All My Sons Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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Comment on the following quote from "All My Sons":  "That's what a war does. I had two sons, now I got one."

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Edith Sykes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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These are the words of Joe Keller who is mourning the loss of his son Larry, who died in the war.  He is illustrating the consequences of war on his family.  However, what Joe Keller does not know, and could not face, was that his son Larry did not die as a result of fighting in the war. 

Larry committed suicide because he could not live with the shame and guilt of his father's actions in providing faulty parts to the military which led to the deaths of several pilots, and then blames the whole matter on his partner, Steve Deever, who is in jail for his participation in the crime.   

Larry sacrifices himself for his fathers sins. He cannot bear to live with the idea of his father's flawed, immoral behavior.

Joe Keller has lost one son, but not to the war effort, but to his own war with morality. The internal conflict that he fought, and lost, when he knowingly shipped faulty parts, with hairline cracks, due to pressure to meet the shipment date, which he claims was necessary to keep the military contract, has resulted in the loss of his son, as well as the sons of other families.

Joe Keller surrendered his integrity when he knowingly shipped those faulty parts, Larry surrenders his life, he martyrs himself in the name of honor.  

Joe Keller has indirectly caused his own son's death, and he tries to suppress that by blaming it on the consequences of war.

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