Is Joe Keller unable to see his obligations and responsibilities as a member of the community?

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timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From one point of view this seems like a no-brainer.  Of course he does not see his obligations to the community; his movement toward this understanding is what the play is about.

What I think makes the play interesting is that it's really about the conflict between community and family.  Joe, a man who has worked hard all his life to provide for his family wakes up on morning and is faced with an impossible dilemma (provided the pressure to perform that he describes is accurate).  If he does what is "right," he stand to lose everything that he has spent his life building; if he ships the cylinder heads and they fail --- well, we know what will happen then.

The hidden question here is why should anyone have to be in this position.  If the economic system were different, Joe would simply have been able to destroy the damaged heads, create a new batch, and both he and Steve and their families could have gone on with the lives.  We know that Miller had problems with Capitalism; perhaps this is a dramatization of how it can destroy families.

None of this is to say that Joe is without blame, especially for what he did to his friend Steve.  It is just to suggest that there is another dimension to the play.