All My Sons, a play by Arthur Miller, tellspredominantly of the story of the Kellers.
Thisplay takes place after World War II, in the year1947. It is a drama of actions and consequencesand morality. This theme of actions andconsequences is shown after Joe Keller ships outdefective engine parts, which ultimately ends inthe death of many pilots including that of his ownson, Larry Keller, who kills himself in shame ofhis father s actions. Joe Keller had two sons,Chris and Larry, who is dead. Chris and hisfather, Joe, have opposing morals and viewpointson many of the issues that govern their lives,primarily the issue of the shipment of thedefective engine parts.Chriss criticism of Joeand his morals in juxtaposition to his ownproduces a revelation of Chriss true character andhis character flaws. Chriss main criticisms ofJoe, his father, chiefly deals with the shipmentof the defective engine parts. Joe plays a majorrole in this play.
He is shown as the antagonist,the one who through his bad decisions, ends upkilling many innocent pilots who were onlydefending their country. In All My Sons, Millercomplicates the story in that the father becomesflawed morally to such an extent that the outsideforces function as reflections or testimonies ofthe essential inner weakness. (Martin, 9) As Yorksshows in his essay, through Joes loyalty to hisbusiness and his family, Joe betrays the largerloyalties of the global conflict [World War II](21) by shipping out defective engine parts.Joetries to defend his actions by saying, Who workedfor nothin in that war? When they work for nothin,Ill work for nothinits dollars and cents, nickelsand dimes; war and peace, its nickels and dimes,whats clean? Half the Goddamn country is gotta goif I go! (Miller, 67) Joe claims to Chris thatalmost all the businesses involved in the war,made a profit from it and if that is considereddirty, then nobody is clean. Chris says that isexactly why he is so upset. I know youre no worsethan most men but I thought you were better.
Inever saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.(Miller, 67) Chris expected his father to bebetter than most men, and is shamed when he learnsof what his father has done. Chris says to hisfather, What the hell do you mean, you did it forme? Dont you have a country? What the hell areyou? Youre not even an animal, no animal kills hisown, what are you? (Miller, 59) Miller, throughthe title, tries to make us understand that Joecommits suicide as a final recognition of allthose who fought as his sons.(Yorks, 22).
Chrisis the one who drives his father to see that allthe fighting men were actually his sons. While oneanalyzes Chriss criticism of Joe and his morals,the focus then moves to Chris and his own morals.Though Chris preaches to his father about moralityand his loyalty to his country, we see that Chrismay be just as dirty as his father. He too haspocketed the profits of the family business, yethe continues to hold himself to be morallysuperior to Joe. Joe himself asks Chris, Exactlywhats the matter? Whats the matter? You got toomuch money? Is that what bothers you? (Miller, 67)Chris claims all the money that his father hasearned is dirty, yet Chris has taken the profitsjust as his father has. Chris is revealed assuspecting his fathers guilt all along, but aslacking the moral stamina to force the issue.(Clurman, 24).Its true.
Im yellow, I was madeyellow in this house because I suspected my fatherand I did nothing about it. says Chris. (Miller,66) Flaws in Chriss character are also shown whenwe examine the love of Chriss life, Annie. It isChris who, in reaching out for love and a life ofhis own with Annie, first weakens and destroys thesense of security his father has tried to upkeepfor his family.
Annie, who has become Chrissfiance, was previously also Chriss dead brother,Larrys fiancee.One must wonder what kind ofmorals Chris must have if he wants to marry hisdeceased brothers fiancee. Chris knows thatmarrying Annie will destroy his mother, Kate, whostill believes that Larry is not dead and willreappear one day. Kate refuses to allow Chris tomarry his brothers fiancee because that wouldacknowledge Larrys death. As Joe tells Chris, Frommothers point of view he is not dead and you haveno right to take his girl. (Miller, 14) Yetdespite the wishes of his parents, Chris stillintends on marrying Annie. In an essay written byWells, it is shown that during and exchangebetween Chris and George, Chris has alwayssuspected his father.Let me go up and talk toyour father.
In ten minutes youll have an answer.Or are you afraid of the answer? asks George. Imnot afraid.
I know the answer replies Chris.(Miller 48) Chris has not allowed himself to admitwhat he knew because he would not know how to livewith it. Chris could not love a guilty father, notout of moral fastidious but out of self-love(Gross, 13) If as George says, Chris has lied tohimself about his fathers guilt, it is more todeny what he himself is than what his father is.Chris has always known his father was guilty butcould not handle the consequences- thecondemnation of his father and also of himselfbecause he too has been polluted. This is exactlywhat the exposure of his father forces upon himand his fathers arguments all shatter upon thehard shell of Chris idealism not simply becausethey are, in fact, evasions and irrelevanthalf-truths, but because they can not satisfyChris conscience.(Wells, 6) When Chris says that,I never saw you as a man.
I saw you as my father.I cant look you this way. I cant look at myself!(Miller, 67) An unwittingly, illuminatingadmission: he cannot look at his father as nobetter than most because he cannot look at himselfas no better than most, he had never seen hisfather as a man because he has not wanted to seehimself as one. (Gross, 13) At the conclusion ofAll My Sons, we see that Chris has come to arealization of what he has become. He has become aman, something he never wanted to see himself orhis father as. I could jail him! I could jail him,if I were human any more.But Im like everybodyelse now.
Im practical now. You made mepracticalthe cats in that alley were practical,the bums who ran away when we were fighting werepractical. Only the dead ones werent practical.But now Im practical, and I spit on myself. Imgoing away. Im going now.
(Miller, 66) Chris hasbecome what he never wanted to be a practical man.The true Chris was always soiled, just as hisfather by his fathers actions and just like hisdead brother, Larry, he could no longer standhimself. Chris tells his mother, You can dobetter! Once and for all you can know theres auniverse of people outside and youre responsibleto it, and unless you know that you threw awayyour son because thats why he died. (Miller, 69)At this moment, a shot is heard and we find outthat Joe has committed suicide. Chris starts toapologize to his mother for being so harsh withJoe, but his mother stops him and says, Dont,dear.
Dont take it on yourself. Forget now.Live.(Miller 69) Chris has now been freed from hisfathers immoral actions and can now live as theman he has become, a practical man.
Bibliography:Works Cited 1. Clurman, Harold. Thesis and Drama.Modern Critical Interpretations:Arthur Millers AllMy Sons. Ed. Harold Bloom.New York: Chelsea HousePublishers, 1988 2. Gross, Barry.
All My Sons andthe Larger Context. Critical Essays on ArthurMiller. Ed. James Nagel.Boston: G.K. Hall & Co.,1979.
3. Martin, Robert A. Introduction. ArthurMiller, New Perspectives.Ed. Robert A. Martin.New Jersey:Prentice Hall Inc.
1982. 4. Miller,Arthur.All My Sons.
New York: Dramatists PlayService Inc., 1947. 5.
Wells, Arvin A. The Livingand The Dead in All My Sons. Critical Essays onArthur Miller.
Ed. James Nagel. Boston: G.K. Hall& Co.
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