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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Arthur Miller’s Secret Son

posted by on August 30 at 11:04 AM

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.

RSS icon Comments


It's not surprising for those familiar with his lesser-known work, "All My Sons - Well, Except for That One".

Posted by tsm | August 30, 2007 11:58 AM

I, for one, applaud A. Miller!! Whatelse should you do to ANY of your children? If he made the error and had a child he should lock it away in an institution, boarding school, military school ect.

That is the only way to have children! This way they are never seen nor heard. Here Here!!!!

Posted by Just Me | August 30, 2007 12:10 PM

Preferably, the young'uns won't know him at all, having been spared being dragged with their class to a production of the Crucible and the inevitable after-show discussion making its themes relevant to whatever they're supposed to be relevant to today.

Posted by Eric F | August 30, 2007 1:50 PM

I'm betting that he and the child's mother were given the advice to "put him away and forget you ever had him" from their doctor. It was pretty standard at the time

Posted by amazonmidwife | August 30, 2007 2:40 PM

People in the midwest still do this today. I had a coworker in a midwestern city who at the time was in her mid forties (about two years ago) whose family put two brothers in institutions. One brother had Downs Syndrome while the other was severely Autistic. In this same office another coworker sent her teenage daughter off to a "convent school" run by nuns in another state because she got knocked up. This stuff still happens just not out here on the left coast.

Posted by Sweetie | August 30, 2007 2:44 PM

A lot of people thought Miller was an asswipe for the way he abandoned Marilyn when she needed him the most. He's a hard man to pin down - his memoir, Timebends, is a beautiful, thoughtful work by a man you'd assume was a fairly righteous dude. But like Capote, the more I hear, the less I like. Doesn't mean that I like their work any less, but it diminishes greatly the infatuation I might have had for the person.

As Joni says (talking about Miles), "We must allow our geniuses their demons."

Posted by Bauhaus | August 30, 2007 4:28 PM

The advice may have been common... but that doesn't make it right!

This is unfortunate news.

Posted by Katelyn | August 30, 2007 5:18 PM

As a mother of a severely handicapped 30 year old boy who is a joy in our home I must say I'm disapointed and sorry to see that A. Miller was, after all such a weak human being.And the child's invisible mother? Coudn't she have a say?
And it's still done in the Midwest?Well it is NOT DONE in my small lovely country-Portugal

Posted by Beatriz | August 30, 2007 6:25 PM

Face it.

The guy was a self rightous pompous FRAUD.

You know the type. Treats all their plas like a million bucks and their family like shit.

Fuck him..................a RAT.

Posted by Moses Tietlebaum | September 1, 2007 7:47 PM

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