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Arthur Miller's Aesthetics

The Artistic Aesthetic of the Modern Tragedy

In Arthur Miller’s drama, there is an artistic aesthetic that is called “modern tragedy.” Miller’s concept of modern tragedy is distinct from historical conceptions of this aesthetic in drama. This aesthetic on behalf of Miller’s conception emerges with a dualistic cause in modern society. On the one hand, Miller views the breakdown of community a tragedy. We see this expressed in Death of a Salesman, where Willy Loman is tossed away by the organization he is loyal to like the used rind of an orange. We also see it in The Crucible, where innocent people are accused, convicted and burnt at the stake because of a breakdown in community. In Death of a Salesman, Miller views the breakdown of community as resulting from the devaluation of individual lives because of the structure and goals of a capitalist society. In The Crucible, Miller views the breakdown of community as resulting from the chaos, fear and suspicion created from paranoia, a paranoia that is reinforced by the judicial system of the community. We can see this loss of community is what represents the modern tragedy to Miller. However, the evolution of this aesthetic is the direct result of the social conditions and ideologies of Miller’s era. In Death of a Salesman, we see Miller is criticizing a society that replaces the godhead with economics for its devaluation of the human soul. This to him is tragedy in the modern era. Likewise, though The Crucible is set during the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, its expression and inspiration for Miller came from the McCarthy Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s in an era where paranoia, suspicion and fear were also born of paranoia. Thus, modern existence produces tragedy to Miller from a social context, either through the loss of community or the devaluation of the human soul.

There were more than a few sources I consulted in order to distill Miller’s a...

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Arthur Miller's Aesthetics. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:26, April 13, 2024, from