Act Two Questions and Answers
1. Who is George, and what is the significance of his role in this act?
2. Which key conflict is most important to the development of the plot in act two, and what does this conflict emphasize or reveal?
3. How are the values and practices associated with market capitalism depicted?
4. What is the relationship between Joe’s defense for his crime and the key themes of the play?
5. What is the primary moral problem in this act, and how does it impact the Kellers?
1. George is a lawyer and Ann Deever’s brother. His repeated questioning of the Kellers and their role in the crime blamed on his father finally unveils a contradiction in Joe Keller’s alibi.
2. The engagement between Chris and Ann is the most important problem in this act; it reveals both the complexity and the tragedy of the relationship between the Deever and Keller families. The efforts made to mend this relationship only emphasize its tragic elements: the obstacles and conflicts that cannot be overcome by either the couple or their relatives. The couple, like the entire Keller family, is doomed.
3. Business concerns threaten human values in this act, especially romantic love. The infamous business deal and subsequent trial pits the Kellers against the Deevers and makes the marriage of Chris and Ann impossible. Moreover, Joe’s willingness to sacrifice lives for profit suggests that the forces of the marketplace are inhumane.
4. Joe’s defense is concern for his family; he claims to have shipped the cylinder heads under the threat of losing money and his business, a chance he could not take as the provider for his family. His defense sustains the connection between the themes of business and family first introduced in act one.
5. The problems facing the Kellers become a moral dilemma. Each family member fails in a critical test of empathy as conflict erupts over the trial at the end of this act. This inability to empathize with others threatens to divide the family forever.