What is the significance of the title All My Sons?

The title of All My Sons is significant because it refers to Joe's development of a larger social conscience and his acceptance of responsibility for the tragic results of his past errors.

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The title of All My Sons represents Joe Keller's eventual realization that he—along with everyone, for that matter—has a responsibility for the well-being of everyone in a community. Although he is a successful businessman by the time of the story's events, Joe has a dark secret from his past when he worked in manufacturing for the war. Due to his negligence while running a factory, Joe's actions led to the death of twenty-one American pilots and the conviction of his business partner. Although Joe was eventually exonerated, he holds some responsibility for these tragic and avoidable deaths, although he does not see it this way.

Joe's son Chris discovers this dark secret. He starts to view his father as culpable for the death of his brother Larry, who went missing during the war. Joe defends himself by repeating that Larry did not even fly on one of the planes with defective parts. Therefore, he is not responsible. This highlights the fact that Joe does not feel any larger responsibility for what his actions represent.

In the end, Joe comes to realize that he had a responsibility to the wider community and that he is indeed culpable for those twenty-one deaths and, tangentially, his son's as well. This is where the title gets referenced:

Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were. (3.167)

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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