In Act One of Arthur Miller's play "All My Sons," Chris says that he has been " a good son too long, a good sucker." What does he mean by this declaration?


All My Sons

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In Arthur Miller's 1947 drama "All My Sons" tells the story of a family slowly, almost imperceptibly, disintegrating under the weight of family secrets too painful to discuss.  One of the main characters in the play is neither seen nor heard from, but his presence is felt throughout the story.  Joe Keller, the father, lives with the knowledge that his actions sent his business partner and friend, Steve, to prison for shipping defective aircraft parts to the military, which resulted in the deaths of 21 pilots – and may have contributed to or caused the death of Larry, one of Joe’s two sons, who disappeared in his fighter and was presumed dead.  Joe’s other son, Chris, and Joe’s wife both hold deep within themselves the knowledge that Joe bears more guilt than Steve for the shipment of the defective parts, and that Larry’s fighter might have crashed because of those very same parts. 

Straining under the self-imposed pressure to confront his father with his beliefs while hoping to finally begin building his own life, including marrying Ann, Larry’s longtime girlfriend with whom Chris has been in contact, and tired of living under his father’s roof, Chris finally proclaims his independence.  Discussing his decision with Joe, Chris reveals is intentions to move out of his parents’ house and to marry Ann:Joe: {thinking Chris has retreated} Give it some more thougth.

Chris: I've given it three years of thought.  I'd hoped that if I waited, Mother would forget Larry and then we'd have a regular wedding and everything happy.  But if that can't happen here, then I'll have to get out.

Joe: What the hell is this?

Chris: I'll get out.  I'll get married and live some place else.  Maybe in New York.

Joe: Are you crazy?

Chris: I've been a good son too long, a good sucker.  I'm through with it.

Joe: You've got a business here.  What the hell is this?

Chris: The business! The business doesn't inspire me.

Joe: Must you be inspired?

Chris: Yes.

[Emphasis added]

Chris is mentally exhausted from living under the cloud that has subsumed his family.  Life is passing him by and he desperately wants away from his father’s domination and guilt.  By referring to himself as “a good sucker” he is telling Joe that he will no longer carry the burden of Joe’s sins.


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