This passage is an extract that belongs to the play All my Sons written by the American playwright, Arthur Miller, and published in 1947. The context of the play is relevant to understand the main themes and ideas of the play. All My Sons is about social responsibility in the context of World War II, family and love. It is also a criticism of the American Dream. This passage is aboutPut 5 W – Chris and Keller having a discussion because Chris knows that Keller was responsible for having shipped the faulty plane cylinders. The passage states that argument and confrontation in which Chris feels disappointed about his father but Keller still is in denial. I will discuss the themes of the American Dream, relatedness (meaning we are all connected), social responsibility, and the conflict between the old generation and the younger generation. I will also focus on the characters of Keller (who is a symbol of the american man and tragic hero of the play in the context of the 40’s), and Chris (who is a symbol of the younger generation), and will explore as well the style regarding the tone, mood, diction used, metaphors, repetitions, the punctuation used by the author and the stage directions. 


Keller – old generation

  • He is an Uneducated man; “a peasant-like common sense’

Joe Keller is a businessman has two children; one of them, Chris, and Larry who is missing in action.  Keller is a symbol of the american man and the tragic hero of the play in the context of the 40s, because he is blinded by his belief that family is the most important thing in the world. 

He is a family man. He is in denial of his responsibility for having shipped the faulty plane, he is responsibility in the killing of 21 pilots. Metaphor: “a man among men”, meaning that he is the stereotype of american man in the 1950s.

He is admired by his sons, especially by Chris. Joe keller is also a tragic hero because we feel pitty for him (he killed himself; commited suicide and this proves he understunds he did wrong and wants to pay for his mistakes).

Flawed: he is arrogant (hubris). He is arrogant in the way that he made a mistake and he thought he could hide it (he lied), and keep on with his life. He thought it wouldn’t have any consequences. He killed 21 pilots thinking that his business was first.

Consequences that he had:Larry killed himself, 21 pilots died, Wife is denial and traumatized, Partner in jail, Disappointed Chris.

The moment in which he understand that is because of him that larry killed himself, also that he disappointed chris, when he reads the letter (Anagnorisis: when he stops being bliind and understands all the consequences of his acts).

His hubris, arrogance (excessive pride or self-confidence), is shown here when the author says: “Chris, Chris, I did it for you….when would I have another chance to make something for you?”The repetition of “for you” and his rhetorical questions expose his strong family values and the blindness about his social responsibility. Keller shows his limited perception of the world, only impacting his close circle and business, leaving aside what Chris calls “his country” or “the world”. Joe’s problem is that he is a family man who is stuck to the small world (family), and he could not turn his eyes to the general society at large; the world beyond the family. He is still ignorant of the world and mentally naïve and immature. As he is a family man, he is social irresponsible (only cares about his family, and forgets about the rest of the people and families). Miller criticises that he is social responsible and this is evidenced since Keller doesn’t worry that he killed 21 pilots.The positive aspects of being a family man is that he is protective, loving, provider, caring and hard-worker. 

This shows the issue of the old v.s. the young generation, in which the olde generation is presented as selfish and close-minded and the young are presented as caring and socially responsible. One can see this in: “you were killing my boys”. The expression “my boys” suggests a feeling of brotherhood and protection which is not shown in Keller. This passage thus, shows an inversion of roles in this characters because Chris is more mature open-minded than Keller. 

His mistake: having sent out the faulty parts because he was scared of the repercussions “I was afraid”of the army and because he wanted to make a profit and his business to grow. 

Keller’s motivations were economical and the play then stages the theme of war profiteering. He says “it was a chance and I took it” and “a business for you”. Heis described as a “self-made man”, and image of American success, who is destroyed. He is the type of man who has worked pretty hard and become a successful owner of a factory (he went from poor to rich). As he had worked so hard to become a successful owner of the factory, we could consider him an independent, rugged, and self-made of hero. 

The use of euphemisms suggest that Keller feels guilty when confronted by Chris, and he also feels ashamed, embarrassed of himself. However, he is still blind to his crimes, he does not see that he has become a killer, he says “I was afraid maybe…” the use of maybe and ellipsis shows that he is not yet aware of the consequences of his decisions. His anagnorisis (point in the play where the character recognises or discovers the true nature of his circumstances) comes later when he reads the letter by Larry. 

Final: Joe firmly believes that Larry is the one who has understood Joe’s situation, but he is shocked to learn that Larry committed suicide due to his wrongdoing and this led Joe to his suicide.