All My Sons Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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In this quote above from Arthur Miller's play All My Sons, what is Chris trying to say, and how might it be connected to the fact that he survived the war but his brother is still missing? You remember, overseas, I was in command of a company? . . . Well, I lost them. . . Just about all. . . . It takes a little time to toss that off. Because they weren't just men. For instance, one time it'd been raining several days and this kid came to me, and gave me his last pair of dry socks. Put them in my pocket. That's only a little thing . . . but . . . that's the kind of guys I had. They didn't die; they killed themselves for each other. I mean that exactly; a little more selfish and they'd've been here today. And I got an idea - watching them go down. Everything was being destroyed, see, but it seemed to me that one new thing was made. A kind of . . . responsibility. Man for man. You understand me? - To show that, to bring that on to the earth again like some kind of a monument and everyone would feel it standing there, behind him, and it would make a difference to him. . . . And then I came home and it was incredible. I . . . there was no meaning in it here; the whole thing to them was a kind of a - bus accident. I went to work with Dad, and that rat-race again. I felt . . . what you said . . . ashamed somehow. Because nobody was changed at all. It seemed to make suckers out of a lot of guys. I felt wrong to be alive, to open the bank-book, to drive the new car, to see the new refrigerator. I mean you can take those things out of a war, but when you drive that car you've got to know that it came out of the love a man can have for a man, you've got to be a little better because of that. Otherwise what you have is really loot, and there's blood on it. I didn't want to take any of it. And I guess it included you."

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In this passage, Chris is struggling to explain to his fiancée, Ann Deaver, how the experience of serving in the military during World War II and then coming home to the United States changed him. Ann had been engaged to his brother, Larry, who was shot down during the war and is not just missing but presumed dead. It is later confirmed that Larry is dead. Ann is confident that she and Chris can make a life together, but he is trying to communicate the vast gulf that is now between him (along with other servicemen) and the people back home, which includes Ann. In the lines after this speech, however, he renews his commitment to her.

Reflecting on the sacrifices that his fellow servicemen made, Chris sees their generosity as a factor in their deaths and includes himself among the more selfish men who survived: "a little more selfish and they'd've been here today." Chris is especially aware of the profits that were made by the family's company—for which Ann's father was jailed while...

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