Joe Keller and His Sons

Samuel A. Yorks

In his drama All My Sons Arthur Miller exploits a conflict of values that might have been a Greek theme. But for him this is more complex than for such a tragic author as Sophocles, who could in Antigone, for example, ground the clash between the moral law and the demands of the state in clearly defined religious and political practices. The moral law has in Miller’s time lost much traditional force as the state has come to assert final authority even here. Security boards no more than Creon may respect the moral basis for individual action, and the abstractions of modern communication rule out that clarity of vision which allowed the Greeks to so forcefully present the basic issues. Joe Keller’s is more cruel than Antigone’s dilemma because it is not possible for him to see as clearly. The conflict that destroys him does not arise from the simple clash of Sophocles, but from society’s own opposing commitments. His culture stresses the continuing right of the individual to economic aggrandizement while periodically calling for its nullification in the service of national abstractions, themselves a complex of humanity’s universal aims and power politics.

Man’s essential aloneness has created this vital problem because, isolated in mortal flesh, the individual attempts to somehow transcend the limitations of time and space. The ego seeks to lessen its anguish and finds in the clan and religion an extension of its being. Man’s most acute sensibilities stem from this desire; for him the values of love and loyalty are supreme. For them he will kill or be killed. But tension that leads to ultimate

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Arthur Miller's All My Sons
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Modern Critical Interpretations iv
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • The Question of Relatedness 5
  • Thesis and Drama 15
  • Joe Keller and His Sons 19
  • The Living and the Dead in All My Sons 27
  • Miller, Ibsen, and Organic Drama 33
  • The Failure of Social Vision 47
  • All My Sons and the Larger Context 63
  • "The Action and Its Significance- Miller’s Struggle with Dramatic Form 77
  • Two Early Plays 91
  • All My Sons 101
  • Realism and Idealism 107
  • The Dramatic Strategy of All My Sons 113
  • Bad Faith and All My Sons 123
  • Chronology 135
  • Contributors 137
  • Bibliography 139
  • Acknowledgments 141
  • Index 143
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