All my sons - englishatbraes

Broken on Larry’s birthday
 Fell in its’ prime like Larry (‘fruit still clinging
to its branches’)
 Foreshadows/symbolises the collapse of Joe’s
Shows that Kate needs proof that Larry is still
 She has no physical evidence so she turns to
spiritual evidence.
Sets off chain of events – catalyst that drives
plot forwards.
 Larry’s girl – accepting his death, Kate can’t as
she knows truth but Joe is so convinced by his
own lie that he supports them.
 Joe’s encouragement builds even more respect
from Chris.
Tension builder
 Promotes message – ‘man for men’ and
highlights differences between Joe and Chris’
 Counters Joe’s lie
Introduces different side of story
 Makes Joe nervous
 Past converging on present
 Initial doubt introduced in audience’s mind as
to why Kate is so worried
Look at the stage directions in this exchange
between Joe, Kate and Ann from Act One, p30.
Mother: What your father did had
nothing to do with Larry. Nothing.
Ann: But we can’t know that.
Mother (striving for control): As long as
you’re here!
Ann (perplexed): But Kate –
Mother: Put that out of your head!
Keller: Because –
Mother (quickly to Keller): That’s all,
that’s enough. (places her hand on her
head.) Come inside now, and have some
tea with me. (She turns and goes up
Keller (to Ann): The one thing you –
Mother (sharply): He’s not dead, so
there’s no argument! Now come!
1.What do the stage
directions here
reveal about Kate’s:
- relationship with
- attitude towards
2. How does the
deployed by Miller,
enhance what is
revealed about Kate
through the stage
Key Questions – Act 1
1. (p.25-26) Why does Kate have to believe that Larry is still alive? What difficulty does
this present for Ann?
Kate is portrayed first and foremost as a devoted mother. Her character is concerned
about keeping her family together and the belief alive that her missing son will return
safe. Her maternal instinct tells her that her son must be alright because ‘Because he
has to be’. However, her desperation in clinging to this hope (see stage direction [goes
to her]) and the repetition of the same phrases ‘Because some things have to be.’ reveal
that there may be a deeper meaning underlying Kate’s belief.
Secondly, Ann’s father is in jail for ultimately killing 21 pilots. If Kate accepted that
Larry was dead it would be admitting that her husband’s business killed men like her
Thirdly, Kate’s desperation is so great that when we connect it to further clues in this
Act i.e. “be smart Joe”, we begin to see that all is not rosy in this family.
Therefore Kate is characterized as MOTHER, WIFE, WOMAN – maternal, emotional,
protective, intuitive.
She makes Ann’s wish to marry Chris very difficult as she does not and will never
approve of them being together as she cannot accept that Larry is dead.
2. (bottom of p27 to top of p29 ‘MOTHER’) How does Miller, through the
MOTHER’S dialogue, reveal that Joe has something to hide?
The fact that Kate points out to Ann that Joe has lied is extremely significant. She
is portraying her husband, not as the hero and respectable man that we’ve been
introduced to but as a liar. ‘Except that they didn’t get it confused.’ This shows
that Joe is trying to hide to the children that he was arrested and taken to court.
He has deliberately manipulated the children’s belief in making himself appear
to be a hero.
‘How could they move back?’ shows that the relationship between Ann’s father
and Joe is not what it would first appear to be. In the trial Ann’s father tried to
blame Joe and may not be as forgiving as Joe has been that Joe didn’t face the
same punishment. Kate doesn’t believe they could ever be friends again. If Joe
were really innocent would he honestly forgive the man who tried to blame him?
Further, it also shows that even though the neighbours come round and play
cards and socialise with the Kellers, the situation and accusations have not
actually been forgotten.
(p32-33)Chris and Anne are trying to move on from
Larry’s disappearance but something is holding them
back. What?
(p34) How do Chris’ ideals compare or contrast with
(p38) How does Miller create tension and doubt in the
audience’s mind at the end of Act I.
Joe’s character development
 Dramatic Devices
 Theme – profit from war, responsibility
Keller is not presented as a villain but as an ordinary man caught up in a
bad situation and who makes a choice according to his own values.
He calls Steve a ‘little man’ but we find out that this ‘hero’ is actually just
like the ‘little man’ he describes.
He does not understand the wider impact one man can have.
He is representative of an older generation who did not have access to
Higher education, whose entire world centered around his family.
He is blind to his own ‘greed’(?) preferring to think of himself as a man
among men, minding his own business (literally and figuratively). That is
the true flaw in Keller's character.
Joe still plays the victim after Kate’s slip up, giving excuse after excuse but
these do not fool anyone and lead to Chris losing respect for his father
which also leads to the audience doing the same.
 Grapefruit juice – symbolises a happier time for both the
Kellers and the Deevers. It is used as a deliberate method of
manipulation, by Kate, to calm and soothe George and to
protect her family.
 Dialogue changes from long explanatory speeches where
Keller is giving excuses to short staccato dialogue and
questions during the climax where Chris is questioning
This builds tension in the audience and leads to the climax
where Chris is in inner turmoil as to what he needs to do.
Stage Directions
"their movements now are those of subtle pursuit
and escape."
Stage directions show Chris trying to pin his
father down to precise facts and admission of
guilt. Chris is hunting not only the truth but is
struggling to come to terms with the complete
obliteration of the image he held of his father as
‘Joe McGuts’ or ‘better than the rest’.
Profit from war: Keller argues that no one "worked
for nothin' in that war," insisting that if he has to go to
jail, then "half the Goddam country" is similarly
culpable. Is this an indictment of capitalism or of the
wartime mentality? Does he believe this argument, or
is it mainly another attempt to deflect blame?
Relatedness: Keller is able to deny responsibility for
his crimes because he believes in the family as the
nucleus of his world. His inability to see his
relatedness to the rest of society and to his fellow
man is his central flaw. This flaw leads to both public
(the deaths of the pilots) and private tragedy (Larry
and Joe’s suicides.)
Look at the stage directions and sentence structure
in this plea from Joe to Chris on page 67.
Keller ( - their movements now are those
of subtle pursuit and escape. Keller keeps
a step out of Chris’s range as he talks.):
You’re a boy, what could I do! I’m in
business, a man is in business: a hundred
and twenty cracked, you’re out of
business: you got a process, the process
don’t work you’re out of business; you
don’t know how to operate, your stuff is
no good; they close you up, they tear up
your contracts, what the hell’s it to them?
You lay forty years into a business and
they knock you out in five minutes, what
could I do, let them take forty years, let
them take my life away? (His voice
cracking) I never thought they’d install
them. I swear to God. I thought they’d
stop ‘em before anybody took off.
1. How do the stage
directions reveal a
change in Chris and
Joe’s relationship?
2. How does the
dialogue (in
particular the
sentence structure)
reveal development
or a change in Joe’s
character? How
does this affect the
audience’s view of
Key Questions – Act 2
What effect does George’s arrival have on the audience in terms of
building tension? PLOT
What effect do Sue’s comments about Chris have on Anne? And on the
audience? Can someone really be ‘too good’? CHARACTER (CHRIS)
What reason does George give for having believed his father’s guilt and
how does this build on the characterisation of Chris from the first Act?
With close reference to the dialogue and stage directions, as well as your
own explanation, describe how Kate initially quells George’s temper and
then causes the tension to increase dramatically shortly afterwards.
Comment on Kate’s line: “He hasn’t been laid up in twenty years…”. How
does this act as a turning point in the play? PLOT
 Comparison between business and war
 Climax
 Resolution of conflict(s)
Kate shows no real shock, unlike Chris.
 Forces Kate to face up to her own selfdeception.
 Forces Joe to see that Larry would not have
supported him.
 The admission that the pilots were "all my
sons" is, for Keller, an admission that he might
as well have killed his own child.
Keller argues that his actions during the war
were defensible as requirements of good
business practice.
 Wartime profiteering was common.
 Many people were involved in ‘black market’
trading of rationed goods.
 But, Chris argues that the money/profit made
from war is ‘dirty’ and that by accepting it he
dishonours the men who died.
 He cannot compromise these beliefs, even for
his father, which leads to the climax.
As a result of this and seeing what Chris (and
Larry) think of him, Joe kills himself.
Joe saw nothing wrong in making money from
war/death because thousands of others did too.
‘The whole damn country’s gotta go if I go’.
Joe sees though that Chris is a man of principles
that he will not compromise.
As a result of this and seeing what Chris (and
Larry) think of him, Joe kills himself.
He becomes the ‘tragic hero’ as he finally accepts
responsibility for his actions.
Chris’ divided loyalties are finally resolved: he
chooses to be loyal to his men and society
rather than his father.
 Kate no longer has to hide her husband’s
secret and can now fully support Chris. She
tells him to ‘live’.
Look closely at the following dialogue between Jim
Bayliss and Kate.
MOTHER: I always had the feeling that in
the back of his head, Chris...almost knew.
I didn’t think it would be such a shock.
JIM (gets up): Chris would never know
how to live with a thing like that. It
takes a certain talent – for lying. You
have it, and I do. But not him.
MOTHER: What do you mean...? He’s not
coming back?
JIM: Oh, no, he’ll come back, Kate. These
private little revolutions always die. The
compromise is always made. In a peculiar
way, Frank is right – every man does have
a star. The star of one’s honesty. And
you spend your life groping for it, but
once it’s out it never lights again. I don’t
think he went very far. He probably just
wanted to be alone to watch his star go
1. In what way does
Jim, a seemingly
character, take on an
important role
2. How effective is
Miller’s use of the
reference to stars in
this piece of
Key Questions – Act 3
Comment on the change in Joe’s character with his line: “I guess to him
they were all my sons.” (CHARACTER)
To what extent was Joe’s fate unavoidable? (PLOT)
With which character do you sympathise most: Joe, Kate or Chris?
If the central theme of the play is the profit made from war, what is the
playwright’s message through Joe’s suicide and his family’s reaction to
it? (THEME)
As a contemporary reader, how relevant did you find the themes of the
play? Refer to the article in your booklet entitled ‘A play for Obama’s
America.’ You should treat this question as a mini essay and write at least
three paragraphs in your answer, referring to both the play and the article
as well as including your own opinions.

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