Arthur Miller's Focus

In his only novel, Arthur Miller explored contemporary anti-Semitism.

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Through Finkelstein's stream of consciousness, Miller is telling his readers that the fatal mistake of Jews throughout history has been their repeated willingness to assume the role assigned to them by anti-Semitic societies, allowing themselves to be transformed from victims into partners in the crimes of the larger society. Miller, in other words, believes that the Jewish people carry the mark of Cain--for the sin of moral compromise.

Miller could well be standing with the majority of American Jews in his ignorance of and disregard for the Jewish corpus. But few, while sitting atop such a shaky foundation, have offered such a sweeping and public verdict against the past.

The greatest victim, however, appears to be Miller himself, who seems to have lacked not only a physical homeland, but also the emotional comfort and sustenance gained from Jewish culture, peoplehood, or faith. The resulting alienation fueled some of his best work, but also transformed the playwright into a new breed of wandering Jew--one perhaps even worse off than his historic predecessors.

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Ami Eden

Ami Eden is the Editor-In-Chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He was previously the National Editor of the Forward.