Realism and Idealism

C. W. E. Bigsby

All My Sons is ostensibly a play about morality. Joe Keller, a wartime manufacturer of aircraft engines, had been charged with supplying defective equipment which led to the deaths of twenty-one pilots. At the trial, however, he had denied responsibility, allowing his timid partner to take the blame. Having been exonerated, he has successfully reestablished his business and though his neighbours still believe him to be guilty they have apparently accepted him back into their social life. But relief at his acquittal is tempered by grief at the loss of his son, himself a pilot, reported missing, presumed dead.

At the time of the play, some three years later, that son’s fiancée, Ann (daughter of Joe Keller’s business partner), arrives to become engaged to the dead boy’s brother, Chris Keller. This provokes a crisis for his mother, since she has refused to accept the fact of her son’s death and has seen Ann’s failure to marry as evidence of her similar faith in his survival. The planned marriage, therefore, involves laying the ghost of the dead son. But, more significantly, acceptance of her son’s death also forces her to acknowledge a connection between that event and what she knows to be her husband’s guilt. The situation is compounded when Ann’s brother George arrives to confront Joe with that guilt. And though he fails to wring a confession from Joe the imminent marriage does. For Chris’s mother plays her final card in order to prevent the marriage which will signal the end of her hope.

-107-

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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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