What happens in All My Sons?

On the night Ann Deever visits Chris Keller, a storm knocks over a tree in his family's yard. This tree was planted in honor of the Keller's late son, Larry, a pilot who died in World War II. The timing seems significant to Chris's mother Kate, who still thinks of Ann as Larry's girlfriend, not Chris's.

  • Kate still believes that Larry is alive. She insists that Ann feels the same, but Ann makes it clear that she isn't waiting for Larry. Chris has asked Ann to visit because he intends to propose to her and needs his father's support in convincing his mother that it's a good match.
  • In the course of the play, it's revealed that Ann's father Steve has gone to jail for allowing cracked cylinder heads to be installed in fighter jets on the front. From jail, Steve accuses Joe of knowingly ordering him to ship the cracked cylinder heads. Joe denies it, claiming that he was home sick at the time, but Ann's brother George catches Joe in the lie.
  • Ann reads a letter that Larry sent her while he was on the front. In it, Larry reveals that Joe knew about the cracked cylinder heads all along and that Larry intends to crash his plane because of this. Upon hearing this, Joe commits suicide to repent for his actions.

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Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The night Ann Deever returns to her old neighborhood to visit Chris Keller and his family, a tree in their backyard blows over in a storm. The tree was planted as a memorial to the older Keller son, Larry, a fighter pilot who was lost in World War II. The morning after the storm, family members and neighbors gather in the yard to chat, to read the newspaper, and to discuss Ann’s return.

Ann’s father, who was Joe Keller’s partner in a wartime business, is in the penitentiary for having allowed cracked cylinder heads to be shipped, which caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots. (Joe was jailed, too, but was later exonerated for his part in the incident.) After the neighbors leave and while Ann is still inside the Keller house eating breakfast, Joe and Chris—a father and grown son who obviously admire each other—discuss Larry’s tree falling and the effect it will have on Kate, the mother. Chris also tells his father that he asked Ann to visit because he wants to ask her to marry him; Joe responds that his mother will not like the news because she still thinks of Ann as Larry’s girl. Chris explains that if he is to stay with the family business, he will need his father’s support in convincing Kate that Larry is not coming back from the war and that Ann and he have the right to be happy.

When she enters the backyard, Kate tries to downplay the significance of Larry’s destroyed tree, but she notes the coincidence of Ann’s return. She reminds the two men that she is sure Larry is not dead and that Ann must share that sentiment. Chris tries to reason with her, but she insists that it is possible that Larry is still alive. She mentions that a neighbor is working out Larry’s horoscope to establish whether or not Larry’s plane crash could have occurred on one of Larry’s “lucky” days.

Once Ann joins the Keller family in the yard, the talk turns to old times and ultimately to Larry. Ann makes it clear that she is not waiting for Larry, but Kate tells her that she should listen to her heart, “because certain things have to be, and certain things can never be.” Their talk also turns to Ann’s father in prison, and Ann reveals that her sympathy for him came to an end once she heard of Larry’s crash. Joe explains that Steve—Ann’s father—is not a bad man, just the type of weak man who buckles under pressure. Joe goes on to say that in spite of Steve’s claim that he, Joe, approved the damaged shipment, he would be willing to let Steve come back to the business, not as a partner but as a worker. Ann marvels at Joe’s magnanimity, and Chris agrees that he is “a great guy.”

After the group makes plans to go out for a celebratory dinner, Chris and Ann talk seriously. Chris explains his...

(The entire section is 3,176 words.)