Act Two Summary and Analysis
George Deever: Ann’s brother, who is a WWII veteran and a lawyer in his early thirties
It is later in the same evening, and Chris finally removes the trunk of the apple tree from the Keller yard. Afterward, Chris and Kate discuss the possible reasons for George’s impending visit. Kate expresses concern that the case (about the failed airplane engine parts) will be opened again and indicates that she could not withstand the strain of another trial. Chris continues to dismiss his mother’s concerns, including the possibility that the feud between the Keller and Deever families, which occurred during the trial, will resurface, a development that would be of particular significance to his wish to marry Ann. Kate, however, still has not been informed of the wedding plans. As Kate exits, Ann enters, and she and Chris resolve to announce their engagement to Kate later that evening.
Chris exits and Sue enters to find Ann hovering near the tree stump. A discussion ensues between the two women about the forthcoming nuptials, specifically, and the challenges of married life, generally. Sue betrays her own mercenary views of marriage—that happiness is based more on the financial stability of the couple than on the presence of love. Her comments reveal deep jealousy and resentment of the Kellers, especially Chris, whom she believes nurtures an idealism that is ridiculous, in view of the financial success of his business and the social standing of his family. In fact, Sue believes that Chris is distracting Jim from his work and encouraging a frivolous desire to leave his medical practice for a career in research. The conversation becomes heated as the two women argue, first about Chris and then about the reputation of the entire Keller family.
Chris enters and interrupts the discussion; Sue exits. The scenes that follow develop the problem of merging the two families and their troubled histories. Ann questions Chris about the truth of Sue’s accusations, especially the possibility that the entire community is convinced of Joe’s guilt. Ann reminds Chris that, in effect, she has exchanged one father (Steve) for another (Joe), by assigning guilt to the former and innocence to the latter. The implication is that she wants to be certain that the reward of switching allegiance has been worth the terrible cost: the emotional pain of losing her own father and family identity.
Joe enters and continues this line of discussion. He worries that Chris, too, will eventually switch allegiance as a result of empathizing with Ann and assigning blame for the pain inflicted on the Deevers to his own family. The solution to this problem, in Joe’s opinion, can be found if the two families live and work in close proximity. Accordingly, he offers to find a position for George at a local law firm and to create a job for Steve in the factory after his release from prison. Chris objects strongly, while Joe insists that the past must be forgiven and forgotten. His protest to Chris that “[a] father is a father,” despite any wrongs that either father or son might commit, foreshadows the conflict between the two men in the next act.
Joe exits just as Jim arrives with George, Ann’s brother. The reason for George’s visit becomes apparent immediately; he suspects the engagement and directly opposes it. Tension grows as George explains his opposition to Chris and Ann’s union. He has learned during his visit to Steve, at the jail, that Joe not only condoned but also directly ordered the shipment of the cracked cylinder heads. The best evidence he can provide is an appeal to their knowledge of the character of each man: Steve’s weak will and Joe’s attention to detail. How could Steve contradict Joe, in view of his tendency to break under pressure? How could Joe possibly miss an entire shipment of parts, when he meticulously checks every other detail in the plant? George finally asserts that “everything they have is covered in...
(The entire section is 2,008 words.)