Arts Arthur Miller’s Secret Son
posted by August 30 at 11:04 AMon
I’m a little late to the party on this, from Vanity Fair:
For all the public drama of Arthur Miller’s career—his celebrated plays (including Death of a Salesman and The Crucible), his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, his social activism—one character was absent: the Down-syndrome child he deleted from his life.
The revelation has inspired some hand-wringing among people of a certain age who are shocked that Arthur Miller, Our American Conscience™, could have packed his son off to an institution and, according to the article, “never publicly acknowledged the existence of Daniel” and “apparently never visited him.”
It’s a pathetic story—
Many of the children wore diapers, because there weren’t enough employees to toilet-train them. During the day, they sat in front of blaring TVs tuned to whatever show the staff wanted to watch. The most disabled children were left lying on mats on the floor, sometimes covered with nothing but a sheet.
—but the fretting about Miller’s place in the canon is out of proportion. Does the saga of Daniel Miller matter to the playwright’s friends and family and to Daniel Miller? Of course. Does it matter to the boomers who canonized St. Miller the Moral? Apparently. (But celebrity canonizations are always a bad idea.)
Will it matter to the young’uns who will know Miller by his plays and not his celebrity, who don’t know or care whether After the Fall was about Marilyn Monroe or even that Miller defied the House on Un-American Activities Committee?
No. Not at all.