All My Sons Summary
by Arthur Miller

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All My Sons Summary

All My Sons is a play by Arthur Miller in which the Keller family is haunted by the memory of eldest son Larry, who died during World War II.

  • Chris Keller invites his deceased brother Larry's former girlfriend, Ann, to the Keller home for dinner. He intends to propose to her. 
  • Ann's father, Steve, is in prison for selling faulty plane parts, which lead to the deaths of twenty-one pilots. Chris's father Joe was Steve's business partner, but Joe was exonerated.
  • Through a series of confrontations, Joe's complicity in shipping out the faulty parts is revealed. Joe commits suicide out of guilt.

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(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The night Ann Deever returns to her old neighborhood to visit Chris Keller and his family, a tree in their backyard blows over in a storm. The tree was planted as a memorial to the older Keller son, Larry, a fighter pilot who was lost in World War II. The morning after the storm, family members and neighbors gather in the yard to chat, to read the newspaper, and to discuss Ann’s return.

Ann’s father, who was Joe Keller’s partner in a wartime business, is in the penitentiary for having allowed cracked cylinder heads to be shipped, which caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots. (Joe was jailed, too, but was later exonerated for his part in the incident.) After the neighbors leave and while Ann is still inside the Keller house eating breakfast, Joe and Chris—a father and grown son who obviously admire each other—discuss Larry’s tree falling and the effect it will have on Kate, the mother. Chris also tells his father that he asked Ann to visit because he wants to ask her to marry him; Joe responds that his mother will not like the news because she still thinks of Ann as Larry’s girl. Chris explains that if he is to stay with the family business, he will need his father’s support in convincing Kate that Larry is not coming back from the war and that Ann and he have the right to be happy.

When she enters the backyard, Kate tries to downplay the significance of Larry’s destroyed tree, but she notes the coincidence of Ann’s return. She reminds the two men that she is sure Larry is not dead and that Ann must share that sentiment. Chris tries to reason with her, but she insists that it is possible that Larry is still alive. She mentions that a neighbor is working out Larry’s horoscope to establish whether or not Larry’s plane crash could have occurred on one of Larry’s “lucky” days.

Once Ann joins the Keller family in the yard, the talk turns to old times and ultimately to Larry. Ann makes it clear that she is not waiting for Larry, but Kate tells her that she should listen to her heart, “because certain things have to be, and certain things can never be.” Their talk also turns to Ann’s father in prison, and Ann reveals that her sympathy for him came to an end once she heard of Larry’s crash. Joe explains that Steve—Ann’s father—is not a bad man, just the type of weak man who buckles under pressure. Joe goes on to say that in spite of Steve’s claim that he, Joe, approved the damaged shipment, he would be willing to let Steve come back to the business, not as a partner but as a worker. Ann marvels at Joe’s magnanimity, and Chris agrees that he is “a great guy.”

After the group makes plans to go out for a celebratory dinner, Chris and Ann talk seriously. Chris explains his feelings for her, and Ann assures him that she wants to marry him. Chris also confides his guilt in having survived the war, explaining that in combat he realized his responsibility for others. He wonders whether there is any meaning to all the suffering and destruction and whether his actions and participation in his father’s business since the war are admirable or self-serving.

Ann’s brother George calls after having visited their father in prison, and he announces that he needs to see the Kellers. He does not say why, and Joe begins to worry that he might want to stir up old trouble. In anticipation of George’s...

(The entire section is 3,176 words.)