In All My Sons, why does Sue Bayliss hate the Kellers?

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It might be a bit of a stretch to conclude that Sue Bayliss, a former nurse now married to an idealistic physician, “hates” the Keller family, her neighbors in Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons. If “hate” is too strong a word, however, there is no doubt that she harbors a certain distaste for the Kellers. And, Sue Bayliss is correct in her suggestions that the Keller family harbors a dark secret that taints her neighbors’ otherwise quasi-idyllic life. The Keller family, after all, has profited from a war that killed millions, albeit at the cost of their older son, Larry, whose death was attributable to Joe Keller’s malfeasance. As importantly, Joe survived the fate that befell his partner, Steve Deever, who rots in prison and whose daughter remains ensconced in the Keller family’s world. Sue is sufficiently perceptive to believe the worst about the Kellers. Additionally, Sue is driven by financial considerations and resents Joe Keller’s other son, Chris’s influence on her husband, the doctor. A hint of this aspect of Sue’s behavior is provided in a seemingly innocuous exchange early in Miller’s play when Sue berates Jim Bayliss for his weariness of making house calls to barely-ill patients, one of whom, a woman, is waiting for a visit from the doctor:

Sue: Don't sniff around me. (pointing to their house) And give her a nasty answer. I can smell the perfume over the phone.

Jim: What's the matter with her now?

Sue: I don't know dear. She sounds like she's in terrible pain. Unless her mouth is full of candy.

Jim: Why don't you just tell her to lay down?

Sue: She enjoys it more when you tell her to lay down. And when are you going to see Mr. Hubbard?

Jim: My dear, Mr. Hubbard is not sick, and I have better things to do than to sit there and hold his hand.

Sue: It seems to me that for ten dollars you could hold his hand.

Sue is frustrated by Chris Keller’s influence on her husband’s attitudes about money. Later in the play, Ann and Sue engage in a conversation that exposes the extent of the latter’s distrust of the Kellers—a distrust built both on Chris Keller’s idealism and on Sue’s belief that Joe evaded prison because he successfully and unfairly implicated Steve, his former partner:

Sue: I resent living next to the Holy Family. It makes me look like a bum, you understand?

Ann: I can't do anything about that.

Sue: Who is he to ruin a man's life? Everybody knows Joe pulled a fast one to get out of jail.

Ann: That's not true!

Sue: Then why don't you go out and talk to people? Go on, talk to them. There's not a person on the block who doesn't know the truth.

Ann: That's a lie. People come here all the time for cards and . . .

Sue: So what? They give him credit for being smart. I do, too, I've got nothing against Joe. But if Chris wants people to put on the hair shirt let him take off the broadcloth. He's driving my husband crazy with that phony idealism of his and I'm at the end of my rope on it!

Sue views the Kellers through a very cynical prism. Not only is she tired of Chris and his nefarious if humanitarian influence on her husband, but she has not bought Joe’s claims of innocence in the business decision that cost American pilots their lives. Joe Keller and, by extension, his family lead lives built on deceit, and Sue senses it. That is why, while maybe not hating the Kellers, she does resent their success.

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Sue Bayliss, the wife of next door neighbor Jim Bayliss, resides in the house that used to belong to Joe's partner, Steve Deever. She dislikes the Kellers because she thinks Chris really knows his father is guilty and is using his pretended innocence to benefit himself. She thinks Chris is a "phony" and she deeply resents Chris' friendship with her husband. She thinks her husband also really knows the truth about Joe Keller, and cannot understand how her husband can like Joe. 

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