What is the American Dream in All My Sons?

The American Dream in All My Sons is represented in the material success Joe Keller has achieved as a self-made man who has built his own business from the ground up. Miller tries to redefine this dream to encompass the broader vision expressed by Chris, who says to his mother,

You can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it.

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The American Dream is depicted as everything that Joe Keller has achieved. An uneducated man from a poor background, Joe has managed to build a successful business. He is a self-made man who lives in a comfortable suburban house, can afford a maid, and provides his family as a whole with all the upper-middle-class amenities of the time period. Joe plans to continue the dream by passing the business on to his son and speaks of building him a stone house with a driveway.

Joe Keller will do anything to protect his business, as it is at the core of how he perceives the American Dream. Without it, all his financial success and the respect he has earned will disappear. As he tries to explain why he sent out the cracked cylinder heads, he says,

You lay forty years into a business and they knock you out in five minutes, what could I do, let them take forty years, let them take my life away?

Joe's life is his material success, which matters more to him than the lives of the pilots who die as a result of his decision.

Chris challenges this version of the American Dream. He is uncertain he wants to inherit the business even before he realizes what his father has done. It is not inspiring to him to think of running it, something his father can't understand. Chris longs to do more for society. He embraces a vision that is broader than merely taking care of one's own family. He says to his mother near the end of the play,

You can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it.

Miller tries to redefine the American Dream as caring for more than oneself and one's family's material well-being.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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