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Matthew Paul JDN No-one is without culpability, without cruelty, without guilt.

How far is this a key truth in All My Sons?

As a tragedy All My Sons is based very centrally around the ideas of a suppressed guilt within a community. This in turns gives all the characters culpability as being complicit in this grand faade. The very essence of this faade has left an, arguably, innocent man in jail. However even Steve himself could be seen as guilty as he still shipped the cracked parts and that ties in to the cruelty and culpability, but I will look at him later. So, in short I think I may well have proved that all are culpable, cruel, and guilty. For the purpose of this essay, as they come hand in hand, I will treat the ideas of culpability and guilt as one. This being because without culpability there can be no guilt, for a human being at least. Culpability, this is trait all the characters are drenched in from the very beginning. The entire community has decided to allow the fact that Steve Deever is left in prison, an innocent man (contentiously), and ignored the fact that Joe Keller, a guilty man has been allowed to go free and live among them. This is revealed by Sue in Act 2; Everybody knows Joe pulled a fast one to get out of jail. Here we see explicit admission of culpability for the entire community in their giving him (Joe) credit for being smart. Individually the characters all have their own personal guilt. Joes ties in with that of the entire community, he knows he is guilty and so he has cut himself off from the real world, he is hedged in. In this guilt we see the cruelty of Joe. He has sentenced Steve to imprisonment, alone, out of his own cowardice and inability to face up to the problems that are presented by the cracked engine heads. This cruel streak is perfectly encapsulated in Chris assertion that he is not even an animal. Here we see Chris damning the cruelty of his father as he finally realises what he had thought all along, that his father is guilty. Joe himself refuses to admit his own guilt; How could I kill anybody? The very way in which Joe desperately denies his guilt is in fact what condemns him in Chris eyes; Explain it to me or Ill tear you to pieces! Finally when Joe commits suicide we see a realisation of his guilt that, with its condemnation of him, is too terrible for him to reconcile with himself. His essential profiteering and materialism are what cause the eventual destruction of the Keller family. Chris, despite wearing his broadcloth as Sue describes it, is not, however, without his own faults, cruelty and guilt. During the small episode with Bert in act one Joe winks at Chris, this act implies some sort of complicity on behalf of Chris in this game of jail and detectives. This may not make him complicit in the general tragedy of the play, in fact it is revealed that he is not, but it certainly implies he is part of a deeply sinister aspect of the Kellers life and a part that is deeply tied to the tragedy. Chris view of himself as a martyr is in itself deeply damaging to others as he no longer wants to pull back because other people will suffer, this inherently selfish statement sums up how Chris most certainly has cruelty. As for culpability and guilt he shares the same burden of culpability for allowing his mother to cling to the hope and allowing this tragedy to fester beneath the family veneer. He also carries guilt for deeply damaging his mother when he brought Ann home at his own behest, as he surely must have known that it would upset his mother and unbalance the precarious equilibrium of household affairs.

Matthew Paul JDN Kate is essentially the character who carries most of the guilt and culpability of the events preceding the play, and a fair share of the cruelty. She was complicit in allowing Joe to stay in sick when the cracked engine heads came through. This in turn implicates her in the imprisonment of George and the pardon of Joe. She also, must bear guilt for, dividing the family with her faint hope of the return of Larry. Her inability to accept that he is dead creates a rift in the family that is irreconcilable and that contributes to the final tragedy. She is very cruel in how her desperate clinging to Larry prevents Chris from being able to marry Ann. The way in which Kate attempts to manipulate George when he arrives is cruel; Im sick to look at you by appealing to the half that never felt at home anywhere but here. She does this in order to get George on side for Joes proposition but the manipulative way in which she does it is to all intents and purposes, cruel. Kate must also take, in the short term, guilt foe the Peripeteia in the play. She does this by her assertion that Joe hasnt been laid up in fifteen years. Here she destroys the atmosphere of reconciliation with George and sets into motion the chain of events that reveal the tragedy of the play. In doing this she must also, in some respects, bear guilt for the death of her husband. Ann seems, at first glance, to be a character devoid of any guilt, cruelty or culpability. However, beneath this outward mask she harbours some deep guilt and cruelty and as a result culpability. In withholding Larrys letter and allowing it to come to light in such an explosive atmosphere she condemns the whole affair to tragedy and creates the violent moment of revelation and condemnation. She is also so determined to marry Chris that she tries desperately to reconcile George with the Kellers, and when she cannot, to get rid of him; Go, George! She is also guilty of hugely neglecting her father on terms she, quite possibly, knew were false. This heartbreaking, for Steve, disregard by Ann and total withdrawal are hugely cruel and this inherent cruelty by Ann then implicitly makes her guilty and thus culpable for a certain aspect of the plays tragedy. The other characters in the play all have their own guilt and cruelty however much of it is linked intricately with that of the other main characters. George shares guilt with Ann for his neglect of his father, and for creating the atmosphere within which the truth was pursued till it destroyed all involved. Sue is inherently cruel in her restriction of Franks idealism and Research for her own materialistic needs. Tied in this she is cruel in how she tries to get Ann to find a place away from here. This is again to serve her own materialistic needs as it restricts Chris idealism from affecting Frank to want to do research which pays less. Frank himself is guilty in the way that he indulges Kates desperation for Larry to be alive. His favourable days and stars were just the sort of fantastical, fool proof evidence Kate needed to cling to. To all extents it appears all the characters of All My Sons are deeply affiliated with Guilt, Culpability, and Cruelty. These are traits that appear to be the hamartia in all of them, as this is a tragedy that does not appear to have one tragic hero but all the characters have their lives destroyed by the events, despite only Joe in a tangibly physical fashion. Even Steve, the seemingly ,most innocent and victimised of characters as I have said earlier, is in retrospect just as guilty of shipping the cracked engine heads and of failing to do anything about it. As such it appears he is just as entrenched with these qualities as the rest of the characters and thus perhaps deserving of the neglect he received from his children.