What are some examples of realism in All My Sons by Arthur Miller?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Arthur Miller's All My Sons has been called an Ibsenite play because, as in Ibsen's A Doll House, the key issue is something kept secret in the past that affects the present.

  • The play is realistic because it deals with social consequences. There is a central relationship of the characters--family and friends and neighbors--and they know much of each other's history.
  • The characters are realistic because they possess a particular middle class thinking.
  • Miller's theme of the common man who suffers a tragic fall because of personal failings is very realistic.
  • The characters are realistic: Joe Keller has attained the American Dream, rising in socio-economic class as he is now a prominent businessman of some wealth.
  • The process of "destructive infiltration" is carefully worked out respective of the other characters' needs. That is, a domestic scene is infiltrated with guilt and crime, an infiltration that builds to the "critical eruption" that shocks Chris. As Kate says that “everything decides to happen at the same time.”
  • As in Ibsen's plays "a fatal secret" is revealed after being hidden in the past. 
  • The characters are round. Their personalities are made real as they engage in domestic activities and discussion. But, the war has had an effect on them.
  •  All My Sons has the realistic themes of Family and its Obligations, Memory and Emotional Loss, Guilt, Liability. 

Joe, Joe . . . it don’t excuse it that you did it for the family.
It’s got to excuse it!
There’s something bigger than the family to him.

  • The play is an example of social realism because both "the individual and society are perceives as belonging to a continuous and inseparable process."
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