Introduction to All My Sons

All My Sons is a play by Arthur Miller. It debuted on Broadway in 1946, running for 328 performances. It was Miller’s first commercially successful play, winning both the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Tony Awards for Best Author and Best Director. The play has been adapted for film twice and has been produced on numerous prominent stages across the world. Its scathing critique of the American dream and its politically leftist slant brought Miller under scrutiny from the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s for harboring suspected communist sympathies.  

The play itself revolves around a family that has been torn apart by World War II. Oldest son Larry never returned home from the war and is generally presumed dead, though his mother will not accept that; patriarch Joe harbors dark secrets about how he obtained his wealth; remaining son Chris also served during the war, and his sense of personal responsibility and morality provide the thematic center of the play. All of the characters experience some form of guilt, and the revelation that Joe’s actions led to Larry’s death reinforces the destructive potential of greed, war profiteering, and capitalist ambitions.

A Brief Biography of Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller (1915–2005) defined American theater in the 1950s with seminal plays such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. But he was not simply a literary phenomenon; he became a pop-culture sensation when he married Marilyn Monroe in 1956. On the whole, his works are about an individual’s struggle with an oftentimes indifferent, harsh, or irrational society—something he learned about firsthand when he stood against Senator Eugene McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities. Before his death in 1996, Miller had also written screenplays, novels, short stories, nonfiction, and an autobiography. He based his works on his family, his friends, and his own life, and he filled them with the rage, love, and self-doubt that Miller himself felt.

Frequently Asked Questions about All My Sons

All My Sons

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...

Latest answer posted April 8, 2021, 2:31 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

While not a true story, All My Sons is based on a real incident. For two years during World War II, the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, a subsidiary of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, knowingly...

Latest answer posted April 8, 2021, 2:43 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Joe for a long time is able to use rationalizations, justifications, and some magical thinking—such as saying he didn't think the faulty cylinder heads would ever end up in the planes—to avoid...

Latest answer posted April 8, 2021, 3:00 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

At the end of the play, Chris finally gets through to his father when he reads him Larry's letter to Ann. In the letter, Larry states, Yesterday they flew in a load of papers from the States and I...

Latest answer posted April 8, 2021, 3:22 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

The apple tree is a symbol of Larry. The tree was planted to commemorate him. The tree's death symbolizes the way the older Kellers will finally come to fully accept Larry's death. A high wind...

Latest answer posted April 8, 2021, 3:50 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

In Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons, Joe Keller feels guilty because he carries within himself the knowledge that he was responsible for the deaths of twenty-one pilots during World War II, the...

Latest answer posted April 9, 2021, 2:08 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Ann Deever's new boyfriend in All My Sons is Chris Keller. Chris wants to marry her, which brings her to the Keller home for a visit. This situation causes ripples in the Keller family, because Ann...

Latest answer posted April 9, 2021, 2:18 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Joe Keller grew up in poverty and was not able to attain much education. The Great Depression added to his fears of not having his material needs met. For him, his good job is all-important. He has...

Latest answer posted April 9, 2021, 2:32 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

In most ways, Joe Keller is the protagonist in Arthur Miller's play All My Sons. It is his past actions and story that primarily drive the plot of this play. In fact, much of the plot of All My...

Latest answer posted April 9, 2021, 5:57 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

The American Dream is depicted as everything that Joe Keller has achieved. An uneducated man from a poor background, Joe has managed to build a successful business. He is a self-made man who lives...

Latest answer posted April 10, 2021, 3:35 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Larry Keller never actually takes the stage in Arthur Miller's All My Sons. What the audience knows about him is limited to what is conveyed by the other characters. Though he never appears on...

Latest answer posted April 10, 2021, 3:38 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Material success is very important to Joe Keller, primarily because he believes it is the means of protecting himself and his family. Keller is a living illustration of the American Dream—the...

Latest answer posted April 10, 2021, 4:06 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

When Kate Keller comes onstage toward the beginning of act 1 in Arthur Miller's All My Sons, the notes describe her as being in her early fifties. This makes her several years younger than her...

Latest answer posted April 10, 2021, 4:16 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Although Miller was writing at a time of great experimentation in the theater, his play follows a conventional dramatic structure. It is in three acts. The acts are not divided into scenes. Scenes...

Latest answer posted April 10, 2021, 5:14 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Much of the action and events in the play All My Sons takes place in the Keller's backyard, which is located near the edge of a town somewhere in the United States. In the opening stage directions,...

Latest answer posted April 11, 2021, 2:08 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Frank Lubey is a friend of the Keller family. He is a fortunate and kind man who believes in luck. At the time of the play's setting, Frank is thirty-two years old. This makes him one year too old...

Latest answer posted April 11, 2021, 2:31 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Joe Keller has more than one excuse for his crime. He rationalized sending the faulty parts to the army, even knowing that they would cause death for young pilots, because he feared what would...

Latest answer posted April 11, 2021, 3:38 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Irresponsibility is in the eye of the beholder. Chris is not irresponsible, but he conceives of being responsible in a way that his parents don't understand. Joe Keller, for instance, thinks Chris...

Latest answer posted April 11, 2021, 4:04 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

Because Larry is officially listed as missing in action instead of dead, Kate Keller desperately holds onto the hope that her son is still alive. Even though the odds that Larry is not dead are...

Latest answer posted April 11, 2021, 5:01 pm (UTC)

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All My Sons

In the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller, Ann and George Deever play the role of the antagonists. Despite her young age, Ann knows what she wants and what she is doing. Ann knows Joe's dark secret...

Latest answer posted April 9, 2021, 10:21 pm (UTC)

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Summary