To what extent is All My Sons a tragedy concerned with the concept of American Materialism? All My Sons is a play concerned with capitalistic culture being pitted against human decency, in which the culprit is the ‘self-made’ man; an image promoted by the American dream, which states that even an impoverished, disadvantaged youth can attain prestige and wealth through determination, hard work and moral integrity. Joe Keller is this self-made man, one who came from a working class background to become a factory owner.
He frequently defines himself as an uneducated man, taking pride in his commercial success without the aid of conventional book learning; however, his business oriented ideology leads him to sacrifice his domestic happiness for his materialistic gain. From the opening page, we get an idea of how fixated the play is with wealth: “The house is two stories high and has seven rooms. It would have cost perhaps fifteen thousand in the early twenties. ” Doing this, Miller promptly establishes in the setting that the Keller’s financial comfort defines them.
It seems that Joe Keller is almost obsessed with the idea of making money in order to pass it on. However, it also seems that his good motives are hugely undermined by his interest in material success: “Kid, walkin’ down the street that day I was guilty as hell, except I wasn’t, and there was a court paper in my pocket to prove I wasn’t, and I walked… past… the porches. Result? fourteen months later I had one of the best shops in the state again, a respected man again, bigger than ever. ” This shows that what matters to Keller is that he eventually restored his business to prosperity.
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To him, material success is the ultimate goal. Joe is the complete opposite of Chris. His ideals separate him from his father’s materialistic ways. Whereas Joe is fixated with material gain, Chris hopes to maintain a balance between making money, and building a life he can believe in. This idealism prevents him, initially, from acknowledging the reality of the business he is inheriting: “If I have to grab for money all day long at least at evening I want it beautiful. I want a family, I want some kids, I want to build something I can give myself. However, even Chris’ moral and financial idealism is tested by the lure of material gain. His reference to his money as “loot” from the war is quickly turned around by simple persuasion from Annie: “… there’s nothing wrong with your money. Your father put hundreds of planes in the air… a man should be paid for that. ” In response to this, Chris quickly comes around to a perspective that more closely resembles that of his father: “Oh Annie, Annie I’m going to make a fortune for you! ” (C. K-act one)
It seems that Miller is intent on pointing out the flaws with a merely economic vision of the American dream as business success alone. To accentuate this ever present, recurring moral, the character of George is employed to reveal the trail of destruction created by Joe in his quest for economic gain: “I saw your factory on the way from the station. It looks like General Motors. ” For George, the success of the factory is a symbol of the injustice Joe inflicted on both George’s father and the twenty one pilots, of which George is fully aware.
Another pivotal character concerning this issue is Sue Bayliss. Presented as a parallel opposite of her husband Jim, she is an exemplary example of how material wealth is the source of significant malcontent. In belated riposte to her husband’s aim to go into research for a living, she states: “research pays twenty-five dollars a week, minus laundering the hair shirt. ” This avaricious view of her husband’s preferred employment undermines the prosperous sentiments behind the American Dream, as does her cynical conclusion regarding Annie and Chris: “… and he’s got money. That’s important you know. If any individual of All My Sons provides as a character whose stability is unchallenged by the attraction or demoralisation of material wealth, Jim is that character. The importance of Jim in a tragedy concerning the abundance of wealth cannot be understated. He provides as a character that has no illusions about his own morality, making him an unwavering character in the morally testing tribulations. He is keen on going into research, a profession that will no doubt destabilize his financial comfort, but one that he feels will be worth-while and municipally beneficial.
One may say that Chris McCandless was an arrogant fool considering the decisions he made throughout his short life. Others may say he was an incredible inspiration and should be honored beyond his death for his choices. McCandless may have made some questionable choices within his journey, yet he was nothing less of an inspiration to those who feel that they have not ‘found themselves’ and ...
In ways that Chris fails to satisfy a faultless stance in play, Jim makes up on. He is ethically idealistic, yet able to ‘see it human’ if necessary; evident in his attitude towards Joe’s ‘crime’. However, he is also fully aware of his monetary situation, jokingly stating: “I would love to help humanity on a Warner Brothers salary. ” It seems unlikely that Jim is in any way influenced by Chris, more than likely the other way around, however, unable to accept that her husband is considering, in her eyes, cutting off her financial comfort purely due to externally inflicted guilt, she loads the blame onto the ‘holy family’, specifically Chris: Every time he has a session with Chris, he feels as if he’s compromising by not giving up everything for research. ” Sue is clearly eluded by her dislike of the ‘holy family’, failing to accept Jim’s intentions, similarly Chris is eluded by his idealisms, and Joe by his aim to presumably stay a free man. Collectively, this leads to a play engulfed by dramatic irony, leading to an anagnorisis of huge proportions. Despite Joe Keller’s initiation in the course of tragic action, his morals and intended outcomes are far from the reality he experiences.
It could be said that Joe merely wants to maintain the economic comfort of which his family has become accustomed. This then could suggest that Sue Bayliss provides as an example of a purely ‘wealth orientated’ character, one who has no ulterior-motives or necessitating circumstances. This provides Joe Keller’s character with more a sympathetic quandary, giving the play a defining tragic quality of an antagonist who brings about his own tragic downfall attributable to his unfortunate circumstances or personal flaws.
The Play Hamlet by William Shakespeare is arguably his finest tragedy ever written. The characterizations of the cast are odd shaped pieces that fit perfectly in this puzzle of confusion and anger. The contrasts and comparisons between and within the characters paint a colorful picture of tragedy and betrayal. Three characters that display intricate characteristics are Polonius, King Claudius, and ...
Further proof of the tragic quality of All My Sons is found towards the end of the play, where Chris’ anagnorisis leads to the destruction of his communal family. Chris proclaims: “But I’m like everybody else now. I’m practical now. You made me practical. ” This in itself can be considered tragic, or at least a sad re-percussion of the tragic events of the play. It shows that Chris’ ideals have been replaced by a rather realistic and bleak outlook into the realities that have prevented him from being able to relate to his father’s predicament.
There is a momentous breakdown of character towards the end of All My Sons, specifically in Chris and Joe. Chris is distraught by his father’s failure to be anything more than ‘a normal man’, strongly believing that he was better than that. This eruption of immediate confrontation comes as a huge surprise to the audience, who are led to believe, by the likes of Sue Bayliss and George Deever, that Chris is aware of what Joe did, but is simply unable to come to terms with it, adding hugely to the power of the play’s ending.
This final act also proves Chris as genuine, or possibly naive, either way he is what we initially thought he was which, if nothing else, provides the ending with an element of satisfaction. Despite knowing that Chris will always fail to see his father’s tainted perspective, Joe continues to use dominant American ideology to excuse his actions: “It’s dollars and cents, nickels and dimes; war and peace, it’s nickels and dimes, what’s clean? Half the goddam country is gotta go if I go! ” This shows that his quest for materialistic gain defines him, he is nothing without it.
It also adds significance to his suicide and proof that materialism, specifically financial avidity, cannot contend with a morally substantial reality, but despite this, and despite the expectations of a tragedy, there is a significant feeling of dissatisfaction and a sense that ‘justice has not been done’. This is partly because, despite being significantly avaricious, his motives are undeniably justified. This suggests that Miller’s aim is not to allow the audience to feel any sense of satisfaction, but rather establish a moral, and prove that the quest for material wealth leads to tragedy, rather than deliver from it.
Is Antigone a tragic play as defined by Aristotle? Antigone is not a tragic play. Rather it is a theological debate spawned by Sophocles, a debate that is still raging today, the debate of who holds the higher law, the Gods or the State. While this debate has slowly twisted into Church versus State, which is a very different argument, the highest questions still remain the same: Which one is held ...