How does money serve as a corrupting influence in All My Sons?

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In All My Sons, the corrupting influence of money leads Joe Keller to put his company's profits ahead of the lives of 21 American pilots in World War II. It also leads Dr. Bayliss to sacrifice his youthful ideals to pursue prosperity. Even Chris Keller wants to make his wife-to-be rich. Too often, the American Dream of success, Miller says, morphs into greed.

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Money as corrupting influence is a central theme in this play. Joe Keller was a man brought up in poverty who had to fend for himself from the age of ten. He survives his childhood deprivation and then the Great Depression, and he wants to safeguard the good income he now has. Therefore, so as not to cost his company money, he makes the fateful decision to go ahead and send cracked cylinder heads to the front during World War II. Because the parts are defective, 21 young American pilots needlessly die. Keller's son Larry, as a result of realizing what his father has done, goes on a suicide mission and also dies.

While we can sympathize with Joe's fears about financial security, the play condemns putting profit ahead of human life. Joe clearly made a deep moral error. When he realizes it, he pays for it by committing suicide. But beyond Joe, Miller condemns the casual materialism of the American Dream. Jim Bayliss, the Keller's doctor neighbor, has given up his youthful ideals about helping humankind to make money treating hypochondriacs, something his wife Sue encourages him to do, as she, too, wants money. Even Chris, who says he rejects his father's crass materialism, wants to make his wife-to-be rich. A desire for money that has gone too far threatens the very American Dream it represents. This can be seen in the lives of the 21 young men who were killed by the greed that is the dark side of the way of life the men were fighting to protect.

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Discuss the idea of money as a corrupting influence as a central theme in All My Sons.

In the Bible, it says that love of money is the root of all evil. That certainly seems to be the case in Arthur Miller's All My Sons. Virtually everything bad that happens in the play comes about as the direct result of the unthinking pursuit of riches.

Take the example of Joe Keller. A basically good man, his soul has been corrupted by the love of money. He's realized that he can make a lot more money by shipping what he knows full well to be faulty plane parts to the military.

Deep down, Joe must know that there's a real chance that people will die as a result of his actions. But he's so overcome by greed that he's not really thinking about other people's welfare. So he goes right ahead and keeps on supplying the Air Force with cracked cylinder heads, with fatal consequences.

In order for Joe to be corrupted by money, he must first of all be an essentially decent man. And all the available evidence points in that direction. He comes across as a decent, loving family man who just wants what's best for his children. Unfortunately, he becomes so overwhelmed by an insatiable desire for money that he ends up putting the lives of pilots at risk, including that of his own son Larry.

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How is the central theme of money as a corrupting influence shown in All My Sons?

Throughout All My Sons, Arthur Miller conveys the corrupting influence that money can have when greed overtakes morality. This theme is shown by the ripple effects of Joe Keller’s behavior. Although Joe rationalizes his illegal and unethical actions through the pressure he felt to meet the war-time demands, the fact remains that he cut corners. The corrupting influence permeates not only his business and his family, but leads to senseless deaths among the aviators whose planes were affected. The connection between the immediate, personal impact and the broader social one is his son, Larry, who was a pilot and realized what his father had done. The refusal to accept Larry’s death affects the mental health of his mother, Kate, which impedes her ability to bond with the living son, Chris.

The corrupting influence also devastates the Deever family, as Joe allowed his partner, Steve, to take the blame solo, which led to his conviction and imprisonment. This ethical breach connects the Kellers and Deevers not only through business, but through Ann’s romantic involvement—first with Larry, then with Chris. Her brother George’s bitterness also stems from Joe’s greedy actions.

Ultimately, Joe’s placing money above everything else leads to years of denial and lies; once exposed, he is destroyed and ends his life.

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