How does survivor's guilt affect Chris, Joe, and Annie in All My Sons?

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Survivor's guilt affects Chris and Annie in that feel guilty for moving on with their lives with each other when Chris's parents are still waiting for Larry to come home from the war. Joe has avoided survivor's guilt for years by telling himself he did what he had to do to protect his family, but the knowledge that he caused his son's death overwhelms him with guilt and results in his suicide.

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Survivor's guilt affects many characters within the play to different extents. Chris feels guilty for surviving when his brother did not and for surviving after the death of his company during the war. He tells Annie that he came home from the war knowing that every good thing he had...

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came at the cost of someone else's life.

I felt wrong to be alive, to open the bank-book, to drive the new car, to see the new refrigerator. I mean you can take those things out of a war, but when you drive that car you’ve got to know that it came out of the love a man can have for a man, you’ve got to be a little better because of that. Otherwise what you have is really loot, and there’s blood on it. I didn’t want to take any of it. And I guess that included you.

Annie, too, is something he can only have because of his brother's death. Although he has had feelings for her for years and has been writing to her, he has held off on asking her to marry him because he feels guilty for being happy with her when she was "Larry's girl" until his death.

Ann also feels guilt around the Keller family, but it is less because of having survived and more because of the secret about Larry that she has kept from them. While Kate still clings to the possibility of her son's return from the war and has convinced herself that he is still alive, Ann knows that he is dead. Kate still sees Ann as Larry's girl and believes that Ann is waiting for him to come home. Ann feels guilty for moving on with her life after Larry's death when his family is still holding out hope for his return.

Joe is the character whose relationship with survivor's guilt changes most profoundly over the course of the play. Since the war, he has kept the secret that he was responsible for the shipment of the cracked engine cylinder heads and let Ann's father, Steve, take the blame. The knowledge that he directly caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots has eaten away at him, but he has justified his decision by claiming he did it for the family.

KELLER. I could live on a quarter a day myself, but I got a family so I ...

MOTHER. Joe, Joe ... it don't excuse it that you did it for the family.

KELLER. It's got to excuse it!

MOTHER. There's something bigger than the family to him.

KELLER. Nothin' is bigger!

However, when Joe learns that Larry intentionally crashed his plane when he heard what Joe did, the guilt becomes too much. He has tried to believe he was protecting his family, but his actions directly caused the death of his son instead. The weight of every man whose death he is responsible for suddenly comes crashing down on him, and he tells Kate,

Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were.

He can no longer justify his actions. The guilt of surviving after causing so many deaths overwhelms him and leads to his suicide at the end of the play.

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