Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The night Ann Deever returns to her old neighborhood to visit Chris Keller and his family, a tree in their backyard blows over in a storm. The tree was planted as a memorial to the older Keller son, Larry, a fighter pilot who was lost in World War II. The morning after the storm, family members and neighbors gather in the yard to chat, to read the newspaper, and to discuss Ann’s return.
Ann’s father, who was Joe Keller’s partner in a wartime business, is in the penitentiary for having allowed cracked cylinder heads to be shipped, which caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots. (Joe was jailed, too, but was later exonerated for his part in the incident.) After the neighbors leave and while Ann is still inside the Keller house eating breakfast, Joe and Chris—a father and grown son who obviously admire each other—discuss Larry’s tree falling and the effect it will have on Kate, the mother. Chris also tells his father that he asked Ann to visit because he wants to ask her to marry him; Joe responds that his mother will not like the news because she still thinks of Ann as Larry’s girl. Chris explains that if he is to stay with the family business, he will need his father’s support in convincing Kate that Larry is not coming back from the war and that Ann and he have the right to be happy.
When she enters the backyard, Kate tries to downplay the significance of Larry’s destroyed tree, but she notes the coincidence of Ann’s return. She reminds the two men that she is sure Larry is not dead and that Ann must share that sentiment. Chris tries to reason with her, but she insists that it is possible that Larry is still alive. She mentions that a neighbor is working out Larry’s horoscope to establish whether or not Larry’s plane crash could have occurred on one of Larry’s “lucky” days.
Once Ann joins the Keller family in the yard, the talk turns to old times and ultimately to Larry. Ann makes it clear that she is not waiting for Larry, but Kate tells her that she should listen to her heart, “because certain things have to be, and certain things can never be.” Their talk also turns to Ann’s father in prison, and Ann reveals that her sympathy for him came to an end once she heard of Larry’s crash. Joe explains that Steve—Ann’s father—is not a bad man, just the type of weak man who buckles under pressure. Joe goes on to say that in spite of Steve’s claim that he, Joe, approved the damaged shipment, he would be willing to let Steve come back to the business, not as a partner but as a worker. Ann marvels at Joe’s magnanimity, and Chris agrees that he is “a great guy.”
After the group makes plans to go out for a celebratory dinner, Chris and Ann talk...
(The entire section is 1118 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
All My Sons is a realistic drama with tragic overtones. The play is tightly structured. It takes place in a single day and a single place. Following the tradition of playwright Henrik Ibsen, Miller slowly unravels past events to reveal a moral wrong or sinister crime. Joe Keller is a prosperous manufacturer enjoying the fruits of his wealth. He is a jovial man with a loyal wife, Kate, and a devoted son, Chris, who will inherit his father’s business. Miller said that he started the first scenes slowly, without much action, but he plants unmistakable hints of menace early in the play.
Despite its realistic tone, the play has the air of a fatalistic tragedy. Larry, Joe’s son, was missing in action in World War II. After three years, he is presumed dead, yet Kate refuses to accept his death. As son, brother, and lover, Larry’s haunting presence overshadows the entire action. The night before the play opens, a storm knocks down Larry’s memorial apple tree, a sign of hidden guilt and the fall from innocence. Anne, Larry’s old girlfriend, is staying in his room, which still contains Larry’s clothes and his freshly polished shoes. Chris wants to marry Anne, but he is not sure that she has accepted Larry’s death. Even after Anne has accepted his proposal, Chris still kisses her more as Larry’s brother than as her fiancé. Also, as long as Kate will not accept Larry’s death, Chris cannot have his mother’s blessing to marry Anne....
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Act One Summary and Analysis
Joe Keller/Keller: a businessman about sixty years old, who rose from humble beginnings to a career in industrial manufacturing
Kate Keller/Mother: Joe’s wife and Chris’s mother, who is about fifty years old
Chris Keller: the oldest Keller son, who is already a war veteran and partial owner of his father’s business at the age of thirty-two
Ann/Annie Deever: the beautiful, former girl next door, who is twenty-six years old and still single.
Doctor Jim Bayliss: the current next-door neighbor to the Kellers, who is a physician
Sue Bayliss: Jim’s wife
Frank Lubey: a neighbor who grew up with the Keller boys
(The entire section is 2168 words.)
Act Two Summary and Analysis
George Deever: Ann’s brother, who is a WWII veteran and a lawyer in his early thirties
It is later in the same evening, and Chris finally removes the trunk of the apple tree from the Keller yard. Afterward, Chris and Kate discuss the possible reasons for George’s impending visit. Kate expresses concern that the case (about the failed airplane engine parts) will be opened again and indicates that she could not withstand the strain of another trial. Chris continues to dismiss his mother’s concerns, including the possibility that the feud between the Keller and Deever families, which occurred during the trial, will resurface, a development that...
(The entire section is 2008 words.)
Act Three Summary and Analysis
It is early morning of the following day. Jim stops by the Keller home after a late-night house call to find Kate rocking compulsively in a chair on the porch. He learns that Chris has discovered the truth about Joe and reveals that he has always known himself. Jim’s comments on the moral compromises made in his own life due to monetary greed underscore the importance of this theme to the final act and to the play as a whole.
Joe Keller enters as Jim exits. Joe and Kate discuss strategies for winning Chris back as they await his return. Kate believes that Joe can prove his remorse by offering to go to jail; she suggests that Chris will then forgive his father but not actually insist on...
(The entire section is 1244 words.)