What is the language/diction used in All My Sons?

All My Sons uses simple, everyday language/diction rather than elevated or poetic prose. This diction emphasizes the relationship between the characters in the play and ordinary Americans.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Miller uses a simple, down-to-earth, colloquial language in All My Sons. This everyday speech is of the type commonly spoken in the late 1940s and is very easy for native American speakers to understand. For example, as the play opens, Jim and Keller have the following dialogue:

Keller: Gonna rain tonight.

Jim: Paper says so?

Keller: Yeah, right here.

We see in the passage above colloquial slang such as gonna instead of going to and yeah instead of yes. The two men also speak in the kind of shorthand sentence fragments that ordinary people use in everyday conversation. This is a far cry from the rhyming couplets and allusive, metaphor-stuffed language of a character like Hamlet in Shakespeare, who uses what is called elevated diction.

Even at emotionally intense points in All My Children, the diction retains its everyday cadence. For example, when Keller says to Chris that he sold the faulty airplane parts to the army for Chris's sake—in other words, to safeguard the financial welfare of his family—Chris has a deeply felt, angry outburst. However, he expresses his emotion through simple, blunt words and the repetition of the same terms over and over, as a real person might:

I was dying every day and you were killing my boys and you did it for me? What the hell do you think I was thinking of, the Goddam business? Is that as far as your mind can see, the business? What is that, the world of business? What the hell do you mean, you did it for me?

Repetitions of words like business and phrases like "what the hell" convey Chris's anguish and amazement at the way his father has put money ahead of other concerns, such as human life.

Miller uses this kind of everyday diction to emphasize his point that all ordinary Americans were at fault if they put materialism first after so many young men had sacrificed their lives in World War II to protect higher ideals, such as freedom, community, and democracy.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial