Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Paying Attention to Arthur Miller

Last week, the New York Times ran a piece gathering the reactions to Vanity Fair‘s exposé of Arthur Miller’s non-relationship with his Down’s syndrome-afflicted son, Daniel. They quoted my original post about Miller on contentions, along with the words of several of Miller’s contemporaries, most of whom, it appeared, were not willing to talk.

Edward Albee, for instance, author of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and a contemporary of Miller’s, refused to comment. The strongest apologia, if it can be called that, came from “veteran Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg,” who said, “Arthur Miller will be remembered for ‘Death of a Salesman,’ ‘The Crucible’ and ‘All My Sons.’ All the rest is talk.”

Morris Dickstein, an English professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, told the Times, “How do we know what we would have done? The birth of a child with Down’s syndrome can be a tremendous trauma, to say nothing of a strain on a marriage.” Yet the original Vanity Fair article reported that Miller’s wife, Inge Morath, tried to convince her husband to let her bring their son home, a plea he refused. She visited their child nearly every weekend. The Los Angeles Times‘s obituary of Miller reported that he “apparently never visited [Daniel].” Putting one’s disabled child in an institution is one thing. Acting as if he didn’t exist is another. And the behavior of “this hero of the left” and “champion of the downtrodden” (as the Times describes Miller), ought to convince even his greatest fans that hectoring lip service in the cause of social justice does not prevent one from being a loathsome human being.



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