Act Three Questions and Answers
1. Why is the confirmation of Larry’s death understood and accepted so quickly by his family, especially by Kate?
2. What is the significance of the comparisons made between war and business in this act?
3. Why does Joe Keller decide to commit suicide?
4. How does the play end, and how is that ending tragic?
5. To what extent does the final scene resolve the primary conflict(s) of the play?
1. Ann confirms Larry’s death by sharing a letter with the Kellers that reveals his intention to commit suicide; the details of the letter match the circumstances of his death exactly and cannot be denied. Kate finally gives in because a key motivation for her denial of the death has been revealed: Joe’s role in the crime.
2. Chris compares business to war in this act by suggesting that even the tactics of the battlefield are more honorable than those of the marketplace. The implication is that betrayal, at least, is punished during wartime. His statement protests his father’s decision to ship the faulty cylinder heads, an act that places the pursuit of profit over concern for human life.
3. Joe commits suicide because he cannot bear the news that he did, in fact, cause the death of his own son. He cannot live with the fact that greed has corrupted one of his most precious values: loyalty to his family.
4. The play ends after Joe’s suicide, as Chris and Kate cling to each other in confusion. The end is tragic because each main character fails to overcome a fatal flaw and rise above the circumstances of the conflict.
5. The final scene suggests that business practices must be reformed if human communities, and the values that support them, are to survive. The ending leaves the exact response or solution to this problem open to interpretation.