An Analysis Of American Values During The Great Depressions Era As Reflected In The Characters Of Arthur Miller
An Analysis of Characters
in Arthur Miller’s A Memory of Two Mondays
to Achieve a Clearer Understanding about What Values Living in
American Society during the Great Depressions Era
Compiled by :
Muhammad Rizqi A.
FACULTY OF LETTERS AND FINE ARTS
SEBELAS MARET UNIVERSITY
If we talk about the world of play, we cannot neglect one of the most influential
playwrights in the U.S. He is Arthur Miller. He was born in New York. His father is Isidore
Miller, a shopkeeper. In 1930s, United States of America underwent the worst economical
crisis ever. It was the Great Depressions. During the Great Depressions, life became
extremely hard in U.S. Miller’s family also became the victim of the hard situation in
America at that time. His father was ruined as the cause of the Depressions. During that era,
the number of unemployment was extremely high. Miller’s family then moved to Brooklyn.
After graduating from high school in 1932, Arthur Miller worked in a warehouse to get
money to continue to college. In 1934, he entered the University of Michigan and he won
the award for playwriting. Henceforth, he became a playwright. (http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/
amiller.htm). He produced many plays afterward. To mention are The Man Who Had All
the Luck, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge and A Memory of
Two Mondays (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Memory_ of_Two_Mondays)
A Memory of Two Mondays is a play telling about a boy named Bert who works in
a warehouse in America in the Great Depressions Era. It is said that Bert is the embodiment
of Arthur Miller in this play. The play is covered in a gloomy atmosphere. Despair is
greatly felt at that time. Having a job becomes a worthy thing since many do not have job.
The situation in warehouse is not very much different. Sadness, despair, and darkness seem
covering the warehouse. People in that warehouse share their problems, excitements, and
laughter every day. Many great values are depicted in the warehouse. Those values make
people in that place able to sustain the pressure they felt both from inside and outside the
warehouse. Those values did exist in American society at that time.
The values prevailing in the warehouse is what I am going to analyze. In my
opinion, the values of this play is inserted within each character of the play. Hence, before
evaluating the values, analyzing the characters are very essential. It is hoped that through
this essay, an understanding of values living in American society at the Great Depression
era could be achieved more clearly and could inspire us.
A Memory of Two Mondays is a play that explore the characters. The plot is not
explored clearly. Hence, in my opinion, to understand the play deeply we need to
understand the characters of the play. Characters in A Memory of Two Mondays play an
important role in building up the plot, in giving the time setting, and in reflecting thee
social condition as well as social values in American society during Great Depression era.
Characters building up the plot in terms of this play are about Bert who is going to
college. The plot in here is linear since it follows Bert’s story. The characters also build the
time setting. Actually there are two time markers, the first one is the window, and the
second one is character’s wardrobe. The dirty window is the marker during the summer.
After it is cleaned, it becomes the marker of winter. The wardrobe is clearly becoming the
marker of time. The wardrobe for the summer and winter is very much different so that we
can notice that the two Mondays are in different season.
KENNETH. Winter’s surely here when Agnes is wearin’ her leggings. (p. 46)
As what I have stated before, this paper is going to analyze the American values that
re depicted in the character of A Memory of Two Mondays. There are fourteen characters
in the play. Each character has a role in building up the play. Each symbolizes one
character in real life. In my opinion, the warehouse is the embodiment of America at that
time. The warehouse which is very messy symbolizes the situation of America during the
Great Depressions which was very “messy”. It was the worst situation ever in America. The
characters of the play then, symbolize the people of America during that era with their own
values. Henceforth, I am about to analyze the characters of the play more thoroughly to
obtain what characteristic each has.
Firstly, the characters are divided into main character and minor character. Bert is
considered as the main character here because he is the one who still “shines” during the
dark times. He still has his dream to go to college. Dream is what the drama all about. This
play teaches us to keep on dreaming. It teaches us to never let your dream down. As
described on the page 11 of the script, Bert is an 18-year-old boy, his trousers are worn at
the knees, and his sleeves are rolled up. He does not wear tie. He carries a thick book and
New York Times.
From his appearance, I can conclude that Bert is a young, informal boy. Judging
from the thick book he brings, he is a smart boy. He is also a boy who is really curious if
we look from the newspaper he reads. On page 17, Bert is also described as a hard-worker.
BERT. I Always take Jim’s heavy orders, Gus (p. 17)
Bert is dreaming that one day he will be able to go to college. He is the one in the
warehouse that keeps on dreaming. However, there are people who do not really like about
his dream. Many mock him but he can survive because he also has many supporters in his
life. Bert is something that is needed in the hard times. Bert is the realization of dream,
hope, and light. What is needed is someone who will always keep that dream alive.
Someone who will always guard it no matter how hard the obstacle is. It is the minor
character that will play the role.
The guardian of the Bert’s dream is Kenneth. Kenneth is a twenty six year old man
from Ireland. He is best described as a good-looking man. He loves poetry very much. He
orates poetry every time he can. Kenneth is also a very philosophic man. He is in some way
a very wise man though everyone else sees him fool.
KENNETH. Larry, you supposed we could get these windows washed
sometime? I’ve often thought if we could see a bit of the sky now and
again it would help matters now and again. (p.29)
From his wisdom, he often encourages Bert. He has ever had a dream. He has come all the
way down to America from his hometown from Ireland. However, his dream has been
shattered by the economical situation at that time. In my opinion, Kenneth sees himself
within Bert. Bert is the young Kenneth, a young, energetic, and spiritful boy and also dare
to dream. That’s why he does not want Bert to have the same faith as him. He does not
want Bert to regret his life as he does.
KENNETH. ………….. Oh, Bert. I never thought I would end my life
wrappin’ brown paper around strange axles (p. 19)
He is Bert’s best friend in the warehouse. He is the one who never doubts Bert will get
success. He is the one who encourages Bert with his poetry. He is a very good companion
to Bert. Kenneth becomes the guardian of Bert’s dreams. However, Kenneth character
changes in the end of the story. He starts drinking and starting forgetting his poetries, one
thing that he regrets the most.
The next character that I want to discuss is Gus. He is in some way is described as a
very rude person. He is sixty-eight years old. A fat, bold man. On page 17, he is described
to be not respectful to his sick wife. It is told that he cheats behind her while she is sick. He
often lies to her. He is also the one who doubts Bert’s decision to continue his study.
GUS. And you gonna go college? Barber college you gonna go! (p. 20)
However, over his bad, rude, attitude, he is a very caring person to his friends. I never
consider Gus as an antagonist character of this play. He is a very loyal person. His loyalty
is best shown to Tom Kelly and Larry. He is the one who will defend for Tom Kelly when
no does so, as depicted in the lines below.
GUS. Then you fire me! You fire Tommy. You fire me! (p. 38)
His caring is also to Larry. When Larry buys a car, Gus regrets Larry’s action very much.
It is all because Gus knows Larry has such a big burden in his shoulders. Larry must take
care of his family with his not-highly-paid salary from the warehouse. Gus feels that Larry
spends too much money to please him self (p. 31).
On the first Monday, Bert’s wife is died. Afterward, he withdraws all his money
from the bank (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211511/). It is not told explicitly, but actually,
Gus is very sad for his loss. He is very depressed because he thinks he is not a good
husband, even he could not present in Lily’s very last time. This also emphasizes Gus’s
character as a caring person. He is also depressed from his working place. He has been
working there for twenty-two years and his life is not much improved. Hence, after getting
such much money, he goes on rebellion (http://kdhx.org/index.php?option=com_content
&task=view&id=2022&Itemid=272). Nevertheless, he finds his end in the end of the story
after spending his money.
The other character that tells about dreams is Larry. He dreams to buy a car. He
cannot sustain his desire any longer. He buys the car. However, his heart is torn between
his own desire and his family’s need. He is responsible for his family life. After buying car,
his working friend, a girl named Patricia becomes closer to her. Patricia is 23 years old.
She is pretty and becomes the object of sexual abuse in the work place. She starts to flirt
him. This situation reflects the society’s condition. Larry reflects one person who must
sustain his family’s burden. He becomes the backbone of his family. Even though it is not
clearly explained, Larry could be the only person in his family who has a job. Hence, every
member of the family lays their hopes to him. Patricia reflects a girl that seeks for someone
that she thinks, will make her have a better life. In other words, she is materialistic. She is
easy falling in love with someone as told on page 14. That is why, she breaks up with Larry
after he sells his car.
Another girl character in this play is Agnes. It is told that Agnes is kindhearted
receptionist who bursts into tears at the sadness of the lives around her
(http://www.amazon.com/Memory-Two-Mondays-Arthur-Miller/dp/0822207478). She also
becomes the object of abuse by Gus. Both Patricia and Agnes reflect that they should bear
becoming the object of sexual abuse only to preserve their job
is also the ones who support Bert to continue his study. She is such a good “mother” to all
people in the warehouse.
Raymond is the manager of the warehouse. He tried to set everything on the track.
He is described as a very formal man. He is also very neat. He regrets the situation of every
Monday morning. He has to set everything in order because on Mondays, Mr. Eagle will
inspect them. And every Monday morning, the situation is always the same, a disaster.
RAYMOND. It’s the same circus every Monday morning (p. 16)
He does not want his job disturbed even when Gus’s wife dies or Bert leaves. Aside from
the very strict Raymond, there is a drunk character namely Tom Kelly. Tom is the one who
rise the tense of the first Monday. He comes in drunk. He has to wake up if he still wants to
have a job. In this situation, a very great value is shown in the warehouse. It is friendship.
Everyone tries the best to wake Tom up. Friendship becomes the dominant values on page
27 – 38. Tom Kelly is also the one who undergoes character changing. He was once a
drinker, then in the end of the story, he becomes clean. But, he becomes such a big mouth.
Even, he becomes irritating since he comments on everything. He is finally clean since he
has a determination and a great will in his heart.
Besides those characters there also Jim, Frank, Jerry, Willy, and Mr. Eagle in the
play. Each one of them represents one character in American situation of that time. Jim,
represent the old man spirit that keeps on fire. Frank represents a man that like to go
making love with girl anywhere he goes. Jerry and Willy represent youngsters that enjoy
their life while they can. Mr. Eagle is the one who inspects the warehouse. He inspects
whether everything goes on the track or not. He inspects whether the other employees still
deserve to have a job or not. As his name, “eagle”, he is like eagle who is ready to get his
prey anytime. (http://www.amazon.com/Memory-Two-Mondays-Arthur-Miller/dp/ 08222
Those are the description of the characters in the play. Afterward, a deep analysis
will be drawn from the description of the characters. The aim of the writing this essay is to
find out what are the values that is depicted in this play. I believe that the characters in the
play depict the situation of American society during Great Depression era. This play is
actually based on Arthur Miller’s young experience. Arthur Miller is represented in Bert
(http://kdhx.org/index.php?option=com_content&task= view&id=2022&Itemid=272). Bert
is the one who keeps on dreaming for a better life. I have stated earlier that this play is
about dream, hope, and enlightenment. During Great Depressions, the situation was very
gloomy and sad. The rate of unemployment was so high. Having a job was more than
enough, even though that job was not really good as working in the warehouse. However,
you could not ask more. You had to accept what you got. However, Miller teaches us
through this play, however dark, bad and sad your life is, never put your dream left behind.
He teaches us that it is the dream that will brighten your day. However, there are times
when you think it is really hard to keep your dream alive. You need someone who will
always keep your dream alive. All you need is friend. A good friend is depicted in the
character of Kenneth. He becomes a friend as well as teacher to Bert. Through Kenneth, he
learns that live is more than working in warehouse. Friend can help you pass even the
darkest time in your life. Another value that is being introduced by Miller to survive the era
of despair is friendship and loyalty. Amazing friendship and loyalty are shown in the play.
A good friend will be there, will give you an unconditional friendship even in your darkest
moments. It can be shown in the scene where Tom Kelly is nearly fired because he arrives
drunk. Everyone around him tries to wake him up.
Another good relationship between dream and friendship is also shown in Larry
and Gus. Larry has a dream to have a car, which is something he desires for long time. He
realizes his dream even though there is a conflict within his heart. He does not know what
he must choose, realizing his dream or his family. A good friend will help you choose the
best. In this part, Gus plays his role. He questions Larry’s decision to buy a car. Gus opens
Larry’s mind that he still has much more important thing to be realized rather than fulfilling
his dream. He still has to take care of his family. A good friend will help you decide what is
best for you.
Tom Kelly is also an inspiring character. He was a drinker. He finally makes an
oath that he will stop drinking. Finally, he is able to do that. He has a great determination
to do so. From this description, Arthur Miller wants to convey to us that you have to
believe in your self even though people surrounding you do not believe in you. By
believing to your self, you will have a great determination to make your dreams come
Beside those positive values of dreams, hopes, and friendship, this play also shows
to us the real condition of American society of that moment. As the name, Great
Depression, the atmosphere of the play is also full of despair. It can be shown from the
number of drunker in this play. To mention are Gus, Jim, Tom and eventually Kenneth,
they all are drinker. They escape the reality of how hard life at the moment is to drink. It is
what people of working class do to escape from their problems. It is all shown on the page
BERT. Well, why do you drink, Kenny if it makes you feel
KENNETH. Good God, Bert, you can’t always be doin’ what you’re better
off to do! There’s all kinds of unexpected turns, y’know, and things
not workin’ out the way they ought.
Drinking is the means to release the burden that is greatly possessed by working class
people at that time. There are many pressure varying from economic until intimate
relationship ones. Drinking until get drunk is the only way to escape from those pressures
because as Kenny says, it feels good.
Another negative values depicted in the play is about sexual abuse. Women are
easily abused at that time. However, they could not do more to defend their self. Agnes and
Patricia become the object of abuse. They could not complain for that because there was
no gender equality at that time. Hence, after World War II a movement promoting gender
equality named feminism started to get stronger.
In my opinion, through this play, Arthur Miller has succeeded in taking his audience
to experience what it feels like living in the Great Depressions era. Through this play, he
has also succeeded in criticizing American government at the time. He has also been able to
inspire his audience to dare to dream.
Arthur Miller’s A Memory of Two Mondays is based from his experience. He
experienced living under Great Depression Era. He knew what it feels to be ruined because
his father is one of the victims of the bankruptcy. Hence, he could insert many kinds of
motion to this play.
In my opinion, through this play, Arthur Miller wants to go back to his early young
time. The time setting of the play is Great Depression. Hence, the atmosphere of the play is
also full of sadness and desperation. Even, women are abused easily. Hence, Arthur
Miller wants to tell people at that time to keep on dreaming in that bad time. He wants to
tell us, dreams can help you survive your darkest time. Another thing that is needed to help
you survive the dark times is friend that can give you friendship and loyalty. An English
proverb says, “A friend in need, is a friend indeed”. This proverb suits best the situation in
the warehouse. Friends can always cheer you up. Friends can always keep your dream
alive. They will remind you whenever you do wrong. A good friend will always be loyal to
you in your good and bad times. Another important thing is that you also have to possess a
great determination if you want to realize all of your dreams.
In conclusion, through this play, Arthur Millers wants us to experience what he has
experienced. Feel what he has felt. He wants to show us how despair it was back then. He
wants to show us what are values living in American society during the Great Depressions.
Miller also wants to teach us how to survive no matter how bad our lives are. He teaches to
us to preserve our dreams no matter how impossible our dreams are. Just believe in your
self that your dream will come true.
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