Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

Arthur Miller's All My Sons through a Marxist Lens

Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

Arthur Miller's All My Sons through a Marxist Lens

Article excerpt


This study is a review of the Maxist theory with certain references to the Miller's play, "All My Sons", written in 1947. There are few articles conducted as Marxist critiques of capitalism in this play but these articles criticized capitalism without discussing its traits and drawbacks. The study discusses the characteristics and disadvantages of the capitalist system in detail by citing examples from the play. This article contributes to knowledge in various ways as it reminds us of the Marxist theory and its importance in the world of literary theory. It also attempts to prove that phony idealism destroys the family ties and realism is a real representation of human suffering. The current study emphasizes the Marxist claim that religion makes people idealists is far from reality. The article refutes Marxist perspective that opposes establishing family through marriage.

Key words: Marxism; Phony idealism; Capitalism; Marxist criticism; Religion


Abrams (1999) sees literature "not as works created in accordance with timeless artistic criteria, but as 'products' of the economic and ideological determinants specific to that era" (p. 149). Some Marxist critics, thinkers and writers favor literature that focuses on socioeconomic issues and depicts the life of people. In this chapter, We will discuss the traits and drawbacks of capitalism as well as its effects on the characters' lives. The characters' names in "All My Sons" have thematic significance as Miller did not haphazardly choose these names. We think, Joe Keller stands for capitalism, Chris represents religion and Jim Bayliss symbolizes the working class. Marx (1990) states that "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles: freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman in a word, oppressor and oppressed stood in constant opposition to one another" (p.82). Many Marxist critics see history as a struggle among the poor and the bourgeoisie and show the hardships that face the oppressed. They stressed the importance of studying history within literature. The reality is that Miller's play refers to a specific time in American history, but it remains a powerful portrayal of peoples' lives.

Miller criticizes capitalism as a minority group of people controls the modes of production. Zinn (2010) points out that capitalism is the main cause of failure for the lower class and the middle class. In the play, Joe Keller has given his life to the American Air Force for forty years. He is a sixty year old, uneducated man, and runs a business with Steve Deever. The two partners represent the middle class and the representatives of the upper class are those who control the American Army. There is a conflict between the two partners in one hand and the American Air Force and Joe Keller in the other hand. In the third act, addressing Chris, Joe Keller clarifes that "I'm in business, a man is in business; a hundred and twenty cracked, you're out of business; the process don't work you're out of business" (Miller, 71). Tragically, Joe blames himself in terms of selling faulty cylinders to the American Air Force and as a result of the deal twenty-one pilots killed in Australia during the war. In this quotation, Joe reveals information about his serving the dominating class. We think the officials of the Air Forces that sign the contract of buying the cylinder heads are involved in the crime. Therefore, Joe's wife, Kate, is responsible for his husband war-profiteering money and tries to cover the crime. Murray (1995) states "the play shows that Kate, as much as Joe, destroyed George's family" (p. 16). The suffering and the conflict have started since Joe began working with the upper class.

Capitalism has several characteristics that apparently appear in the play. Firstly, The capitalist system tends to use oppression since there is a conflict among the oppressed and the oppressor. …

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