In "All My Sons", what is Kate's attitude towards her missing son?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kate's attitude towards her son is sort of the "elephant in the room" for the rest of the characters. She simply refuses to believe that her son, Larry,was killed in a plane crash three years earlier in the war. She still hangs on the the illusion that he will return one day. Her refusal to acknowledge his death goes beyond the normal reactions of grief. She refuses to ignore signs that she must let go. She has a dream of Larry's death that occurs at the same time the apple tree, which was a memorial to Larry, is blown down in a storm. Ann, Larry's former girlfriend, has returned and now wants to marry her younger son, Chris. She says she will "kill herself" if Chris marries Ann because Larry is still alive. Although the rest of her family cannot understand Kate's unwillingness to let go of her son, the illusions are perfectly logical to Kate. To acknowledge that Larry is dead would be to also acknowledge that her husband sent defective airplane engine parts to the army and that might make her husband responsible for her son's death. As she says, "“God does not let a son be killed by his father.” Although her beliefs are irrational to others, they are the only way she has of dealing with both her husband's crime and the loss of her son.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is Kate's attitude about her missing son in All My Sons?

You asked more than one question in your original question. Enotes only permits one question and so I have edited your original question accordingly. Please do not ask multiple questions in future.

If you look at Act One carefully, it becomes very obvious that Kate is a woman who is unable to move on from the disappearance of her son, Larry. She is presented as a character who is unable to contemplate the possibility of her son's death, and thus she clings on to the vain hope that he is not "missing in action" but will find his way back home eventually and re-enter their lives. Notice how she says to both Joe Keller and Chris that she wants them to "act like he's coming back":

Because if he's not coming back, then I'll kill myself!

Of course, as the play progresses we realise that Kate is so fixated on believing in Larry's safe return because if she accepts he is dead, then she has to accept that her husband was responsible for the deaths of the soldiers because of the faulty parts his factory provided.


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on