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TITLE : THE CENTRAL CONFLICTS

IN ALL MY SON

PLAYWRIGHT
Arthur Miller- Jewish
American Writer
(1915-2005)

Arthur MillerS Major Works

All My Sons ( 1947 )


Death of a Salesman ( 1949 )
The Crucible ( 1953 )
A view from the Bridge ( 1955 )
The Misfits ( 1961 )
After the Fall ( 1964 )
The Archbishops Ceiling ( 1977 )

INTRODUCTION

Arthur Miller, the playwright, found the idea for Joe's crime in a true story, which
occurred during the second world war: a manufacturer knowingly shipped out defective

parts for tanks. These had suffered mechanical failures which had led to the deaths of
many soldiers. The fault was discovered, and the manufacturer convicted. In All My
Sons, Miller examines the morality of the man who places his narrow responsibility to
his immediate family above his wider responsibility to the men who rely on the integrity
of his work.
Like other works by Arthur Miller, All My Sons is a critique of an over zealously
capitalistic society. It shows what happens when humans are ruled by greed. It
demonstrates how self-denial cannot last forever. Arthur Miller's characters bring these
themes to life, and bring forward the man versus self and man versus society conflicts.

THEME OF THE PLAY

The major theme of the play All My Sons is the conflict between self-interest and the

wider responsibility that people owe to the society in which they live. This conflict is
mostly enacted through the characters of Joe, Chris, and the now-dead Larry. Joe has
put all his energies into making money and building up his business. He was determined
to keep his factory production line running, even when it caused the deaths of twentyone pilots through faulty airplane parts.

CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

JOE KELLER-Father of Christ and Larry,Husband


of Kate,Businessman

KATE KELLER-A devoted mother,Wife of Joe

ANN DEEVER-Daughter of Steve Deever,Former


fiance of Larry,Sister of George Deever

GEORGE DEEVER-Brother of Ann,Son of Steve


Deever,soul-mate of Christ

JIM BAYLISS-A successful Docter,SueS Husband

BERT-a little boy in the neighbourhood

CHRIST KELLER-Son of Kate and Joe,a Former


World War II soldier

SUE BAYLISS-Jims Wife


LYDIA LUBEY-Franks wife,Georges love interest
before the war

UNSEEN CHARACTERS

LARRY KELLER-Son of Kate and Joe,Brother of


Christ,a Pilot

STEVE DEEVER-Georges and Anns father

STRUCTURE OF THE
PLAY

Act

One : Friendly Kelly Family


Introduced

Act

Two: Truth About Joe Kelly


Revealed

Act

Three: After knowing the


truth, the characters make final
choices

Set and Scenery

The action of the Play is set in August 1947,in the mid-west


of U.S.A

The events occur betwwen Sunday morning and a little


after two oclock the following morning in the backyard of the
kellers house

SYNOPSIS

Joe Keller, the chief character, is a man who loves his family above all else, and has
sacrificed everything, including his honour, in his struggle to make the family
prosperous. He is now sixty-one. He has lost one son in the war, and is keen to see his
remaining son, Chris, marry. Chris wishes to marry Ann, the former fiance of his
brother, Larry. Their mother, Kate, believes Larry still to be alive. It is this belief which
has enabled her, for three and a half years, to support Joe by concealing her knowledge
of a dreadful crime he has committed.

BRIEF SUMMARY

Joe Keller, a successful businessman, lives comfortably with his wife, Kate, and son, Chris, in a
suburban American neighborhood. They have only one sadness in their lives the loss of their
other son, Larry, who went missing in World War II. After three years, Kate still clings to the
hope that her son is alive. Chris would like her to give up that hope because he wants to marry
Ann, an old neighbor and Larry's former fiance.
Ann arrives. Kate, sensing the reason for her visit, gets a little touchy. We learn that Ann's father
is in prison for a crime he committed while working in Joe's factory. Faced with a batch of
defective machine parts, he patched them and sent them out, causing the death of 21 pilots
during the war. Turns out that Joe was also accused of this crime and convicted, but he was
exonerated (set free) during the appeal. Steve went to prison; Joe returned home and made his
business bigger and better.
Soon after Ann's arrival, her brother George follows, straight from visiting his father in prison. He
knows what Chris has in mind and is totally against him marrying Ann. Joe and Kate do their
best to charm George into submission, but finally it's Ann who sends him away. She wants to
marry Chris no matter what.
The marriage of Chris and Ann is becoming a reality and Kate can't handle it, because it
means Larry is truly dead. And if Larry is dead, she tells Chris, it's because his own father killed
him, since Larry was also a pilot. Chris finally confronts his father's guilt in shipping those
defective parts.
But Chris won't do anything about it. He won't even ask his father to go to prison. Ann, who
turned her back on her own father for the same reason, insists that Chris take a hard line. Joe
Keller goes inside to get his things. A gunshot is heard. He's killed himself.

TYPE OF CONFLICT

There are 2 major types of


conflicts:
External Conflict involves a struggle between
a character and a force outside of himself:

a)
b)
c)

Man v/s man


Man v/s society
Man v/s nature

Internal conflict involves is struggle between a


character and his inner self over a specific

problem. The character often has a problem


making a decision.

a)

Man v/s self

Arthur Miller creates several conflicts in All my Sons in order to keep the play captivating
for the audience. For example he portrays Chris to be a man that feels guilty about the
money he owns because he gets it out of a business that does not value the labor it
relies on, but on the other hand Joe, his father, is portrayed to be a man that will
sacrifice almost anything, including his dignity, for the success of his business.
The play revolves around conflicts such as this, about the question of morality,
individualism and society as a whole. One might think that the exceptional
circumstances of the family in which one son is dead while the other not only lives, but
also plans to marry the former fianc of his brother, that the play takes place after World
War Two and that the setting is a backyard of a middle to upper middle class home in a
small town in America might be the only reason for such dilemmas. However it is

important to note that the roots of these conflicts are both timeless and placeless; they
happen to everybody, every day, making this play a universal drama.
The central conflict of the play revolves around the question of morality, a universal
dilemma. Joe has the morality of a man who places his responsibility to his immediate
family above everything else, including his responsibility to all the men who rely on the
integrity of his work for survival.
On the contrary, Chris morals are guided by the belief that a mans duty and
contribution to his fellow countrymen is paramount. He believes that theres a universe
of people outside and youre responsible to it. One might argue that it is the experience
of war that has changed him to believe this way, but the fact is that there is always a
question being asked about whom one is working for-the greater good for oneself, or for
the greater good for humanity?
He is angry at the fact the world has not changed and that the selflessness of his
soldiers counts for nothing. This is the central conflict of the play- a belief of working
only for the good of the immediate family versus a belief that one should work towards
the greater good of humanity. This is dilemma that it universal, however much it might
be exaggerated by the circumstances of the play.
The pressure to succeed, uncertainty of the future, and the question of individualism as
faced in the play are universal dilemmas. Joe feels a pressure to succeed. He thinks
that its only for Chris that he worked so hard so that his sons wouldnt have to start
from scratch like he did. He believes that the means by which he made money are
legitimate and justifiable. He also puts forward the point of no one worked for nothing
and the world is all about dollars and cents, nickels and dimes and that war is just a
shadow passing over it. He also believes his sons are more important than society as a
whole which motivates him to compromise his honour and integrity by shipping out
defective parts. Unlike Chris, he does not see a universal human family which has a
higher claim on his duty. Chris sees this as ridiculous, making a point of how hes no
better than most men. To Chris this whole idea of individualism and working solely
toward the prosperity of your immediate family is only a form of egoism. He feels wrong
to open the bank-book, to drive the new car, see the new refrigerator. He believes that
it came out of the love a man can have for another man and so theres blood on it,
making him feel guilty about all of his possessions.
There is also a certain air of uncertainty in the play. Chris cannot decide upon what to
do with his life and he cannot find a purpose or goal to work towards. He wants to
change the world but realizes that even to change his family is a massive task. These

dilemmas, again, might be exaggerated by circumstances of the play but the dilemmas
are most universal.
Joe continuously denies the truth about the engine parts to his own son. This creates a
fragile situation that is worsening by time and when it finally cracks Joe still denies it,
covering it up by saying it was for you, Chris, a business for you!. Joe expects
forgiveness saying Theres nothin he could do that I wouldnt forgive. Because hes my
son Im his father and hes my son, and if theres something bigger than that Ill put a
bullet in my head!
Ann denies Larrys death because to believe it, for her, would be to believe his death
was a result of Joes crime-an intolerable thought, so she must persuade herself that
Larry still lives. Joe sees this idea to be ridiculous, but must tolerate it to secure Kates
support for his own deception. This situation creates a time bomb waiting to explode .
This situation might have been lead up to by the course of the play, but the root of it is
universal
Moreover,a shot was heard throughout the Keller home as Joe ended his guilty,
worthless life. Miller criticizes that American society has become corrupt- a place of
selfishness, where people care too much about themselves, and that which benefits
them, and will go to any lengths to achieve that goal; even if the repercussions of their
actions will bring harm to other people. He stresses that money seems to be the key
factor that drives society to this level of corruption.
Miller emphasizes this point in several ways. The first example is that Keller knowingly
ships out cracked cylinder heads, that will crash an airplane if used, to prevent his
business from going bankrupt, claiming that he did it for his family.
In his play All My Sons, Miller makes it apparent that society in general values money
and profit more than human life. He shows this by his portrayal of Keller. Keller ships out
cracked cylinder heads, aware that in flight they will cause planes to crash, to save his
business from being shut down. Furthermore, he goes on to allow the blame to fall on
Steve, in order to save himself from going to jail, even though Steve was not the only
one guilty. Keller tries to rationalize his actions by saying that he committed this heinous
act for the benefit of his family- so that they will have money and everything else they
need and can live happily. Chris Chris I did it for you. It was a chance and I took it for
you. This portrays the human characteristic of creating a false sense of innocence in
spite of ones guilty actions- and conscience.

Miller stresses that society has become so corrupt, that people would rather do
something they do not enjoy doing, just for the profit. Due to greediness, money has
made people give up their dreams and goals in search of more profit.
Miller makes it clear that money, dishonesty, and selfishness take precedence over
friendship and human life in our corrupt society. The selfishness that influences one
mans relationship to another has destroyed the truth and honesty that used to preside
over American society. He suggests that all these factors put together are quickly
destroying the basic human values of goodwill and honesty. Evil is prevailing over good,
and if society continues down the same path it is on now- a catastrophic collision course
with humanity- evil will eventually succeed in destroying honesty and righteousness.
Maybe the world would be a much better place to live in if only people considered the
needs of others, besides their own needs.

CONCLUSION

Overall this play should most certainly be classified as universal, only exaggerated by
the special circumstances of the family and the timing of it. Conflicts such as this have
taken place, and will always take place, all the more so in capitalist society. The conflicts
may come in different forms and shapes and the results are entirely dependent on the
situation, but the root always remains the same.

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