All My Sons2

N. Rodriguez
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Nadia Rodriguez
Mr. Friedman
December 11, 2000

All My Sons

All My Sons, a play by Arthur Miller, tells predominantly of the story of the Kellers. This play takes place after World War II, in the year 1947. It is a drama of actions and consequences and morality. This theme of actions and consequences is shown after Joe Keller ships out defective engine parts, which ultimately ends in the death of many pilots including that of his own son, Larry Keller, who kills himself in shame of his father’ s actions. Joe Keller had two sons, Chris and Larry, who is dead. Chris and his father, Joe, have opposing morals and viewpoints on many of the issues that govern their lives, primarily the issue of the shipment of the defective engine parts. Chris’s criticism of Joe and his morals in juxtaposition to his own produces a revelation of Chris’s true character and his character flaws.

Chris’s main criticisms of Joe, his father, chiefly deals with the shipment of the defective engine parts. Joe plays a major role in this play. He is shown as the antagonist, the one who through his bad decisions, ends up killing many innocent pilots who were only defending their country. “In All My Sons, Miller complicates the story in that the father becomes flawed morally to such an extent that the outside forces function as reflections or testimonies of the essential inner weakness.”
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(Martin, 9) As Yorks shows in his essay, through Joe’s loyalty to his business and his family, Joe betrays the “larger loyalties of the global conflict” [World War II] (21) by shipping out defective engine parts. Joe tries to defend his actions by saying, “Who worked for nothin’ in that war? When they work for nothin’, I’ll work for nothin’…it’s dollars and cents, nickels and dimes; war and peace, it’s nickels and dimes, what’s clean? Half the Goddamn country is gotta go if I go!” (Miller, 67) Joe claims to Chris that almost all the businesses involved in the war, made a profit from it and if that is considered dirty, then nobody is clean. Chris says that is exactly why he is so upset. “I know you’re no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.” (Miller, 67) Chris expected his father to be better than most men, and is shamed when he learns of what his father has done. Chris says to his father, “What the hell do you mean, you did it for me? Don’t you have a country? What the hell are you? You’re not even an animal, no animal kills his own, what are you?” (Miller, 59) Miller, through the title, tries to make us understand that Joe commits suicide as a final recognition of all those who “fought as his sons”. (Yorks, 22). Chris is the one who drives his father to see that all the fighting men were actually his sons.

While one analyzes Chris’s criticism of Joe and his morals, the focus then moves to Chris and his own morals. Though Chris preaches to his father about morality and his loyalty to his country, we see that Chris may be just as dirty as his father. He too has pocketed the profits of the family business, yet he continues to hold himself to be morally superior to Joe. Joe himself asks Chris, “Exactly what’s the matter? What’s the matter? You got too much money? Is that what bothers you?” (Miller, 67) Chris claims all the money that his father has earned is dirty, yet Chris has taken the profits just as his father has. Chris is revealed as suspecting his father’s guilt all along, but as “lacking the moral stamina to force the issue”. (Clurman, 24). “It’s true. I’m yellow, I was made
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yellow in this house because I suspected my father and I did nothing about it.” says Chris. (Miller, 66)

Flaws in Chris’s character are also shown when we examine the love of Chris’s life, Annie. It is Chris who, in reaching out for love and a life of his own with Annie, first weakens and destroys the sense of