Why did Joe decide to commit suicide (relate to Kate's words at the end of the play: "Forget now! Live") in All My Sons?

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Joe decides to commit suicide after Chris reads aloud Larry's letter to Ann. In the letter, Larry explains to Ann that he knows his father knowingly sent out plane parts that were faulty to safeguard his company's profits. Larry also realizes that these faulty parts are causing the deaths of...

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Joe decides to commit suicide after Chris reads aloud Larry's letter to Ann. In the letter, Larry explains to Ann that he knows his father knowingly sent out plane parts that were faulty to safeguard his company's profits. Larry also realizes that these faulty parts are causing the deaths of his fellow pilots. Larry feels he can't live with this knowledge and plans to kill himself by crashing his plane. He writes:

Every day three or four men never come back and he sits back there doing "business". ... I don't know how to tell you what I feel.... I can't face anybody... I'm going out on a mission in a few minutes. They'll probably report me as missing. If they do, I want you to know that you mustn't wait for me. I tell you, Ann, if I had him there now I could kill him

This brings home to Joe that he is responsible for his son's death. As he realizes that his wrongdoing led his son to kill himself, he suddenly realizes that all the young men who died were his "sons," and he had a responsibility to protect all of them. Larry's death makes the other deaths real to him. The knowledge of what he has done overwhelms Joe with guilt, and he shoots himself.

This connects to Kate's words at the end of the play. She is addressing Chris, who now feels responsible for his father's death. She wants the cycle of guilt to stop. She wants Chris to know he isn't responsible for his father's death. The best thing he can do to bring redemption out of the tragic situation is to live: if life is important, somebody needs to emerge from this situation alive.

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Before the action of this play even begins, the Keller family is a family which has endured much. Their eldest son, Larry, died in World War II. In a strange twist of events, Larry’s brother, Chris, intends to propose to Larry’s former girlfriend, Ann.

Just to keep things in the family a little more, Larry and Chris’s father, Joe, had been business partners with Ann’s father, Steve. The two had been involved in a scheme which resulted in cracked cylinder heads to be shipped out, resulting in the deaths of twenty-one pilots. Joe and Steve had both initially been jailed, Steve is still in jail while Joe had been exonerated for his part in the crime.

Joe’s decision to commit suicide comes from guilt. During the course of this story, he learns that Larry’s death had been by suicide, due to his inability to deal with the crime that his father had committed and the consequences of that crime. Upon learning this, Joe is filled with pain, guilt, and shame, and he is simply unable to handle this cocktail of emotions. The realization that his actions led to the death of his son—as well as the deaths of sons from twenty-one other families—was too much to bear.

Kate was Joe’s wife, and her statement of “forget now! Live” speaks of Kate’s incredible strength and bravery in the face of the myriad tragedies that has befallen her family. It is her fervent hope that Chris and Ann will be able to pick up the pieces after this awful time and find happiness.

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Joe commits suicide because he can no longer live with the shame of what he's done. The shocking revelation of what happened to Larry has brought home to him the consequences of his corruption. As such, he can no longer live with himself; his life is in utter ruins and it seems that there's no way out.

Joe's life may be over, but life itself goes on, as it has to. And Joe's widow Kate shows greater strength of character in facing up to life's vicissitudes than her late husband. The line "Forget now. Live" neatly encapsulates her fortitude in the midst of all this unspeakable tragedy. And it is this attitude which she hopes to pass on to Chris, who's understandably in pieces over what's happened.

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Joe's decision to commit suicide comes from the revelations in Anne's letter from Larry.  When Joe finds out that his son, Larry actually killed himself because he could not bear to live with the crime that his father committed, Joe feels an overwhelming sense of guilt.  He is consumed with a deep pain, a shame that he cannot face.  

Everything that Joe Keller has worked for, stood for, wanted to be in that moment becomes a lie.  He feels like a fraud, naked in front of his family, his wife, his son, Chris who can't bear to look at his father.  Kate, secretly knew that Joe was guilty, but she did not know about Larry's suicide until Anne showed them the letter.

Joe realizes that he killed Larry, he precious son.  He also killed the sons of other people, those men who were in the planes that crashed because of the faulty parts that Joe provided. 

At the end of the play, Kate, sickened by Joe's suicide and by how she has been unable to feel alive since Larry went missing, tells Chris to live, to embrace life, to not run away from life.  Kate comes full circle through tragedy, pain and grief to appreciate life.

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