I finally got around to doing a little internet digging into the world of Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee and found myself sunk right back into that old question about women and depression, that question you don’t hear so much these days, but as soon as you return to Freud and the whole twentieth century, there it is. The Last Yankee premiered in 1993, when the latest statistics were saying that women had a 20 to 26% chance of depression, and a 6% hospitalisation rate, whereas men had an 8 to 12% chance and a 3% hospitalisation rate. I have done no research into the latest statistics, but I can’t help but feel they would be saying something very different, or at least somewhat different. And then we have to ask, is this because far more women are in the workplace and feeling more in control of their lives? Or is it because men are becoming more open about their emotional struggles or is it both or neither?
What is clear is that Miller saw middle-aged American housewives as fairly vulnerable creatures. Maybe he saw middle-aged American women in general that way. I can’t help but feel that The Last Yankee is a product of questions he began asking when his relationship with Marilyn Monroe started to go downhill, and I can’t help but wonder if and how much he blamed himself. How much did he blame himself for the end of his first marriage? Did he think women’s common neuroses were as much a part of the failure of the American dream as Willy Loman’s problems? Or did he think a lot of American men, particularly successful ones, just didn’t know how to keep looking at their wives?