2016 Reading List #43: Incident at Vichy, by Arthur Miller

My journey with Arthur Miller continues.

After rereading After the Fall (which I’m not posting about), I was both excited and a little nervous to move into the later years of Miller’s writing career that I know little about. I’ve already worked through his most famous titles, but knowing that 11 plays remain in this collection after his best-known works, I know there’s much more to see from Miller.

Incident at Vichy surprised me. It’s a one-act play that takes place in a waiting room in Vichy, France, where a group of (presumably Jewish) men have been brought to show their identification papers during World War II. Though the play is just short of fifty pages in length, Miller is able to capture the increasing anxiety in this group of strangers as they slowly realize why they’ve been brought together.

One of the most upsetting things about the dialogue here is that the action takes place fairly early in the war, and the characters are discussing the rumors they’ve heard about concentration camps. The action precedes knowledge about what exactly was done to Jews, and though someone mentions rumor of gas chambers, the characters mostly think that’s too horrible a story to be true.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Incident at Vichy was its relevance to contemporary society. When discussing hatred and war, one character asks, “why does loving your country mean hating all others?”

We might ask a certain Republication presidential nominee that same question.

In Incident at Vichy, though a lesser-known work, Miller continues to prove why his works are some of the best loved in American drama.

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