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Act One of “Broken Glass” Play by Arthur Miller Essay

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Updated: Jun 26th, 2021

“Broken Glass” is a play by Arthur Miller, a leading American playwright of the twentieth century. First staged in 1994, the play is a combination of psychological detective story and detective drama. The action took place in Brooklyn in 1938. The main characters are Sylvia Gellburg, her husband, Phillip Gellburg, her doctor Harry Hyman, and his wife, Margaret. Philip and Sylvia are a Jewish couple who live in New York. The woman suddenly becomes paralyzed from the waist down, and Dr. Hyman tries to reveal the reasons for this fact. It is possible that her condition is caused by psychosomatic, as a result of reading news about Kristallnacht, or the anti-Jewish pogroms also known as ‘the Night of Broken Glass.’

In the play, the author argues about both personal and social issues. First of all, Miller dramatizes the concept of strained marriages. Both couples depicted in the play do not look happy living together. Philip is evidently concentrated on his problems and finding his identity, which results in the neglect of his wife. The man is usually deep in his thoughts and does not notice the world around him (Miller 4). Sylvia, a woman in her early forties, lacks his attention. This fact could also contribute to her loss of ability to walk. Another problem is that their family is in isolation, and Sylvia has no one to share her feelings and problems.

The social issue attracts attention to the problem of anti-Semitism that was typical of 1960s America. It resulted in the desire of Jewish immigrants to assimilate and frequently conceal their roots. Phillip is presented as a self-hating Jew who tries to find his place in New York. Miller explicitly addresses the Jewish theme as a whole and the concept of the Holocaust in particular. He makes the events in Europe of 1938, such as the anti-Jewish pogroms by the German Nazi, a reason for a Jewish woman’s ailment. Another idea related to Sylvia’s ailment that can be deducted from the plot is the feeling of powerlessness that people usually observe when they face racism or fascism.

The play is important for the Western World because it touches on the dangers of anti-Semitism, fascism, and racism, which have had a significant impact on the development of society and its values. The family of Gelldergs depicted in the play can be treated as a representation of many other immigrant families who move to another country and try to find their place. Frequently, new people are not accepted in a friendly manner, particularly when they are of a different ethnic background. While the play is not history itself, it has a historic retrospective since it depicts the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany. Moreover, the situation of one of the main characters as a reaction to violence in 1938 Germany can be considered a hint on all the people who suffered from German Nazi and lost their lives. Thus, the author warns the contemporary world against the threats of fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism or other embodiments of intolerance and discrimination by racial or ethnic belonging.

To summarizing, it should be mentioned that “Broken Glass” is a powerful play. It may not be as sharp as other Miller’s creations, but it also attracts attention to significant problems. The author aimed to depict that such issues as fascism, racism, or anti-Semitism can be dangerous and have an impact on a person even on distance. In addition to social and political; aspects, the play reveals inner personal problems of an immigrant family that fail to find their place and are lost in their desire to assimilate and be like the others.

Work Cited

Miller, Arthur. Broken Glass. Penguin Books, 1994.

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IvyPanda. (2021, June 26). Act One of "Broken Glass" Play by Arthur Miller. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/act-one-of-broken-glass-play-by-arthur-miller/

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"Act One of "Broken Glass" Play by Arthur Miller." IvyPanda, 26 June 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/act-one-of-broken-glass-play-by-arthur-miller/.

1. IvyPanda. "Act One of "Broken Glass" Play by Arthur Miller." June 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/act-one-of-broken-glass-play-by-arthur-miller/.


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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Act One of "Broken Glass" Play by Arthur Miller'. 26 June.

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