Focus Background

Focus Background

Focus (1945) is the first novel of Jewish-born author and playwright Arthur Miller; it focuses on racism, specifically antisemitism, or racism/prejudice towards people of Jewish descent. It follows Newman, a personnel manager for a large New York company, as he deals with daily life and his problems with a new group of people (the Jews) and the new Jewish-run Candy store. As times change, though, Newman experiences antisemitism first hand, and Newman changes both physically and mentally.

It's likely that Focus was created with Miller's own experiences in mind. It was a rebuttal against the antisemitism of the times during which the book was written (1945, during World War II). Upon release, the novel was met with tremendous acclaim. Critics pointed out Miller's prose, the poignancy of the themes, deep characters, and powerful imagery.

The novel was adapted into a film in 2001 by Neal Slavin and features William H. Macy in the role of Lawrence 'Larry' Newman and Laura Dern as Gertrude 'Gert' Hart. The film was met with mixed to leaning negative reviews, with some critics saying that it had good intentions, but was too heavy handed in its efforts to shove its message down its audience's throat.

While Focus will likely not be remembered among Miller's most popular works (since Miller is best known as a dramatist), it is nonetheless a pointed social statement.

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