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Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and the American Family

  • Brenda Murphy
Chapter
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Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)

Abstract

As their international fame grew after their early success, the cultural identities of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams were increasingly associated with family drama that often has been seen as uniquely American. The families these two playwrights write about are markedly different. Miller’s conception of the family is fundamentally patriarchal, with tight-knit units centered on a father who is a dominant presence, psychologically if not physically. The father’s demise often precipitates the disintegration of the family. Williams’s family is typically a post-patriarchal structure that has already disintegrated, resulting in a tenuous family unit characterized by dysfunctional relationships among its members. While both playwrights focus intensely on sibling dyads, often triangulated with a parent, Miller’s dyads (always brothers) are often animated by a combination of love, jealousy, and guilt that is descended from the biblical Cain and Abel. Rife with favoritism, resentment, jealousy, disloyalty, desertion, guilt, violence, and hatred, the families of both playwrights actually serve as a counter to America’s popular conception of itself as a nation built on the foundation of a happy and stable family unit.

Keywords

Arthur Miller Tennessee Williams Death of a Salesman The Price The Man Who Had All the Luck All My Sons The Creation of the World and Other Business Kingdom of Earth The Two-Character Play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Family drama Cain and Abel Siblings Brothers Patriarchal family Biblical interpretation 

Works Cited

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brenda Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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