‘All my Sons’ By Arthur Miller
‘All my sons’ by Arthur Miller is a play that is about an average American family who has made a lot of money from a business that made parts for plane engines during the war. The play is set in the back garden of the family home, the father Joe Keller has a guilty secret which only his wife Kate knows. Joe has 2 sons, Chris has fought in the war and his personality has changed from a greedy and self-centred person to someone who takes care and looks out for other people. The other son of Joe is called Larry, who has also been at war but has been reported missing for 3 years. Ann Deever lived next to the family when she was growing up but moved to New York when her father was sentenced to jail. She and Chris are in love and thinking about getting married but Joe and Kate are against this because Ann used to be Larry’s girl before he went missing and his mother Kate believes that he will come home. During the essay I will be discussing the different conflicts between the father Joe and his son Chris which are caused by their different views of responsibility. I will be looking at the characterisation of Joe and Chris and also the events of act 2 that lead to the dramatic ending of act 3.
Joe doesn’t have many bad qualities in him, the only time the audience do see such qualities is when he speaks poorly of Steve to others like when he says, “I owe him a good kick in the teeth”(Act 2, p47).
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However, the audience no he does not mean this but he says it to cover up the fatal mistake he made. The original argument was between Chris and George but Joe got involved when he overheard the argument and wanted to back up his son. When George is forced away then Chris and George start arguing because Chris knows his father is hiding something.
Joe Keller has confessed his guilt to his son Chris; his guilt was he told Steve to ship out the cracked cylinder head knowing they wouldn’t hold. Joe is trying to defend himself by saying he only did it so he wouldn’t lose his business and everything he work for. Chris states he lost his comrades and wasn’t thinking about the business his father ran. Chris’s comrades felt like his family and were devastated when they died and thinks his dad Joe is responsible for those killed. Chris asks lots of question and wants answers but this does not only show he is angry, it shows he is confused at what his father did.
Chris still doesn’t understand why his father would do such a thing and says his closing speech ‘with burning fury’. Chris is confused he wants answers and the only way he can get answers is by asking his father the same question so he can understand his fury. Chris cannot understand his fathers reasoning because he has a total different understanding of responsibility. By Chris saying ‘What are you?’ it shows he doesn’t know is father anymore! Chris repeatedly asks ‘What must I do to you?’ and this shows how Chris recognises a need for justice and consequences. The audience and is made to feel sympathy for Chris and is linked to the theme of responsibility. Chris represents universal responsibility, whereas, Joe represents the personal responsibility.
Joe and Chris are arguing over whether Joe should go to jail and do his time for the terrible crime he committed. Chris thinks everyone who has committed a crime should pay for it even if it is his father. Keller tries to argue that he was not the only one to make money from the war, Chris accepts that people do bad things but shows how he idolised his father and believed he should be better than them. The structure of Chris’s words emphasis what he sees the difference between just hearing a man and his father. (Worse/Better – Man /Father).
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In conclusion, the whole poem is about the difference in view over responsibility. Chris’s view is to help anyone who needs help and care for everyone where as Joe is self centred and only helps and looks out for his family. Joe is trying to achieve ‘The American Dream’ which we find out is all about being selfish to your self and your family. We feel sympathy for both characters at the end of the play because Chris has witnessed his comrades dieing because of his fathers stupidity. Whereas, we feel sympathy for Joe because he was only trying to give his family the best they can get and to do that he took a risk that ended disastrously. At the end of the play Joe kills himself because he can’t going to jail after making people think he wasn’t guilty.