I see that Arthur Miller has entered immortality. His Death of a Salesman is a masterpiece of the first magnitude. An essay he wrote in 1974 about Richard Nixon entitled “One of Us” argued that Nixon had ruined himself by refusing to admit that he had human faults and then, when those faults were revealed, Nixon was ruined by the comparison against the template he had created. Nixon, Miller argued, was really just “one of us” with all our flaws.
It was a brilliant piece and I feel the same way about Arthur Miller. He wrote a great play about selling, and I think of it every day I am traveling and selling myself on a smile and a shoeshine.
But Arthur Miller, the demigod of artistic integrity, prided himself on defending the system of Stalin and the Gulags and the worst mass murders of all time against the system of Jefferson and Washington and Eisenhower. He considered himself above mass culture and celebrity and yet married Marilyn Monroe. He berated capitalism for its hard-heartedness yet he had a child with Down syndrome whom he consigned to an institution and never once visited.
Arthur Miller, too, was one of us.