What is the impact of the ending of Arthur Miller's All My Sons?
Arthur Miller was an author of modern tragedies, plays that illuminated the frailty of both human life and, as importantly, of humanity itself. In perhaps his most well-know and loved play, Death of a Salesman, Linda Loman mourns the recent loss of her husband, Willy, a weary traveling salesman prone to delusional meanderings about what might have been. Linda stood idly by for decades as her husband quarreled with their ne'er-do-well sons, Biff and Happy, and trampled her dreams while demanding her support. Willy was not a bad person, but he was human, meaning imperfect, and his imperfections came to define him more than any successes he may have experienced. In A View from the Bridge, Eddie Carbone dies violently when stabbed with his own knife while attempting to retain what integrity he believes he has left. Eddie, however, had merely the veneer of respectability, and that was stripped by away by his essentially immoral character, just as Willy Loman had lived a lie in his presumed fealty to his marriage to Linda while concealing the secret of his affair -- a secret to which Biff was sadly privy.
All My Sons is consistent in its portrait of a deeply-flawed man, a businessman who prospered during World War II as a manufacturer of engine parts for fighters. Joe Keller, though, carries within himself the most tragic of secrets, that he was responsible for the deaths of American pilots, possibly including his missing son, Larry, and, moreover, that his duplicity and cowardice sent his business partner to prison. That Larry is presumed, based upon his letter, to have deliberately crashed his plane rather than live with the knowledge of his father's perfidy is a powerful unseen example of the play's tragic theme. As Miller's play progresses towards its tragic conclusion, the connection between Joe's actions and the consequences of those actions become more and more clear, and difficult to deny. As his wife, Kate, remarks to second son Chris in the...
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