All My Sons Characters
The main characters in All My Sons are Ann Deever, Chris Keller, Larry Keller, Joe Keller, Steve Deever, and Kate Keller.
- Ann Deever is Larry's former girlfriend and Chris's current girlfriend.
- Chris Keller is Ann's boyfriend, who asks her to visit because he intends to propose.
- Larry Keller is Chris' brother, who crashed his plane during World War II.
- Joe Keller is the patriarch of the Keller family, who knowingly sold faulty cylinder heads to the United States military.
- Steve Deever is Ann's father and Joe's business partner, who took the fall for Joe.
- Kate Keller is Joe's wife, who believes her son Larry is still alive.
Last Updated on May 20, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 912
Joe Keller, a middle-aged factory owner of working-class background. He is a plain, inarticulate man with a certain peasant shrewdness. His values are simple: work and family. His purpose in life is to pass on his business to his surviving son, Chris. His moral simplicity, however, is his undoing. During World War II, he knowingly authorized the shipment of cracked cylinder heads to the Army air force; the defective parts caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots. Although imprisoned and brought to trial, he avoided conviction by shifting the blame to his hapless partner, Steve Deever. Although he is accepted by his neighbors, they do not doubt his guilt, nor did his son Larry, who, ashamed of his father’s actions, committed suicide during the war. Only his son Chris believes he is innocent. Joe is forced to face his responsibility when Larry’s former girlfriend, Ann Deever, now about to marry Chris, gives the Kellers Larry’s suicide letter. Realizing that his actions caused Larry’s death and that the twenty-one pilots are as much his sons as Larry (he refers to them as “all my sons” in his last speech), Joe shoots himself.
Kate Keller, the fiftyish wife of Joe Keller. She superstitiously clings to the hope that her son Larry, who disappeared during the war and is assumed to be dead, will return. This false hope complicates her surviving son’s plan to marry Ann Deever. To Kate, accepting the marriage means that Larry will never come back; she therefore opposes the marriage and tries to get rid of Ann. Her denial of Larry’s death is rooted in her knowledge of her husband’s guilt. In her mind, Larry’s death is linked to the pilots’ deaths; denying the reality of his death is her way of denying her husband’s responsibility for the deaths of the others. Her denial is shattered by Ann, who, to save her future happiness with Chris, reluctantly shows her Larry’s suicide note.
Chris Keller, Joe’s thirty-two-year-old, sensitive, and intellectual son. He works for his father’s company, which someday will be his. A World War II veteran whose combat experience has left him with a strong sense of responsibility for others, he is an idealist, though rather naïve. He loves his father, causing him to ignore his suspicions about his father’s guilt. He loves his mother, which casts a shadow over his desire to marry Ann. He is forced to choose between family responsibility and his moral idealism, which transcends family concerns. Unlike his father, he acknowledges obligations beyond the family. When confronted with his father’s guilt, his moral idealism demands that he reject his father, which drives Joe to suicide.
Ann Deever, the attractive, twenty-six-year-old daughter of Joe’s former partner and neighbor, Steve Deever, whom she has not seen since his imprisonment. She was once Larry’s girlfriend but now is in love with Chris, who invited her back to her old neighborhood so he could propose to her. Her desire to marry him over Kate’s objections causes her to reveal Larry’s suicide note to Kate as a means of proving that he is dead.
Jim Bayliss, a doctor and the Kellers’ neighbor. His idealism is periodically encouraged by Chris. Like Chris, he must choose between family responsibilities and other, greater, values. He would like to do medical research but cannot support his family on the salary it would pay; although he is a successful doctor, he has compromised his idealism. A close friend of the Kellers and particularly of Chris, he has guessed Joe’s guilt.
Sue Bayliss, Jim’s wife. A practical, witty woman approaching middle age, she is threatened by Jim’s stifled idealism. She too is aware of Joe’s guilt and finds Chris’s idealism shallow. She asks Ann to not live close to them after she marries Chris, so Chris will no longer encourage her husband’s interest in medical research.
George Deever, Ann’s impulsive and short-tempered brother. A lawyer, he comes to the Kellers’ home after visiting his embittered father in prison and realizing that Joe has destroyed his father. He tries to dissuade Ann from marrying Chris. He is almost reconciled with the Kellers, but Kate inadvertently reveals that Joe authorized the shipment of defective parts. He again asks Ann not to marry into the family that destroyed their family; when she refuses, he leaves.
Lydia Lubey, a onetime girlfriend of George Deever and the wife of Frank. She is a vibrant, beautiful woman who laughs easily. Her brief reunion with George at the Kellers shows how she too has settled for less than the ideal. She is a living reminder to George of what he lost when he went away to war; George is her reminder that she has married someone foolish and second-rate.
Frank Lubey, a foolish, insensitive, and balding haberdasher who is Lydia’s husband. Although only thirty-two years old, he managed to avoid military service in the war. He foolishly encourages Kate’s superstition-fueled hope of Larry’s return by presenting her with a horoscope “proving” that Larry did not die because the stars were “favorable” to him the day he was reported missing. His marriage to the vivacious Lydia during the war reveals that he, like Joe Keller, profited while others died.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1334
See Ann Deever
Dr. Jim Bayliss
Jim Bayliss is a close friend of Chris Keller. He and his wife, Sue, bought the house formerly owned by Steve Deever and his family; this makes him a neighbor of the Kellers. Although Jim suspects that Joe is as guilty as his former partner is, he likes the Keller family. He even tries to protect Joe from a confrontation with George Deever.
Sue Bayliss, Jim's wife, reveals that the town knows the truth about Joe Keller, and unlike her husband, she basically dislikes the family. However, her animus is largely directed against Chris, not Joe. She believes that he knows his father is guilty and has profited from the situation. As a result, she deems him a phony, and she deeply resents his friendship with her husband.
Bert is a neighborhood boy. He plays with Joe in the beginning of the play, pretending to be a policeman. Bert's gullibility provides a comic counterpoint to the more serious gullibility of Joe's son, Chris, who believes in his father's innocence. Joe has also shown Bert the gun with which, at the end, he kills himself.
Ann is the attractive daughter of Steve Deever, Joe's former partner. She is visiting the Kellers for the first time since her boyfriend, Larry Keller, was reported missing in action. She has been invited by Chris; they are in love, much to the consternation of Kate, Chris's mother.
Ann believes that her father is guilty and has refused to visit him in jail. She is perhaps blinded by her love for Chris, whom she plans to marry. However, she carries what is in fact a suicide letter that Larry wrote to her before his final mission. Deeply shamed by his father's conviction, Larry disclosed his inability to live with the fact of his father's crime. When Kate continues to refuse to believe that Larry is dead and tries to prevent her marriage to Chris, Ann is forced to show her the letter. With Larry's final thoughts revealed, Chris is forced to face his father's guilt.
George is Steve Deever's son and brother to Ann Deever. He is a lawyer and a threat to Joe Keller, who fears that he might try to reopen the case that put Joe and his father in prison. After visiting his father in jail, he confronts Joe. George is convinced that Joe destroyed his father and was the real instigator of the crime. When he discovers that Ann is in love with Chris, he tries to persuade her to leave with him.
Kate's kindness almost placates him, and he even seems ready to accept Joe's version of what happened; but Kate inadvertently reveals that Joe was not sick when the defective parts were shipped and thereby confirms what his father had told George. He storms off before Chris is forced to face the truth, and Joe commits suicide.
Chris, at age thirty-two, is Joe and Kate Keller's surviving son. He is in love with Ann Deever, the former girlfriend of his deceased brother, Larry. He invites Ann to visit the Keller home so that he might propose to her.
A veteran of World War II Chris now works for his father, Joe. Since being exonerated and released from prison, Joe has built a very successful company. Chris believes that his father is innocent, as he feels was proved at the pardon hearing before Joe's release. An idealist, he has a very strong sense of justice and responsibility, and he bears a residual guilt for surviving the war when many of his friends died.
He also believes that one should be guided by the noblest principles, and he tries to encourage his friend, Jim Bayliss, to leave his medical practice to pursue a higher calling in medical research. His influence angers Jim's wife, Sue, who believes that Joe is guilty and that Chris is a hypocrite.
Although his love for his father blinds him to the truth, when Joe's guilt is finally revealed, he believes that he has no choice but to see to it that his father is returned to prison.
The Keller family patriarch, Joe is a self-made businessman who started out as a semiskilled laborer and worked his way up in the business world to become a successful manufacturer. He owns a factory, where he employs his surviving son, Chris.
Initially, Joe seems like a very genial, good-natured man, almost like a surrogate grandfather to the neighborhood kids. He is very outgoing with his neighbors, and has a disarming tendency to engage in some self-deprecation, noting, among other things, that he is not well-educated or as articulate as those around him. It is partly a pose, however, for he actually prides himself on his business acumen. His business means a great deal to him, almost as much as his family.
Unfortunately, Joe has sacrificed quite a bit for such success. During the war, he ordered his partner, Steve Deever, to cover cracks in some airplane engine parts, disguise the welds, and send them on to be used in fighter planes, causing the death of twenty-one pilots. Although convicted, Joe put the blame on Steve and got out of prison.
When the truth is revealed about Larry's death, Joe is at first unwilling to face the responsibility. Finally realizing the consequences of his actions and his limited course of action, he commits suicide.
Kate is Joe's wife and the mother of Chris. Although her older son, Larry, was reported missing in action during World War II, she hopes that he has survived and will eventually return home. She hopes for this not only because she loves her son, but also because she knows the truth about Joe: he ordered his partner Steve to cover the cracks in the cylinder heads that eventually resulted in the death of several American fighter pilots. Although Larry never flew a P-40 fighter, Kate believes that Joe must be held accountable as his murderer. She is finally forced to face Larry's death when confronted with the letter that he sent to Ann Deever announcing his impending suicide.
Her motives are hidden from Chris, who earnestly wants her to face the fact of Larry's death and move on with life. He wants to marry Larry's former girlfriend, Ann Deever, but he knows he will not be able to obtain his mother's blessing as long as she continues to hold on to her unrealistic conviction that Larry is still alive.
Kate is a sympathetic character. She is kind and motherly, but the truth of her husband's guilt tortures her. As the pressure mounts, she develops physical symptoms of her inner agony. At the end, after Joe shoots himself, she tells Chris to live—something she had not been able to do since the death of her other son.
Frank Lubey is Lydia's husband. A haberdasher, he is perceived as flighty and socially inept. Gracious, intelligent, and attractive, Lydia makes him seem rather silly by comparison. Frank, always missing each draft call-up by being a year too old, did not go to war. He married Lydia when George Deever, her former beau, did not return to his hometown from the war.
Frank's foolishness extends to his belief in astrology, which would be harmless enough were it not for the fact that he keeps Kate's hopes of Larry's survival alive with his insistence that Larry's horoscope could reveal the truth.
Lydia is Frank's wife. She is a charming, very pretty woman of twenty-seven, described by Miller as a ‘‘robust laughing girl.’’ Before George went off to war, she was his girlfriend; when he did not return home after his father was imprisoned, she married Frank, a dull alternative. When George does come to confront the Kellers with his father's accusations, he is reminded of everything he lost. He also knows that Lydia deserved better than she got.
See Kate Keller
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