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All My Sons

Autor:   •  July 11, 2017  •  Essay  •  2,094 Words (9 Pages)  •  206 Views

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In contrast to the other stories/plays discussed so far where we talk about the leadership qualities of few of the renowned characters, All My Sons deals with the meaning and realistic aspect of life. It mirrors the situation that many managers generally face in an organization where there seems to be a tradeoff between the interest of individual/corporate and the society.

About the Author

A glance at Author-Arthur Miller’s past life would help us gauge at the message being conveyed in the play. The importance of Great Depression in his life, World War-II and his shift from communist to socialist have a profound role to play in his works. Most of his notable books are infused with the flaw regarding economic interpretation of the American dream where success of business matters. Through his books- All My sons and Death of a Salesman, he questions the obligation and responsibility of an individual towards the society and also tries to brings out the contrast between private and public matters.

About the play

“All My sons” was written in the year, 1947 and was Arthur Miller’s final attempt at writing a successful story after few setbacks. It is based on a true story where Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Ohio supplied defective aircraft engines for military use after conspiring with the army inspection officer. In the play, Joe Keller has been shown to be involved in similar crime of supplying defective parts and is living in self-denial regarding his involvement. He frames his partner, Steve Deever for the act which ruins the integrity and happiness of Steve’s family. The only disorder in Keller’s family was the death of their son- Larry who went missing in the World War-II three years ago. Keller involvement in the crime finally comes to light at the end when Ann shows them the letter written by Larry before committing suicide stating his father’s actions to be the reason of his death. At the end of the play, Joe Keller kills himself which leaves reader to speculate the reason behind his deed and also makes us wonder as to what other course of action he could have taken. He could have taken the moral high ground by accepting his involvement in the crime and taking full responsibility of his actions thus acquitting Steve.

Why did Joe Keller kill himself?

Earlier, Joe Keller persuaded himself based on court’s outcome. He sticks to the legalistic view to begin with, that has declared him innocent. But, one can’t escape the outcome of one’s action. His actions stem out from the fact that his responsibility towards his family supersede all other responsibilities- towards society, country and world at large. He did everything for his family no matter what the cost. For him, the interest of his family was paramount. After revelation of the reason behind Larry’s death, Joe felt an overwhelming sense of guilt bearing with the fact that he had a major role to play in Larry’s death. He is consumed in guilt and deep pain rendering him incapable to confront anyone. Everything that he stood for, became a lie and fraud towards the end and he finds it hard to reconcile the effect it had on his family. Chris is agitated and can barely look at his father. Kate suspicion about Joe’s involvement in Larry’s death is finally realized. Lastly, it’s his self-realization that shook his world – the realization about him being responsible for Larry’s death and the death of 21 pilots (who are all supposedly his sons due to the comradery culture Larry was exposed to) by providing faulty parts. He not just ruined his family’s live but also the lives of others around him. He is also aware of the fact that he cannot atone for his crime at this juncture and to avoid accepting responsibility for his actions, he commits suicide. He couldn’t bear the consequences of his wrongdoing which cannot be repaired. The greatest fear that he had due to revelation was the loss of his image as a reputed and accomplished individual in the society but most importantly the loss of his image in his family- as a father and as a husband which crippled him and made him end his life. He cannot imagine his life in such circumstances- without the love and respect from his family or community.

Why did Larry kill himself?

Larry came to know about the wrongdoings of his father while he was serving in the army. He was ashamed of what his father had done. One part of him knew that the reason why his father sent a faulty shipment was because he wanted to make money for his family. His father could not let the business die and make his family suffer. Larry felt shameful since whatever his father did was for him and his family and  yet it killed his own brothers. He could not dare to face his fellow pilots believing that his dad was the reason of the death of his brothers. Larry’s relationship with the army and the feeling that every soldier is like his family made him feel even more shameful. The question to ponder upon is that would Larry have still committed a suicide if he wasn't in the army. Would he still feel the same amount of remorse and guilt if it was not the pilots but few random citizens who would have died? Larry could not face his fellow soldiers after what his father had done went public. He sent the letter to Ann because he wanted her to move on.

Social Responsibility

A central idea which is brought out in the play “All My Sons” is that of social responsibility and till where does one’s social responsibility extends. To begin with there is a clear contrast between Larry and Joe as to their own perceptions of social responsibility. Larry considers at least his own community or fellow army members as his own apart from his family. Joe on the other hand restricts his consideration set while making decisions strictly to his family.

The reason for such an outlook of one’s responsibility can be looked through two lenses. One, that the person himself has developed such view or that society has shaped him to be so. Joe’s negative view of the world was his own, yet also related to the hardships he faced during his life. Larry on the other hand had not many hardships and was also trained in the army which might have had a role in broadening his scope of social responsibility. Joe’s competitive way of life and Larry’s cooperative way of life seem to be one of the explanations for their different outlook in life regarding social responsibility.


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