What is the significance of money in All My Sons?

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Money has great significance in the play All My Sons, as it provides the motivation for Joe Keller's morally objectionable actions. Joe knowingly shipped defective plane parts to the military, because he wanted to make as much money as possible. The love of money entered his soul and corrupted it completely.

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The significance of money in the play is to show the downfalls of pursuing it and the compromised and sometimes unethical things that the pursuit of money can drive people to do. Money is contrasted with the more esteemed and prized aspects of life such as family. In fact, Chris even tells his father at one point that if he has “to grub for money all day long,” he at least wants his evenings to be “beautiful.” Thus, there is a clear contrast between money and beauty. As for beauty, Chris elaborates,

I want a family, I want some kids, I want to build something that I can give myself to.

This implies that the significance of money is that it spoils people’s dreams of attaining beauty and true happiness. Characters like Chris believe that the so-called American Dream is artificial and illusory, essentially smoke and mirrors. Joe even acknowledges that. Having attained money, he has not fulfilled his dreams and is “in last place again.” He says,

I don't know, once upon a time I used to think that when I got money again I would have a maid and my wife would take it easy. Now I got money, and I got a maid, and my wife is workin' for the maid.

The ultimate evil side of money is how it drives people to do unethical things that can hurt others. Joe knowingly sold faulty airplane components during the war to keep his company profitable. This action likely resulted in the death of Larry, as well as of many young soldiers who were fighting in the war. While Joe escaped the prison sentence that his business partner faced, the consequences for Joe are drastic nevertheless. By the end of the play, Joe realizes that metaphorically, the other soldiers were all his sons. His guilt over putting money ahead of the lives of others drives him to commit suicide.

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The play revolves chiefly around Joe Keller's decision to ship cracked cylinder heads he knew were defective to protect his company's profits. This caused the death of twenty-one young American World War II pilots.

However, the play makes clear that Joe Keller is no anomaly or lone bad egg in the American society of his time period. Money is significant to the play because it drives too many bad decisions in US culture, of which Keller's is only one particularly glaring example. Miller makes this theme clear when he introduces other characters into the play who also make decisions based on a financial calculus rather than following their moral urges.

For example, the Kellers' neighbor, Jim Bayliss, would love to do pure medical research with the idealistic goal of helping humankind, but he feels can't earn enough money doing that to support his family. He makes the decision to stay with an unsatisfying medical practice for the money.

Likewise, Jim's wife Sue is a pragmatic woman with her eye on the bouncing ball of money. She does what she can to squash her husband's idealistic urges to do research. She wants Ann to move far away when she marries Chris so that Chris can no longer inflame Jim's desire for a more noble life.

Miller shows that the quest for the American Dream of material prosperity is also an American problem that prevents people from becoming their best selves.

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In exploring the dark side of the American Dream, as he does in All My Sons and elsewhere, Miller inevitably deals with the theme of the corrupting power of money. Virtually everything that happens in the play is a result of Joe Keller's greed, which manifested itself in the fateful decision to ship what he knew full well to be defective plane parts to the military.

As a direct consequence of Joe's greed, no fewer than twenty-one American pilots were killed in action. Eventually, the guilt caused by his morally objectionable actions is so overpowering for Joe that he commits suicide.

If it hadn't been for Joe's overwhelming pursuit of the almighty dollar, none of this would've happened. The death of his own son Larry is also directly attributable to Joe's greed. Once he found out about the faulty plane parts, he committed suicide. He couldn't live with the shame of knowing that his own father was responsible for the deaths of so many of his comrades.

Yes, Joe was a businessman, and of course, all businessmen need to take care of the bottom line. But Joe took that perfectly valid concern one step too far, causing suffering to so many others. The problem here is not so much money as the love of money—as the degree of attachment to it. Joe's love of money overrode his obligations to his family and to his country, with truly tragic consequences.

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Money plays a significant role in Joe Keller's decision to ship the faulty airplane parts.  He has worked very hard from the bottom up to own the factory, he believed that if he did not meet the military contract and deliver the parts on time that he would lose his business. 

He made his decision because he felt that his financial security and future were at risk if he did not meet the time constraints of the military contract.

Money is the driving force behind the decision, he claims that he did not want to put his family at risk by not shipping the faulty airplane parts.  Joe Keller puts money above integrity, above honesty, above all the beliefs that he claims to value.

The distorted decision that Joe makes in order to save the factory, so as not to lose his financial position, is closely linked with the respect the family has for him.  Joe equates his family's love with what he can provide for them.

Joe's self-worth is closely tied with his business and financial success, that is why he was desperate to get out of jail, he needed to rescue his self-worth to recover his freedom which  proved to him, that he made the right decision. 

He believes that his life can go on, even though Steve Deever will rot in jail for a crime that he committed.  He doesn't care if Steve takes the blame for the criminal behavior as long as he is free, he feels vindicated.

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