working on and later presenting, The Crucible, McCarthyism was in full-effect. Miller was able to use the haunting of past events to draw attention to (then) current events, in order for people to make the connection that the “witch hunts” they deem so unjust, a social culling that they place in the past, were still very real and thriving around them, if only they would open their eyes and see it. This is recognized in a paper discussing Miller’s work, wherein it states that: “in the 1950s, The Crucible helped the readers and the audience to create a distance from their immediate present and form an historical perspective of their times by viewing the politics of their present as history. The Crucible is an artifact that not only frames the past in the present context, that is, the 1950s, but it does so in a pointed way, through its performance, and puts the perception of the present at a distance as a result of which it can be had as history” (Aziz 184).
Looking more closely at the issue of the 1950’s, that of the “Red Scare”, or communism rising, one can see that it is inherently no different from the Salem witch trials. The Crucible helped to put things into a specific perspective wherein people could recognize that “the alleged crimes were invisible” (185), being based on little more than allegations. Whether discussing witchcraft of the 1600s or “espionage and political subversion” (185) of the 1950s, the “state” in either case acted much in the same manner. Fear-mongering, scapegoating, relying on those who are accused to accuse someone else in order to save themselves, and those who are “innocent” to accuse another not only to keep perpetuating the fear, but also to keep attention away from themselves. Most notably even, the similarities between the spectacle of the court are present in both cases. Where Salem used their judicial system as a spectacle by way of enrapturing the entire town, television worked much in the same way for the court hearings of the 50s (190). It has been noted that, “At the time of [The Crucible’s] publication, few thought that McCarthy was heading for his downfall. Yet he went down, and Miller’s history of Salem predicted it” (192). Again, this substantiates the significance of Miller’s texts working to acknowledge the haunting of American history and to deliberately draw attention to the repetitive nature of historical events, as they re-enact themselves within the present. America is haunted by historical events that they continuously re-enact, and Miller’s work did a great deal in recognizing and showcasing this connection. His work is significant within the ghost-story tradition of American literature not only because of its recognizing of a non-conventional “haunting”, but more importantly its success in implementing it.