All My Sons Analysis
- The Keller's tree symbolizes their connection to Larry. When a storm blows the tree over, the connection breaks, and the Kellers are forced to face the truth about Larry's death.
- Conflict is central to All My Sons: Ann, Chris, and Kate clash over Ann's decision to move on from Larry; George and Joe clash over Joe's role in Steve's imprisonment; Joe's lies put him in conflict with everyone, including himself.
- All My Sons is a strictly realist play that does not indulge in reverie or flashback. Events unfold chronologically, following a single day in the lives of the Kellers.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1213
ClimaxAll My Sons has a very traditional dramatic structure, with carefully orchestrated action that reaches a climax. Although it may be argued that each act has its own climax, with a particularly powerful one in the second act, the final climax occurs in the last act, when...
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All My Sons has a very traditional dramatic structure, with carefully orchestrated action that reaches a climax. Although it may be argued that each act has its own climax, with a particularly powerful one in the second act, the final climax occurs in the last act, when Joe finally realizes that he was responsible for the deaths of the American fighter pilots, his ‘‘sons.’’
Tension in drama evolves from conflict. In fact, conflict is virtually mandatory in what is termed the dramatic moment, whether in a play or in fiction. A good play generally evinces a sense of a deepening conflict that heightens the emotional tension as the play works towards its climactic moment. Conflict arises as a character strives toward a goal and is met by an obstacle to that goal.
The key conflict in All My Sons develops as a result of Chris's desire to marry Ann Deever. Standing in the way of his desire is his mother's ability to block the marriage; she opposes the union because she cannot accept the death of her son, Larry. If she accepts his death, then she must also face Joe's role in it.
Ironically, Chris tries to enlist his father's help in this matter. On account of his love for Ann, Chris pushes his family into facing truths that have tragic and destructive consequences.
Exposition in drama is often more of a problem than it is for writers of fiction. Somehow, information about past events and relationships must be conveyed to an audience so that the action in the present can be fully understood. Because All My Sons is a realistic play in which all the action occurs on the day in which the family crisis is met and tragically resolved, Miller has few options for revealing Joe's fraudulent past. The action strictly adheres to a normal chronological order, allowing nothing like a flashback or the hallucinatory reveries of the main character so brilliantly used by Miller in his next play, Death of Salesman.
Miller's chief device is the reunion, the introduction of a character who needs to be told what has transpired since that character's former estrangement. That character is Ann Deever; inadvertently, she opens old wounds because of her familial relationship with Joe's former partner, Larry. She also bears the truth of Larry's death in a letter that he had written to her. In this way she is like the messenger of Greek tragedy whose task it is to bear in the pain of truth that will force the tragic recognition in the main character.
Foreshadowings of an impending disaster appear in the first act of All My Sons. The memorial apple tree planted for Larry is destroyed during a storm in the early morning hours, suggesting a dark force that has the power to destroy the Keller family.
Kate's response to the tree's felling at first seems odd. She says that it should never have been planted in the first place. However, it is soon learned that she has desperately held on to the hope that Larry, reported missing in action during the war, is still alive. That she suffers from the emotional burden of her hope is revealed by her sleeplessness and physical pain.
In its way, even Joe's role-playing game is a foreshadowing. Playing with Bert, they pretend that the Keller home is a jail. This game suggests that Keller views his home as a kind of jail. On account of what he has done, he can not really be free.
Even the play's setting foreshadows events. The backyard of the Kellers is pleasant and, initially, a happy place; but it is also rather insular, hidden from its neighbors by the poplar trees that grow on both sides. The trees stand like sentinels, protecting Joe from the suspicions of his neighbors, most of whom believe that he was at least as guilty as Steve Deever.
All My Sons strictly adheres to the tenets of realistic drama as first put in practice by such early modern playwrights as Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov. Fundamental to such drama is faithfulness to real life in both character and action. Characters speak and act very much like real people. Nothing happens that could not happen in reality.
However, like the realism of most plays in the Ibsen tradition, the realism of All My Sons is of a selective variety, deliberately controlled to advance a particular thesis. Matters are rather conveniently drawn to a climactic head on a single day with the visit of the two Deever siblings, a coincidence that is nevertheless wholly within the realm of plausibility.
The setting of All My Sons, the Keller's backyard in a small Midwestern town shortly after World War II has a significant role in the play. The setting suggests comfort and isolation from the community. Isolation is necessary because the townspeople suspect the truth about Joe, that he did what he had been convicted of doing during the war. Yet because he is so successful and provides jobs in the community, they do not openly reproach him for it.
Destructive forces threaten the setting. Nature first invades, destroying the apple tree planted in memory of Larry. It is followed by the ‘‘messengers,’’ Ann and George. At the end of the play, the yard is engulfed in the darkness of night, the destructive truth that leaves Kate and Chris alone in the grim aftermath of Joe's suicide.
All My Sons is a thesis play that focuses on a problem that Arthur Miller believed was eating at the fabric of American democracy: material greed. Miller's protagonist, Joe Keller, is an affable and pleasant man with a strong sense of family loyalty, but his values have been shaped by a prevalent American belief that human success and worth can best be measured by how many things a person owns.
Joe believes that his son's love is based on material concerns. The fact that Chris wants Joe to atone for his crime finally forces him to recognize his guilt.
Joe lets a love of materialism and fear cloud his moral compass. He sets in motion events that have tragic consequences. Joe fears failure in business, as if, somehow, failure would threaten the love and respect of his family. Under pressure, that fear leads him to make an ill-considered decision to put the lives of American pilots at risk by disguising cracked cylinder heads and shipping them to assembly plants.
In addition to being a realistic play, All My Sons has some characteristics of classical drama, notably an adherence to the so-called dramatic unities of time, place, and action. First, it basically observes the Aristotelian notion that the action should all occur within a twenty-four-hour time period. The action opens in the morning and ends in the early hours on the morning of the next day.
Second, the action all occurs in one locale, the backyard of the Keller home. Third, although the action is not continuous, within each of the three acts the action is continuous, and the three acts are arranged chronologically, as is the standard practice in most realistic plays. Breaks between acts are in part used to indicate the passage of time in the play's action.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1347
The first act of All My Sons takes place in the backyard of the Keller home early one Sunday morning in August. The yard is both secluded and comfortable, and its contents suggest a normal upper-middle-class American home: a small trellised arbor, some garden chairs, a table, a garbage pail, and a wire leaf-burner. A slender apple tree, cut in half by a violent wind, is the only other noticeable piece of stage property.
As the play begins, Joe Keller is bemusedly reading the classified adds in the Sunday paper. Jim Bayliss, his physician neighbor, has joined him. They are soon joined by another neighbor, Frank Lubey. Noticing the tree, Frank remembers that this is the month of Larry’s birthday. Larry was Joe’s eldest son and, as a pilot in the war, was shot down three years ago. Because his body was never recovered, Kate, his mother, hysterically clings to the belief that he is still alive. Joe informs the two men that Ann, who had been Larry’s girlfriend, has returned to the neighborhood and is sleeping in the guest room.
After Frank and Jim leave, Chris, Joe’s younger son, enters. Joe wonders if Kate has seen the damaged tree, but his musing is cut short by the excited entrance of Bert, a young boy. During a comic scene, it becomes clear that Joe has “deputized” Bert to monitor the behavior of the neighborhood children. Further, he has shown Bert a gun and convinced the impressionable young boy that the basement of the house is, in reality, a jail. The boy leaves, and Chris confronts his father. First, he argues that they should not have allowed his mother’s romantic belief that Larry is still alive to continue for so long. Second, he announces that he plans to marry Ann, that he is tired of working in his father’s business, and that if his mother refuses to accept his marriage and Larry’s death he will leave. Joe promises to help, but their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Kate.
Kate, who suspects that Ann’s arrival has some deeper significance, says that she has seen Larry in a dream. She points to the felled tree as proof that her son is still alive. Chris exits into the house. Kate immediately turns on Joe, demanding to know why Ann has arrived. Further, she threatens that if Larry fails to come home she will kill herself. She is interrupted, however, when Chris comes into the yard with Ann.
In the tense scene that follows, Ann flatly dismisses Kate’s belief that Larry is still alive. Further, she refuses to forgive her imprisoned father: Her father, Joe’s business partner, has been convicted of knowingly supplying cracked cylinder heads to the Army Air Force. As a result, twenty-one planes crashed, killing twenty-one pilots. Joe, who was found innocent of the same charge, defends her father as a “little man” caught in a situation beyond his control. After his parents have left, Chris and Ann confess their love for each other. She asks him why he waited so long to reveal his love; Chris replies that, after the war, he could find no meaning in life, feeling guilty that he was alive when so many had died. Their intimacy is broken by the news that Ann’s brother George is on the phone. George, a lawyer, has seen his father in prison and wants to talk to Ann immediately. As Chris and Ann leave, Joe and Kate nervously await the arrival of George.
Act 2 begins in twilight. Chris is sawing the apple tree when his mother enters from the house. Kate tells Chris that she is afraid, and that she wants Ann to leave with George when he arrives. Ann’s arrival ends their conversation, and Kate exits. Chris promises to tell Kate about their plans to marry, then he, too, leaves. Ann is joined by Sue, Jim’s wife. Their private talk quickly centers on marriage, and Sue harshly demands that once Ann and Chris are married they move away. Startled, Ann defends Chris’s idealism. Sue, however, retorts that Chris’s idealism has affected her husband. Under Chris’s spell, Jim has come to see his life as shallow, believing that instead of being a physician he should be conducting medical research. Sue suggests that it is easy to be an idealist when one can live in comfort, as Chris lives a world of financial well-being secured by his father’s corrupt business practices.
Joe enters the yard and suddenly announces that he will find jobs for both George and his father. Although Chris and Ann reject the idea of Joe’s helping his former partner, Joe defends his plan by emotionally shouting “a father is a father!” He retreats into the house, fearing that he has perhaps revealed too much. Jim arrives, having met George at the station; he tells Chris not to let him enter the house, suggesting that George’s plan is to take Ann away and to expose an old secret. Chris, unafraid of the past, tells Jim not to worry and goes forward to meet George.
George accuses the absent Joe of destroying his family and asks Ann not to marry Chris. He outlines his meeting with his father, saying that he now believes his father’s plea that Joe knew about the defects in the cylinder heads but ordered him to weld over the cracks and ship them out. Chris replies that he still believes in Joe’s innocence. The entrances of Kate and neighbor Lydia reduce the tension, and George seems to be slowly emerging from his explosive and dark mood. Joe finally joins the assembled group and tries to convince George that his father has always been unable to see his own faults. For a brief moment, the group is relaxed, and their laughter suggests a more promising future. The calm is abruptly destroyed, however, when Kate says that Joe has never been sick in fifteen years. This admission is a crucial mistake: Joe always claimed that he had pneumonia the day the cracked cylinder heads were manufactured. George begins to question Joe. George then tries to make Ann see the truth, Kate asks Ann to leave, and Chris attempts to shock his mother into accepting Larry’s death. Suddenly, Kate tells Chris that if he has lost all hope for his brother then he must also give up hope for his own father. Unable to answer her, Joe confesses his guilt to Chris. Chris, lost and crying, stumbles offstage as his father tries to call him back.
Act 3 takes place at two o’clock the following morning. Alone on the stage, Kate is rocking ceaselessly in a chair, waiting for Chris to return. Jim enters, and after admitting that he had also known that Joe was guilty, tells her that Chris will return, that like everyone else, he will make a compromise with his own impossible standard of honesty and return home. As he leaves, Joe enters, wondering if Ann— who has stayed in her room since Chris’s departure—knows what has happened. Joe talks about his need for Chris’s forgiveness, threatening suicide if Chris can not forgive him. Quietly, Ann enters and confronts Kate.
As Ann shows Kate a letter from Larry, Chris returns. In an emotional confrontation with his father, Chris refuses to forgive him. Chris turns away from Joe, and Ann takes the letter from Kate and gives it to Chris. He reads it aloud. Written moments before Larry’s final mission, it tells Ann that he has read of his father’s arrest. He is convinced of Joe’s guilt and tells Ann that he is going to kill himself during the mission. Joe suddenly realizes that to Larry all the pilots who died were Joe’s sons. Joe goes into the house, and moments later a shot is heard. The play closes with Chris cradled in Kate’s arms: her final words are “Forget now. Live.”
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 433
All My Sons is a carefully crafted realist play in the tradition of Henrik Ibsen, and it contains many of the elements that would become the familiar hallmarks of his most successful plays: the strained language, the minimal and delicate use of symbolism, the use of a small cast of characters, the tight structure, and the depiction of a “little man” caught between a fraudulent present and a wasted past.
One of the most successful features of the play is its sharp and realistic dialogue. In the opening scene, the leisurely talk between Joe Keller and Jim quickly becomes strained and tense when Frank enters. Frank’s comments about Larry force Joe out of his bemused mood, and his changed speech and behavior begin to reveal his inner tension. At other times, Miller’s dialogue achieves a remarkable naturalness. The scene between Joe and Bert, the young boy, illustrates Miller’s skill at writing natural, witty dialogue. The language creates an immediately recognizable real world, while providing glimpses of the hidden forces which threaten to erupt at any moment.
Another feature of the play is Miller’s use of symbolism. The spare set economically conveys the relaxed atmosphere of a secure family, yet within this normal scene Miller has placed a felled apple tree. A symbol of the dead son, the ever-present tree becomes a metaphor for the eventual destruction not only of the myth of the son’s survival but also of the entire family. Another example of Miller’s quiet use of metaphor is Joe’s imaginary use of the basement. By telling Bert that the basement is really a jail, Joe not only reveals his inability to escape the past but offers some evidence about his guilty conscience. Rarely is the stage crowded with characters; Miller structures his play around a series of two-or three-character scenes. Each scene is a carefully observed moment in the private life of each character. As the play quickly moves to its startling conclusion—Joe’s offstage suicide—Miller adds more levels of tension as the characters try to keep the hidden truth a secret.
The device most responsible for the play’s success is Miller’s characterization of Joe Keller. He is not a one-dimensional figure; Miller has made him complex and contradictory, and the audience is asked to be both sympathetic and disgusted. They can understand, perhaps even praise, his fierce loyalty to his family, yet they cannot accept his efforts to dodge the crucial issue of responsibility. Joe is the “little man” whose own personal tragedy symbolizes the greater corruption of society.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 375
Keller’s backyard. This setting represents a family having achieved the American Dream, but the dream is realized by unethical profiteering during the context of the recently completed World War II. Keller’s backyard is a place where members of the family socialize, recall pleasant memories of younger innocent days, and interact with neighbors. However, it is also a place where secrets are revealed, such as Larry’s suicide, Annie’s desire to marry Chris, and Joe Keller’s guilt about manufacturing faulty airplane parts. A broken tree in the backyard symbolizes the breaking of the family.
This setting underscores the typical upper-middle-class home in which American affluence presumes American moral superiority. However, in this place the truths that are revealed transform it from a haven of moralization to the place of Keller’s demise. Thus it fulfills playwright Arthur Miller’s intention of suggesting that all Americans who put business above personal integrity demonstrate a lack of moral integrity.
Keller’s house. Throughout the play, characters enter the house to avoid the intensity of the discussions and potential revelations occurring in the backyard. The interior of the house thereby becomes a place in which secrets are nourished, while the backyard is a place of revelation.
Prison. Offstage location. Annie’s father, a former business associate of Joe Keller, is in prison for his role in making faulty airplane parts. Though offstage, the prison exists prominently in the minds of the characters, prompting justification on the part of Joe Keller and denial on the part of his wife. It also represents the place to which Joe Keller will go, once the truth about his own complicity is discovered and he is expelled from his comfortable house and yard.
*New York City
*New York City. The American city suggesting wealth and business, it is seven hundred miles from the setting of the play. Its distance and prominence as a great center of American business contrast with the suburban life of the Kellers. It is also the place in which Annie and her brother choose to live after their father goes to prison, so it serves as a temporary escape from the scrutiny of the neighbors in their former neighborhood.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 387
In March of 1947, President Harry S. Truman presented the Truman Doctrine to the U.S. Congress. The Truman Doctrine was an anti-communist declaration that would shape American foreign policy for over four decades. With the Cold War heating up, fears of an international communist conspiracy were rapidly growing. The Truman Doctrine was meant to alleviate some of those very fears.
The now infamous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began its very visible investigations of alleged communist influence in Hollywood, resulting in the jailing and blacklisting of witnesses who refused to cooperate with investigators. The FBI, meanwhile, looked for evidence of communist infiltration in America; for example, they concluded that Frank Capra's classic Christmas film, It's a Wonderful Life, was little more than insidious communist propaganda.
To counter the growing spread of communism in Eastern Europe and Asia, the United States took positive steps to help rebuild the war-torn countries of both its allies and its former enemies, including Germany and Japan. On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall announced his plan for the economic recovery of Europe. With the Brussels Treaty of March 17, 1948, the Western European Union, the forerunner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was formed.
Meanwhile, King Michael of Romania abdicated, bringing another European country into the Soviet bloc. India and Pakistan were granted independence from Great Britain. In that same year, Mother Teresa left her Loreto order to move into the slums of Calcutta to establish her first school.
In Roswell, New Mexico in July, 1947, there was a rash of UFO sightings and the reported crash of an alien space ship, the basis for what many still consider a lame government cover-up of the truth. Also that summer, Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player to play in the Major Leagues, had joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and was on his way to winning the National League Rookie of the Year award.
In cinema, Elia Kazan, the director of All My Sons, won an Oscar for his direction of Gentlemen's Agreement, a film about anti-Semitism. Chuck Yeager became the first human to break the sound barrier in October 1947. Breaking a different kind of barrier, Bell Telephone Laboratories introduced the transistor, the first important Postwar breakthrough in the evolution of microelectronics, fundamental in the development of the post-industrial, information-age technology of the late twentieth century.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 390
1940s: In the aftermath of World War II the industrialized world divided into two armed superpowers: the Soviet bloc of communist nations and the Western democracies. In the West, the threat of communism led to suspicion and paranoia at the highest levels of government. Nuclear war seemed imminent.
Today: The threat of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and United States dissipated with the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Instead, the threat of terrorism reigns as well as the growing nuclear capabilities of rogue states such as Pakistan India Iran, and Iraq.
1940s: The Nuremberg Trials for war crimes and atrocities, which began soon after World War II, continued into 1949. The trials resulted in the imprisonment or execution of many high-ranking Nazis, particularly those involved in running the concentration camps, which exterminated millions of victims.
Today: Reaction to genocide in several countries has led to a new call for tribunals to indict and condemn war criminals. A notable example of a modern war criminal is Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who in 1999 was charged with the mass murder of ethnic Albanians and indicted by the World Court. Such ‘‘ethnic cleansing’’ has also occurred in other states, including Iraq, Burundi, and Rwanda.
1940s: In the wake of World War II, concerns about wartime profiteering and unethical practices were widespread. In the 1950s such concerns would eventually compel President Dwight D. Eisenhower to warn America about what he called ‘‘the industrial-military complex.’’ War profits also took the form of stealing the assets of the war's victims.
Today: In light of charges by several Jewish families that Swiss banks cooperated with Nazis during World War II and expropriated gold stolen from war victims, the whole issue of wartime profiteering has once more emerged. New concerns have emerged over the role some American industrialists may have played in the rise of Germany's military in the 1930s.
1940s: Professional sports, with some rare exceptions (boxing, for example) were largely segregated. It was not until 1947 that the color line in Major League baseball was broken when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. Until that time, African Americans could play only in the segregated Negro League.
Today: African Americans successfully compete in professional sports that seemed almost the exclusive domain of white athletes, notably tennis and golf.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 127
- All My Sons was adapted as a film in 1948. Chester Erskine wrote the screenplay. Directed by Irving Reis, the cast included Edward G. Robinson as Joe Keller, Burt Lancaster as Chris, Mady Christians as Kate, Louisa Horton as Ann Deever, and Howard Duff as George Deever. The film is available on videocassette.
- The play was also produced as a television play in 1955 and again in 1987. The 1955 version featured Albert Dekker, Patrick McGoohan, and Betta St. John in its cast. It is not, however, extant. The 1987 version, directed by John Power, was a television special produced by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It featured Joan Allen, Zeljko Ivanek, Michael Learned, Joanna Miles, Aidan Quinn, Alan Scarfe, Marlow Vella, and James Whitmore. It is not currently available on videocassette.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 495
Atkinson, Brooks. ‘‘The Play in Review,’’ in New York Times, January 30, 1947, p. 21.
---. ‘‘Welcome Stranger,’’ in New York Times, February 9, 1947, sec. 2, p. 1.
Boggs, W. Arthur. ‘‘Oedipus and All My Sons,’’ in the Personalist, Vol. 42, 1961, pp. 555-60.
Brown, John Mason. ‘‘New Talents and Arthur Miller,’’ in Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. 30, March 1, 1947, pp. 22-4.
Hewes, Henry. ‘‘Introduction,’’ in Famous American Plays of the 1940s. Dell Publishing, 1960, p. 15.
Hogan, Robert. Arthur Miller. University of Minnesota Press, 1964, p. 17.
Klapp, Orrin E. ‘‘Tragedy and the American Climate of Opinion,’’ in Tragedy: Vision and Form, edited by Robert W. Corrigan, 2nd edition. Harper & Row, 1981, pp. 252- 62.
Krutch, Joseph Wood. ‘‘Drama,’’ in Nation, Vol. 164, February 15, 1947, pp. 191, 193.
Krutch, Joseph Wood. ‘‘The Tragic Fallacy,’’ in Tragedy: Vision and Form, edited by Robert W. Corrigan, 2nd edition. Harper & Row, 1981, pp. 227-37.
Miller, Arthur. ‘‘Tragedy and the Common Man,’’ in Tragedy: Vision and Form, edited by Robert W. Corrigan, 2nd edition. Harper & Row, 1981, pp. 168-70.
Miller, Arthur. Timebends: A Life. Grove Press, 1987, p. 138.
Phelan, Kappo. ‘‘The Stage and Screen: All My Sons,’’ in Commonweal, Vol. 45, February 14, 1947, pp. 445-46.
Adam, Julie. Versions of Heroism in Modern American Drama: Redefinitions by Miller, Williams, O'Neill and Anderson. St. Martin's Press, 1991. Examining and comparing the protagonists of major American playwrights who attempted to write tragedy, Adam finds that their heroism can fit into distinct categories: idealism, martyrdom, self-reflection, and survival.
Gross, Barry. ‘‘All My Sons and the Larger Context,’’ in Modern Drama, Vol. 18, 1975, pp. 15-27. Gross examines Joe Keller and his son Chris in light of Miller's aim to create a play functioning as ‘‘legislation,’’ exhibiting a strong social purpose, and examines the generation gap between the father and son.
Hayman, Ronald. Arthur Miller. Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1972. In this brief monograph, Hayman offers a good critical introduction to Miller's earliest plays. Hayman concludes that Miller's principal concern is with cause and effect.
Hogan, Robert. Arthur Miller. University of Minnesota Press, 1964. A brief work in the pamphlet series on American writers, Hogan's study is a critical overview of Miller's early works up to and including After the Fall. It notes the similarity of structure between All My Sons and Oedipus Rex.
Miller, Arthur. Timebends: A Life. Grove Press, 1987. Miller's autobiography offers insights to all his work written into the 1980s. He offers personal reflections on his plays.
Moss, Leonard. Arthur Miller. Twayne Publishers, 1967. Moss examines Miller's ‘‘technical resources,’’ his ‘‘dialogue styles, narrative conventions, symbolic devices, and structural principles.’’
Moss, Leonard. ‘‘Arthur Miller and the Common Man's Language,’’ in Modern Drama, 7 (1964), pp. 52-9. Moss's article explores Miller's tendency to use ordinary speech for the expression of ethical abstractions. It uses All My Sons to illustrate some of its points.
Wells, Arvin R. ‘‘The Living and the Dead in All My Sons,’’ in Modern Drama, Vol. 7, 1964, pp. 46-51. This article argues that All My Sons and other Miller plays have a ‘‘density of texture’’ that is much greater than that of a ‘‘typical social thesis play.’’
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 403
Bigsby, C. W. E. “Drama from a Living Center.” In Arthur Miller, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Initially discusses All My Sons as a play of moral didacticism and then probes a subtext that explores the guilt of the idealist. Maintains that the play has a well-constructed plot development and contrivances.
Blumberg, Paul. “Sociology and Social Literature: Work Alienation in the Plays of Arthur Miller,” in American Quarterly. XXI (1969), pp. 291-310.
Corrigan, Robert W. “The Achievement of Arthur Miller,” in Comparative Drama. II (1968), pp. 141-160.
Driver, Tom. “Strength and Weakness in Arthur Miller,” in Tulane Drama Review. IV (1960), pp. 45-52.
Gross, Barry. “All My Sons and the Larger Context,” in Modern Drama. XVIII (1976), pp. 15-27.
Hayman, Ronald. Arthur Miller, 1972.
Hogan, Robert. Arthur Miller, 1964.
Huftel, Sheila. Arthur Miller: The Burning Glass. New York: Citadel Press, 1965. The chapter dedicated to All My Sons provides a significant overview of the play along with a careful analysis of the main and peripheral characters. The influence of Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian dramatist, on Miller is discussed, as is All My Sons in relation to Miller’s adaptation of Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People (1882).
Miller, Arthur. Introduction to Arthur Miller’s Collected Plays. New York: Viking Press, 1957-1981. Miller devotes many pages to All My Sons, explaining that it is a social play of relationship and responsibility. He discusses the inspiration for the drama and gives context for the play’s underlying philosophies.
Moss, Leonard. Arthur Miller, 1967.
Murray, Edward. Arthur Miller: Dramatist, 1967.
Nelson, Benjamin. Arthur Miller: Portrait of a Playwright, 1970.
Stambusky, Alan A. “Arthur Miller: Aristotelian Canons in the Twentieth Century Drama.” In Modern American Drama: Essays in Criticism, edited by William E. Taylor. DeLand, Fla.: Everett/Edwards, 1968. The first part of this chapter discusses classical tragedy and Miller’s adherence to the literary archetype. Stambusky argues that All My Sons falls short of tragedy in plot development, dialogue, and characterization.
Welland, Dennis. Arthur Miller, 1961.
Wells, Arthur. “The Living and the Dead in All My Sons,” in Modern Drama. VII (1964), pp. 46-51.
Williams, Raymond. “The Realism of Arthur Miller,” in Critical Quarterly. I (1959), pp. 140-149.
Wood, E. R. Introduction to All My Sons, by Arthur Miller. London: Heinemann, 1971. Probes the relationship between commerce and war. Explicates the play’s dramatic qualities and the three main characters’ motivations and actions.
Yorks, Samuel. “Joe Keller and His Sons,” in Western Humanities Review. XIII (1959), pp. 401-407.