How is family central to the tragedy in All My Sons?

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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On a more abstract note, the concepts of family and the father/son bond is challenged by the final scene of the play in which Joe realizes that Larry must have considered all the soldiers in the war the sons of Joe (and other fathers).  This idea broadens the definition of family to a realm in which we as a people are a collective family and thus have responsibilities to ensure the safety and well-being of all the members in that family.  From this perspective, Joe neglected his responsibilities to his collective family by ordering Herbert to mend and ship the faulty cylinders.

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Edith Sykes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In All My Sons, the central conflict revolves around the Keller family.  First in the decision that Joe Keller made to ship the faulty cylinder heads to the military to preserve his business, he says he did it for his family.  And second, because the family, Joe, Kate and the unseen Larry dominate Chris Keller's life, suffocating any possibility of happiness he might have with Ann Deever. And, the family is at the heart of the American Dream, pursuit of a nice home, financial security, a car, all is done for the family. 

Joe Keller violates this creed by sacrificing everything, including his family to save his beloved factory from closing.  His surrenders his integrity, his morality and breaks the law to keep the factory open during the war, he says to support his family, to be able to pass the business on to his sons.

As far as Joe is concerned, Kate's belief that Larry is coming back and is alive is enough of a reason for Chris and Ann not to get married.  It is more important for Kate not to get upset about the reality that Larry is dead, three years missing in action, than for Chris, their other son, to get married, and be happy with Ann.

The family demands that Chris sacrifice his happiness at the altar in honor of his missing brother, who might someday return home.  But it is more than that, Chris and Joe know that Larry is not coming back, but they make Kate believe that they support her faith in the idea of Larry returning alive.

They are dishonest with her just to keep her from falling apart, but the sham comes at a high price for Chris who wants to break away from his parents and move on into his own life, make his own family.

 The family is also part of one of the...

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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paoooooo13 | Student

sorry how can i say that the theme duty and responsibility relates in our days?

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joshski | Student

Thank you thats given me some helpful ideas. Can anyone explain the significance of the father/son bond in this play?

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