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Incident at Vichy


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A: Arthur Miller Pf: 1964, New York Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 1 act S: Place of detention, Vichy, France, 1942 C: 21mSix men and a boy have been taken off the streets by the police in Vichy, capital of unoccupied France in the Second World War. They are Marchand, a self-important businessman; Lebeau, a painter; Bayard, an electrician; Monceau, an actor; a Gypsy; a Waiter; and a boy of 15. None of them knows why they have been arrested. Three more detainees are brought in by the police: an old Jew, the indignant Doctor Leduc, who insists that he is a captain in the French army, and the Austrian aristocrat Prince von Berg. The men begin to discuss the deportation of the Jews which has begun in Vichy France. As they are interrogated one by one by a Professor of ‘racial anthropology’, the detainees begin to suspect each other of being Jewish and exchange stories about extermination camps in Poland. As they become more aware of their plight, they consider trying to overpower the guard, but as Leduc recognizes, the authorities ‘rely on our own logic to immobilize ourselves’. Leduc confronts the German army Major about his complicity in this racist action, but admits his own moral weakness: he would abandon the others if he were set free. Von Berg is given a pass when his credentials are checked, but, partly to assuage his own guilt, he nobly gives it to Leduc, so that he can escape.

A: Arthur Miller Pf: 1964, New York Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 1 act S: Place of detention, Vichy, France, 1942 C: 21m

This well-wrought long one-acter recognizes not only that racism is found the world over, but also that the victims, in this case the Jews, were often partly complicit in their own oppression.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Arthur Miller (1915—2005) American dramatist


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