Classic literature remains timeless and relevant, able to shed light on the problematic human condition, thus exposing the ills of society.
Reading the 1968 award-winning play, “The Price” by Arthur Miller, I discover anew the freshness of this truth. Miller pushes one into deeper introspection, increasing the clarity of one’s life. We’re defined by our past and our choices whether we’re cognizant or not about them.
With these choices beginning in childhood, one ploughs through life reinventing the past, justifying and denying poor decisions. In Miller’s play, he illuminates how past and present are inextricably bound through one’s intention to play the victim or victor depending on the level of conscience or unconscious perspective chosen.
Miller’s plays span decades, and many of them mirror that particular culture and political climate. Rereading this iconic play amid the increasing rate of drug overdoses, suicides and racial unrest rents away any progress that I’ve believed in for the human race. Many of us are numbingly content to take the crumbs offered by the people we love. Many of us don’t understand how we self-sabotage what we want most — love. It’s too painful.
The play is set in New York, where two aging brothers meet after a 16-year separation to sell the late parents’ furniture, realize that it’s not about the price of the furniture but the price of silence over lost years with only envy and justification to hang their hats on.
Tempers flare, words spoken opening wounds that’ll never heal without an olive branch extended to all, including oneself. All fall victim to the past that each believes in a different way. No one escapes the vitriolic warfare of fear that scourges the soul and keeps one from achieving the full potential of joy and love in life. It’s become a blame game. It’s outstanding how Miller captures the duplicity of human nature that was as real then as it is now.
As Miller asserts, we’ve lived too small, scared to face that we’re envious of others, refusing to see clearly our part in our loneliness. It’s easier to deny the reality of our choices. Walter tells his brother we invent our lives to deny painful truth.
“You invent a life of self-sacrifice, a life of duty; but what never existed here cannot be upheld. You weren’t upholding something, you were denying what you knew and denying yourself ... you lay down and quit.”
It’s two different roads out of the same trap; the dividing line is one knows it and is willing to reflect no matter how painful and change direction rather than creating a false narrative. The other leads a life of sacrificing one’s potential to blame and envy only to hang oneself in the doorway — always playing the victim.
Life is about living with intention and introspection. Owning one’s mistakes and facing the truth. All people live with ghosts of the past. We don’t have to let them rule us; we can choose to love and forgive generously.