Act One Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Which signs are connected to Larry’s disappearance, and how are they important in this act?

2. How does Kate approach motherhood, and what is the effect of this approach on her family?

3. Why does Kate object to the possible marriage of Chris and Ann?

4. How is the (former) friendship between Steve Deever and Joe Keller important to the plot?

5. What is the mood by the end of this act, and what does it portend for act two?

Answers
1. Several signs suggest that Larry is in danger or has died: the destruction of the apple tree (a memorial to him planted in the backyard), the vision of his fall from the sky (in Kate’s dream), and the return of his former girlfriend (Ann, who wants to marry his brother). Kate does not heed these signs because she believes that Larry is still alive. Her attitude sets her apart from the others, who all believe that Larry is gone. The argument over Larry’s survival or death introduces a key conflict in this act that does not bode well for the relationship between either Chris and Ann or their families.

2. Kate’s dedication to Larry is the pinnacle of motherhood; she exudes a seemingly selfless concern for her “lost” child. She refuses to let Larry go, even though all signs point toward his death. Ironically, this stubborn belief isolates Kate from her husband and surviving son.

3. Kate believes that Ann should continue to wait for Larry. A marriage between Chris and Ann could occur only if Larry were dead, a possibility that she does not accept.

4. Steve and Joe were friends and business partners before and during the war; however, the trial over the cracked cylinder heads destroyed this relationship. Steve was convicted, and Joe, exonerated. Bad feelings still exist between the Keller and Deever families, even threatening the marriage plans of Chris and Ann.

5. The act ends in suspicion and suspense; a general feeling of foreboding is evident. Kate suggests that Joe will have difficulty responding to George’s inquiries about the trial in the next act. Hints are dropped that new information must be revealed.