All My Sons

Leonard Moss

All My Sons, Miller’s first success on Broadway, represents a considerable advance in the author’s ability to manipulate language. To a casual observer the dialogue may appear to be simply a phonographic imitation of a contemporary American idiom, replete with clichés and slang. In the opening scene, comfortable gossip circulated by the Kellers and their friends connotes the sense of security conventionally associated with everyday family and neighborhood life. The talk—ingenuous, friendly, relaxed—duplicates the good-natured banter one might expect to hear in any midwestern suburban backyard on a pleasant Sunday morning.

This deliberate banality, however, encompasses more than mere linguistic verisimilitude: the common man’s slangy syntax has been used for theatrical purposes. “The play begins in an atmosphere of undisturbed normality,” Miller wrote. “Its first act was later called slow, but it was designed to be slow. It was made so that even boredom might threaten, so that when the first intimation of the crime is dropped a genuine horror might begin to move into the heart of the audience, a horror born of the contrast between the placidity of the civilization on view and the threat to it that a rage of conscience could create” (introduction to the Collected Plays). Intruding upon the tensionless domestic world, with its chatter about want ads, parsley, and Don Ameche, a terrible challenge to tranquillity becomes increasingly insistent, finally bursting apart the innocent verbal façade. The peaceful mood deceptively evoked by trite speech prepares the stage for desperate war.

From Arthur Miller. © 1980 by G. K. Hall & Co. Twayne Publishers, 1980.

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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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