From Glenn Miller to Arthur Miller

From Glenn Miller to Arthur Miller

Blog post by Leslie Albiston

I’ve always thought that the apple tree, which is such a potent symbol in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” draws its power from its association with the Garden of Eden, original sin and the loss of innocence. This is underpinned by the “struggle” of the two sons for the love of Annie, the Cain and the Abel story played out as emotional drama.

b_p_AllMySonsYesterday as I was preparing some revision work for the Seconde class (the play is one of their set texts for IGCSE English Literature) I found myself listening to a compilation of Glenn Miller tunes (trying to get myself in the mood- ha ha) and I was suddenly struck by the lyrics of “Don’t sit Under the Apple tree.” First recorded in 1942, the song is a jaunty instruction by a departing serviceman to his girlfriend to remain faithful to him until he returns from the war.

Don’t sit under the apple tree
With anybody else but me
Anybody else but me
Anybody else but me
Don’t sit under the apple tree
With anybody else but me
Till I come marching home

Like Britain’s Vera Lynn, Glenn Miller thought it his duty to preform music that would raise the morale of fighting men and their loved ones as his contribution to the war effort.

I’m certain that five years later, Glenn’s namesake, Arthur used the broken apple tree as a symbol of the challenge to fidelity and of Chris’s determination to win the love of his dead brother’s fiancée. Given the play’s structure I’m sure that Miller draws upon our cultural memory of the story of Genesis as well as Greek tragedy. But it’s also very tempting to imagine Arthur humming Glenn’s song as he wrote the play.

I can’t find any evidence that the two Millers ever met or that Arthur ever listened to Glenn’s music, but I do find it poignantly ironic that the fictional Larry who is symbolized by that apple tree and the real life Glenn both met the same fate at the end of the war, missing in action while taking a flight from which they would never return.

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