All My Sons

King Lear, All My Sons, We Need to Talk About Kevin: a Shortage in Perception as a Common Theme

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Parents’ lack of insight into their offspring is integral to ‘King Lear’, ‘All My Sons’, and ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, as the actions of the children affect the fatal outcomes of the texts. In the texts, the fathers’ inabilities to realise the true nature of their children leads to serious misjudgements, and ultimately, the demise of each family. Lear, Joe Keller and Franklin are all metaphorically blind to their situations and their desire to be admired by their children that they fail to see their offspring’s true personalities through false pretences, or, how they may influence their children’s’ behaviour.

Shakespeare presents Lear, the protagonist, as a typical Greek tragic hero whom is left vulnerable as a consequence of his actions. Lear’s lack of insight into the consequences of his actions makes him a tragic hero, with his fall from power being due to poor judgement. Whilst his intentions for dividing the kingdom may have been honourable (“that future strife may be prevented now”), his egotistical need for self-validation is shown in Act 1, where Lear intends to divide the kingdom according to which daughter claims to love him the most. He questions Cordelia, Goneril and Regan with “Which of you shall we say doth love us most…?” The first person plural pronoun, ‘us’, reinforces his egotistical nature. Metaphorically blinded by the ‘importance’ of his children loving him, Lear trusts Goneril and Regan to declare their unconditional love for him, only to be abandoned by them during Act 1. Despite the expectation to love his daughters unconditionally, his conditions for the division of the kingdom exemplify how his lack of insight is responsible for his narcissistic and hubristic nature, which is evident in his desire to love and be loved. By posing this question to his daughters, he is eventually stripped of his powerful and privileged position, and is left physically and mentally frail due to the trials he faces because of his two tyrannical eldest daughters. Furthermore, his decision to pit the sisters against each other also reinforces his lack of insight, as he unknowingly encourages sibling rivalry between them. Critic, Northrop Fyre argues that Lear’s demands for them to display their love for him causes the sisters to “have to be on their guard to stop him from ever having the power to do to them what he’s just done to Cordelia”. Their spontaneous decision to protect themselves is due to Lear’s lack of insight and, therefore, the sisters treat Lear harshly, inverting the natural order. This is shown at the end of Act 1, Scene 1, when Goneril says to Regan “We must do something, and i’ th’ heat” aiming to strike Lear whilst he is in a weakened mental state (which is a result of his lack of insight in banishing Cordelia). Lear’s treatment of his daughters thus means that it is this lack of insight that leads to great repercussions later on in the play.

Additionally, as ‘King Lear’ follows the structure of ‘Freytag’s pyramid’, the evidence of his lack of insight occurs during the exposition and the rising action of the play, emphasising its significance to the plot. The rising action is caused by Lear himself in his decision to split his kingdom, causing Goneril and Regan to fool him into a false sense of admiration, leading to the banishment of Cordelia and also to Lear’s downfall. The climax and falling action of the play focuses on the impact that Lear’s lack of insight into his children has on the family dynamic, as well as the stability of the kingdom, as this lack of judgement is integral to the eventual tragic outcome of the play.

Similarly, the use of Greek tragedy is evident in ‘All My Sons’. From the outset, it is clear that the play adheres to the three classic unities: unity of time, place and action. The events of the play all take place within a 24 hour time period, it is set in the Keller’s’ backyard, and the action is focused on the family’s relationships against the background of the deaths of twenty one pilots. Miller’s use of the unities creates an artificially ‘safe’ environment which appears to protect the Keller family from reality. Joe Keller, who is particularly comfortable in this environment, is distanced from the reality of his involvement in the pilots’ deaths, who became casualties of his decision to export faulty cylinder heads. He therefore convinces himself that he is not responsible for their deaths or for the disappearance of his missing son, Larry. This lack of willingness to accept responsibility is emphasised when Joe says to his older son, Chris in Act 1, “I ignore what I gotta ignore”. Evidence of such a lack of insight suggests that he has always lulled himself into a false sense of security, failing to acknowledge how his actions could affect others, particularly his children. Additionally, Joe conforms to the traditional Greek role of the ‘tragic hero’. Like Lear, Joe’s overwhelming pride and ignorance leads to his failure to recognise the moral implications of his actions and how his lack of insight contributed to the deaths of the twenty one pilots and, inadvertently, his own son.

Similarly, Shriver’s ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ contains elements of traditional Greek tragedy, which enhances the importance of lack of insight. For example, Kevin’s actions are not completely dissimilar to the tragic Greek hero, Oedipus’. Like Oedipus, Kevin kills his father (and sister), before going on to commit a massacre at his high school. However, unlike Oedipus (who had no realisation that the people involved were his parents), Kevin knows exactly who he is hurting. As a result, Franklin’s complete lack of insight into how his son would eventually go on to shoot him with the present he bought for him emphasises how he underestimated what his son could do. Similar to Oedipus’s father, King Laius, Franklin becomes the ‘tragic hero’ of the novel as, despite his best efforts to raise Kevin as the typical ‘happy-go-lucky’ American son, he becomes subject to his own ignorance by failing to acknowledge Kevin’s true nature during his childhood, meaning that he fails to anticipate the by-product of this willingness to turn a blind eye.

Additionally, Franklin is ‘metaphorically blind’, and therefore lacks insight into Kevin’s behaviour. He strongly insists on Kevin being an innocent, loving child, whilst accusing Eva of being a bad mother to Kevin, as she continually argues that Kevin intentionally causes harm to himself and others. Franklin strives for the ‘American Dream’, obsessed with the idea of being a family man so much that he is therefore completely blind to the realities of what his son is capable. His liberal attitude to parenting means that whenever Eva (who has a much more conservative approach) insinuates that anything is wrong, he lashes out at her, insisting that she is the problem, not Kevin. This evident lack of insight into Kevin’s personality clearly contributes to his son’s high school massacre. By purchasing a bow and arrow for his Christmas present, Franklin, both physically and metaphorically, armed his son with a weapon that he would ironically later use to murder the person who gave it to him. Additionally, by choosing not to acknowledge any misbehaviour from his son as a serious issue, Kevin’s manipulative and destructive behaviour is condoned and reinforced by Franklin’s support and dismissal of Eva’s warnings. Zoë Green; a critic of the text, supports this, arguing that in some ways, “Franklin’s continued optimism in the face of the obvious is more sinister than Kevin’s devious destructiveness.” It is this ‘deliberate blindness’ that prevents Kevin’s misbehaviour from being taken seriously, again highlighting Franklin’s complete lack of insight into how his actions pave the way for Kevin to commit the atrocities that take place at the end of the play.

However, lack of insight can also be seen from Eva too, as she made it clear through her behaviour whilst pregnant, that she was not ready to become a mother. For instance, activities such as listening to Psycho Killer by Talking Heads, suggest Eva was ‘feeding Kevin bad thoughts’, without thinking of the repercussions on her unborn child. Also, the reader is only subjected to Eva’s point of view through Shriver’s use of an epistolary structure and, with a lack of any other narrative perspective, we are unable to know whether we are reading a biased account of Franklin’s influence on Kevin’s actions. Franklin may be unfairly represented in the novel, meaning that from Eva’s point of view, she may have had a lack of insight into how Franklin could have been trying to rectify Kevin’s behaviour by using a more liberal approach towards him. As Eva herself said “The whole time I was pregnant with Kevin I was battling the idea of Kevin”; therefore, it is obvious that Eva never bonded with her son and therefore was harsher towards him, meaning that Franklin’s influence in Kevin’s upbringing provided some balance. This lack of parental love towards Kevin could also be a product of Eva’s lack of insight into the effects of not forming a proper bond with her child. This lack of a bond is also emphasised by the fact that Eva only agreed to have Kevin to keep Franklin happy and their marriage on track, therefore meaning that she does not truly know what is feels like to be a mother as she has not had the ‘full experience’ of preparing for a baby, again showing her lack of insight into the potential consequences of having a child.

The extended metaphor of metaphorical blindness also runs throughout ‘King Lear’. Lear is ‘blinded’ by his daughters’ false declarations of love as he is taken advantage of them. Shakespeare’s use of imagery related to sight is apparent through the opening scenes of ‘King Lear’. The irony of most of these references being used by Lear himself, such as “Out of my sight!” in Act 1, are used by Shakespeare to represent how Lear is unable to see the truth of the situation, as what he can’t or won’t see ends up destroying him. Kent’s attempts to advise him of his daughters’ true intentions (“Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least”) falls on deaf ears, Lear believing that his daughters would never betray him, expecting them to be dutiful to him as women, daughters and his royal subjects. Goneril and Regan thus subvert the traditional obedient roles of daughters expected of them at the time the play was written (est. 1606), and even more so considering the time setting of the play (8th century BC). By telling Lear to “See better”, Kent vocalises the audience’s thoughts as the dramatic irony of Lear’s lack of insight demonstrates that he cannot see the truth of Goneril and Regan’s actions. Cordelia’s failure to flatter Lear causes him humiliation and, therefore, her disobedience is punished by banishment. Additionally, Lear’s refusal to accept imperatives and advice from individuals of lower status highlights his lack of insight as his hubristic nature makes him view himself as an omnipotent monarch. Consequently, this leads to tragic events later in the play, showing the importance of insight, or a lack of it, when one is in a position of authority.

Metaphorical blindness is also prevalent in ‘All My Sons’. Joe Keller convinces himself that he is not at fault for the deaths of the twenty one pilots by lying to himself and his family, lies which is convinced is the truth. His exoneration causes his son, Chris, to admire him, calling him “Joe McGuts”, reinforcing Joe’s lack of insight as he does not realise the false impression of perfection he creates for his Chris. Subsequently, this perpetuates the pressure for him to sustain this image. Additionally, for three and a half years, Joe places the blame for the shipment of faulty parts on his former partner, Steven Deever, whilst distancing himself from the event, as emphasised by Chris: “You have such a talent for ignoring things”, to which Joe answers, “I ignore what I gotta ignore”. Here, it is clear that Joe only acknowledges what he wants to, therefore rejecting any responsibility for the deaths, as long as he can justify the end result, which is providing for his family. Chris’ quotation could be an attempt to force Joe to confront his conscious ignorance but, as Joe ignores this too, his lack of insight into his children is clearly evident. As previously mentioned, Joe does not consider how his actions affect others, such as the reasons behind Larry’s disappearance, until it is too late. The shock from his realisation of the impacts of his actions at the end of Act 3 overwhelms him, and Joe commits suicide. His lack of insight has a great impact on his relationship with his family and is the reason for Larry’s death and Steven’s incarceration before the play begins. It also creates false impressions of Joe for other characters such as Chris, and eventually leads to a tragic ending. Critic, Masahiro Oikawa, describes Joe and Chris as being the character of Oedipus split in two, contrasting Shriver’s use of Kevin as a modern-day Oedipus. He subverts the typical view of the audience of Joe representing the antagonist, instead focusing on him as a protagonist who has “continued to conquer all difficulties during World War II.” This view suggests that Joe does not have a lack of insight, but rather that he did what was necessary to struggle through 1940s war-time conditions; a sacrifice of his morals was essential in a time where it was ‘every man for himself’.

Another way in which parents’ lack of insight is shown in ‘King Lear’ is through Shakespeare’s reversal of the traditional natural order between parent and child. Lear’s daughters exert power over their father after taking control of everything that originally gave him authority, as opposed to Lear having dominance over them, due to the hierarchy and time of setting. This is best shown by the Fool in Act 1 Scene 4, where he says to Lear “May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?” This metaphor represents how the natural parent-child relationship has been inverted, with the ‘cart’ now drawing the ‘horse’. Goneril and Regan challenge societal expectations of women by becoming independent and dominant over Lear. Lear’s failure to recognise how his position of authority is undermined through devolving complete power to his daughters shows his belief in the patriarchal society and women’s’ expected behaviour. As a result, his lack of insight into his offspring and their motives in professing their love dishonestly as shown in Act 1 Scene 1 is emphasised. Also, Lear has a lack of insight into how his own behaviour may have influenced his daughters. For instance, with no maternal influence, Gorneril and Regan’s ruthlessness could have been inadvertently taught by Lear.

Similarly, in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, there is a complete reversal of traditional family roles, with Kevin being the dominant figure in his relationship with his parents. He is able to influence his mother’s actions; for example, from Eva’s point of view, he deliberately soils his nappies, leading to Eva eventually having an outburst and throwing him against a wall. Eva then assumes that Kevin lies about how his arm was broken, using her guilt to his advantage, with Eva acknowledging “I owed him one. He knew I owed him one. And I would owe him one for a very long time.” The use of enumeration emphasises Eva’s lack of control over her life due to Kevin. Additionally, this long-lasting hold of power over his mother is reminiscent of a binding deal made between the devil and one’s soul, referenced by Eva when she explains “I had ransomed my soul to a six-year old.” This implies, through religious imagery, that Kevin is a human embodiment of the devil, using his captor (Eva) as and when he likes. This shows the reversal of parent-child roles, as Kevin is able to exert full control over his mother, even at six-years old. Lack of insight on Eva’s part is therefore shown, as by becoming pregnant, Eva did not consider the consequences of giving birth, and what that would mean for her life as an independent career woman, in that she would have to give up her freedom for a life controlled by a devious six-year old.

Whilst not showing a complete reversal of parent-child relationships, as shown in ‘King Lear’ and ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, ‘All My Sons’ does show children taking on stereotypically ‘parent-like’ traits. Chris, in some respects, is more mature than his father; he has a more ‘worldly’ view on life and is not as narrow-minded. By fighting in World War II, Chris was not confined to the ‘safe-haven’ of the Keller home and so developed a sense of responsibility to others, due to his fellow team members sacrificing themselves for his survival. As he grew up at a time when the American Dream was idealised, Joe focuses on material wealth and providing for his family. Chris, however, is not materialistic, highlighted when he says to Ann Deever in Act 1 “I felt wrong… to open the bank-book… drive the new car… when you drive that car you’ve got to know that it came out of the love a man can have for a man, you’ve got to be a little better because of that. Otherwise what you have is really loot, and there’s blood on it.” This shows Chris’s appreciation for his fellow comrades, who sacrificed themselves in the war so that he could return to his comfortable lifestyle. Chris, therefore, takes on more responsibility than his father, suggesting that if Joe had done so, the deaths of Larry and the twenty-one pilots would not have occurred, as he would have accepted blame for the faulty parts and they would never have been exported. However, Chris may have inherited a lack of insight from his father as he fails to acknowledge Joe’s artificial exterior and, ignoring his suspicions, chooses to believe Joe’s lies, due to the pedestal he has held his father on throughout his life. This reinforces how Joe’s lack of insight into the way his actions could affect his children has caused a lack of insight in them as well, regarding who their father really is. Larry cannot handle his realisation of the truth and takes his own life. When Chris finds out, there is a dramatic confrontation that leads to the truth behind Larry’s death being revealed and, as a result, Joe also commits suicide.

Conclusively, although parents’ lack of insight into their offspring is a key feature of all three texts, it could be argued that the children’s response to their parents’ lack of insight is also an essential factor in the tragic outcomes of the texts. In ‘King Lear’, Goneril and Regan are manipulative in convincing Lear of their love for him, protecting themselves from the newly-emerging uncertainty of their futures. As a result, he puts his trust into them, dividing his kingdom, thus leading to Goneril and Regan creating a tyrannous kingdom where innocents are pursued, tortured or die. Lear is therefore forced to accept what he has caused and, with this insight, along with the deaths of his three daughters and the near ruin of the kingdom, can no longer survive. From this perspecive, it is Lear’s lack of insight that is the catalyst to all of the tragic events which follow.

In reaction to Joe’s lack of insight, Joe’s son’s responses contribute to the tragic end of ‘All My Sons’. Chris confronts his father about his lies, his anger heightened by his self-loathing at his similarities to his father, and becoming “yellow” because of a lack of response to his suspicions. He also learns the truth about Larry, who, being unable to face what his father has done, kills himself, without thinking of the repercussions that this course of action may have on his family, as a result. Comparatively, Joe commits suicide, also unable to cope with the responsibility of having contributed to the deaths of the pilots and disappointing his sons, thus shattering his children’s allusion of him.

‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ also features the consequences of children’s reactions to their parents’ lack of insight. Kevin manipulates his father and falsely panders to his stereotypical expectation of a father/son relationship, only to brutally murder him and his sister, ironically with the weapon Franklin bought him due to Kevin’s interest in ‘sport’, which is what all sons stereotypically should be interested in. The impact of a lack of insight on the children’s response forces each parent to gain some insight into what they did, albeit it too late to prevent their own and others’ deaths. To conclude, parents’ lack of insight into their offspring through different means such as metaphorical blindness, the reversal of natural order and children’s reactions to their parents’ lack of insight shows how crucial it is in determining the outcomes of the texts.

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All My Sons by Arthur Miller: Theme, Genre, Style

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

THE THEME, GENRE, AND STYLE OF ALL MY SONS

While there are many themes in this play, one that stands out as the most significant is that of honesty. It is so important because it applies to almost all the main characters in All My Sons. Joe is guilty because he has been living the lie of his noninvolvement with the deaths of the pilots; Chris hides the truth of his affections for Ann from his family; Kate cannot be honest with herself about Larry’s death; and Ann withholds important information about Larry until the very end of the play. All the tragic elements of this story—both of the two suicides and the general frustration and contempt the characters have for one another—could have been avoided by simply being honest and truthful with each other. The first and most crucial lie is that of Joe—by letting Steve take the blame for the sake of Joe’s family, he begins a snowball effect that lasts several years and ultimately results in heartbreak and tragedy—and, of course, his death.

Genre categorization in the theatre is always tricky, because individual plays seldom fulfill each and every one of a genre’s specific characteristics. Of the standard genres, however, there is one that All My Sons most closely resembles, and it is tragedy. There are certain components of this play that fit into the classic tragedy, such as a flawed hero who commits an evil act–Joe upon revealing his guilt–who by the end is so disgraced that he meets his downfall–and in this case, death. This play certainly isn’t a comedy, and we considered calling it a melodrama before realizing that it’s not the correct choice. Melodramas focus on exaggerated plot that appeals to emotions rather than detailed characterizations; therefore, since the characters in All My Sons are incredibly complex and detailed, tragedy is the more suitable choice.

All My Sons is a representational show because it consists of a set with the illusion of reality, with no audience interaction nor direct contact with them (where a presentational show would be overtly theatrical by nature and would seek to break the fourth wall quite often). The production of this show would fit in the category of simplified realism, because it is realistic show, but not as specifically realistic as one using naturalism would be. In other words, the set would only be as realistic as it needs to be in order to properly convey the illusion of reality; it would not need to be bogged down by the details, as it is primarily a character- and story-driven play.

The ideal set would be minimalistic and take place in a black box theatre with thrust seating (audience on three sides of the stage). A black box theatre would be the best choice because the closer the audience is to the characters, the more intimate and poignant the story can be, and the urgency and harshness of the conclusion is all the more emphasized in such a setting. It also fits the size of the space quite well having it be a black box, since a suburban lawn is roughly the size of a black box performance space anyway (although black boxes do vary in size).

The majority of the stage area would be the front yard of the suburban Keller residence. The floor could be painted green to illustrate the grass—but subtly, not to take too much attention away from the story. At the upstage wall would be the wall of the house, with a porch and a front door leading offstage. There would be a sidewalk leading from the porch to offstage left, where the imaginary “driveway” would be positioned. There may be a mailbox on the sidewalk, and scattered across the yard would be a few lawn chairs, in addition to a small glass table with three chairs in one corner of the stage. The oh-so-important Larry tree would be positioned upstage right at the side of the porch, out of the way but constantly on the audience’s mind.

The only level other than the ground floor would be the porch, and it would only be used when the actors enter and exit the stage through the front door; this ensures the characters are in the lawn most of the time and are in close proximity to the audience. As for lighting, nothing too flashy would be used (this is realism, after all, not expressionism), with the exception of the UR tree being lit at points in the story where attention to it is demanded.

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All My Sons by Arthur Miller. Link Between Joe Keller and Chris.

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Discuss the relationship between Joe Keller and his son Chris in Act 1 of All My Sons. To what extent is their relationship dysfunctional?

When we first see Chris and Joe Keller, the first signs of Chris being irritated with anything related to Larry are shown when Keller asks about the broken tree. Chris’ response “Yeah” with the accompanying stage directions, ‘without looking up’, signals his disinterest at his father’s mention of his missing brother Larry. From this, the audience can see that there is a clear tension between the father and son concerning Chris’ brother as emphasised even more so further on in the Act when Chris says to Keller “You have such a talent for ignoring things”. This suggests that their relationship is dysfunctional as Keller has ignored his living son’s feelings in favour of putting his missing son first, leading to built-up tension between the two as they have therefore not been able to have a typical father-son relationship.

There is also a clear shared sense of irritation over the family’s business. Keller is persistent on Chris taking control of the business, as shown when he exclaims “…what the hell did I work for? That’s only for you, Chris, the whole shootin’ match is for you!” Keller’s use of emotive language shows his desperation for his son to take over the business and steer it away from its reputation as the creation of the two people linked to the death of twenty one pilots. His desire to hand over the business can also be a sign that Keller is trying to build a stronger relationship between him and his son as it will give them more time to bond. However Chris doesn’t want to be part of the war profiteering business, saying “J. O. Keller is good enough”. This connotes that for him, affection in the form of material wealth is not important to him as returning from the war, this became unimportant compared to what he experienced on the battlefield. Thus their relationship is arguably dysfunctional, as best shown by Keller himself when he says “I don’t understand you, do I?” For a father and son to not understand each other, shows that their relationship is not a strong one, but rather a confused and strained one as they both are not willing to understand how the other one feels, instead putting their own opinions first.

Although Joe and Chris have several disagreements, they have been able to bond over their mutual feelings for Kate Keller’s wellbeing, as they have allowed her to hold onto the thought that Larry is alive somewhere and will return. By doing this, they clearly have a common protective instinct concerning Kate as being an emotional person, knowing Larry is not coming back would send her into a state of distraught. However, Chris’s opinion on the matter changes, as because they both believe Larry is dead, he believes it is dishonest to not confront her over Larry’s disappearance, telling Keller “We’ve made a terrible mistake with Mother”. By not wanting to cause tension between the two of them and Kate, Chris ironically creates tension between him and his father as Keller argues against him, with stage directions such as ‘frightened at the thought’ signalling his discomfort of Mother perhaps suffering from a breakdown induced by her husband and son’s disbelief of her missing son’s return. Arguably, Mother is both a factor in Chris and Joe Keller having a ‘normal’ relationship as they want to ensure her happiness remains intact, although Kate’s wellbeing also indicates that they have a dysfunctional relationship as they cannot agree on how to cope with her feelings.

Keller and Chris share a typical father-son relationship when it comes to Chris’s dating life. Although initially not completely comfortable knowing that Chris wants to propose to ‘Larry’s girl’, Keller later warms up to his son finding love. Saying to Chris whilst pointing at Ann, “I like that girl. Wrap her up”, Keller grants his approval for his son to propose to Ann, knowing how much Chris admires her and seeing for himself the kind of person that she is. By being supportive of their relationship, Joe is subverted into the typical father role, looking out for his son and ensuring his happiness. Thus Joe and his son’s relationship can be seen as normal here as it is representative of what would been seen as a father being accommodating of his son’s needs.

Throughout Act 1, Chris and Joe Keller have various moments in which they represent a typical father-son relationship, for example as they are both very proud of each other. However, for the most part of the Act, the audience feels tension between the two as they present conflict through their separate ideals, especially when concerning Mother. Therefore, as it is not constantly stable, their relationship is dysfunctional, with both parties each not able to understand each other, due to events such as Larry’s disappearance secluding Chris from his parents.

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Arthur Miller’s Depiction of the Effect of Deceit as Illustrated in His Play, All My Sons

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

As long as there has been communication between people, there has been dishonesty. Everybody lies, and there are as many reasons for the lie as there are people uttering untruths. People can lie to save someone’s feeling or to make them feel terrible. In Arthur Miller’s play “All My Sons”, it seems that every character is lies; from a small white lie, to a big, destructive lie that tears a family apart. The immoral family patriarch, Joe, destroys his entire family because of his inability to face consequences (Savran 1995). His need to shroud the truth to avoid reality is what drives the death of man, including himself.

Lies tend to be separated into two groups: small, white lies and big, destructive lies. With the former, they tend to be to spare someone’s feelings in a certain situation, but this play also shows that a white lie can turn destructive. In “All My Sons”, the patriarch Joe Keller and his son, Chris, have a conversation regarding the fact that they are feeding into Kate, the mother’s, delusions that Larry is still alive. The dialogue is:

Chris: We’ve made a terrible mistake with Mother… being dishonest with her. That kind of thing always pays off, and now it’s paying off

Keller: What do you mean, dishonest?

Chris: You know Larry’s not coming back and I know it.

In this quote, Chris is having a breakthrough. He realizes that by letting his mother labor under the delusion that Larry is alive, he and his father have stunted Kate in many ways. Since they have been deceiving her for years by not helping her see the reality of the situation, Kate has not been able to get any kind of closure nor has she been able to work through her grief; instead, she clings obsessively to the hope that Larry will be returning at any time. This shows the sinister nature of lies; even the white lies can become destructive (Gross 1975). What started out as a way to save Kate from the grief, her family undoubtedly thought they were doing the right thing by not being honest with her.

Over time, this has warped Kate to the point where she cannot accept progress and change. She absolutely refuses to believe that Ann is not waiting for Larry just like her, and this leads to another white lie when Chris doesn’t come forward right away with his intentions towards Ann. Again, he is trying to shield Kate from the truth for her own good, because at this point they fear that the trauma she would endure when confronted with the truth would be just too much for her to bare. When it comes to lying, it seldom stops after just one; here has to be a continual cycle of lies that come after to keep the first one going.

The moral implications of this white lie, and the subsequent lies that follow, is that Chris and Joe essentially abandon Kate in her time of need. What they are doing can seem well meaning, but it ends up emotionally crippling Kate. She is not given the tools she needs to deal with anything in her life, and instead is living in a deep state of denial in regards to both her son and her husband. Instead of dealing with the ugly truth and moving on from it, they choose to remain in a sort of limbo, where Kate will forever be delusional (Gross 1975). Chris and Joe do not offer Kate what she truly needs: the support, love, and honestly from her family in a time of extreme sadness and pain. Without going through this difficult time, she will never be able to heal and actually move on with her life. For a mother, the death of a child is the most intense pain imaginable, and Chris and Joe though that if they lie enough, this problem will just disappear. The lie is covered up by just passively agreeing with Kate, it doesn’t seem like either Chris or Joe have much to say on the topic of Larry, it’s always Kate going on and on. However, it soon becomes apparent that they are very wrong about the harmlessness of this dishonesty; lies do have consequences that will catch up sooner or later.

Unfortunately for both the pilots who lost their lives, and for Ann’s dad Steve, Joe takes the same blind eye to lying in regards to making faulty plane parts. Instead of being honest and suffering the initial consequences, Joe has a tendency to maintain a lie until it is capable of literally destroying people’s lives. The pilots whose lives were lost and the fact that Steve will rot away in prison doesn’t seem to have any effect on Joe. He is living his life in the shadow of an enormous tragedy with the blame squarely on his shoulders, and continues to be oblivious and in denial. Ann’s brother, George, also has been destroyed by Joe’s lies; he turns to drugs to deal with the impact of his father’s actions and subsequent imprisonment. Unlike the dishonesty between him, Chris and his wife, the lie about the plane parts does not just negatively affect their small family unit; it destroys the lives of the pilots, their families, Steve and his family, and has a very far reaching impact (Savran 1995).

Joe’s lie spirals out of control: first he tells Steve to just cover the cracks and send them out, saying everything would be fine. This leads to the deaths of many, and possibly even the death of his own son Larry. The issue of Joe’s dishonesty comes to a head when Kate says “You have no strength. The minute there’s trouble you have no strength. Joe, you’re doing the same thing again; all your life whenever there’s trouble you yell at me and you think that settles it.” This quote is showing a moment of clarity for Kate; she is realizing exactly the type of person her husband is. Joe is too weak and always takes the easy road at the expense of everyone around him. He has very weak moral fiber, and he is under the impression that if everyone looks like they are happy on the surface, then there is not much need to dig deeper for the truth. Throughout the play, Kate engages in cognitive dissonance when it comes to Joe; it is simply too painful and unfathomable for her to accept the fact that Joe may be responsible for Larry’s death. Kate, who stands by Joe’s side through all his lies and manipulations, is finally becoming aware of the monster her husband truly is (Savran 1995). For Joe’s part, it seems that Kate is the last person to believe him, and when she finally understands the truth, Joe is truly overcome by the magnitude of his actions and commits suicide.

Although it can be argued that Joe commits suicide because of the immense guilt he’s feeling for the lives he lost, but the fact is, Joe’s primary motivation throughout the whole play seems to be financial. It seems that his lies often lead to financial gains; Joe places wealth above being a moral person. Joe is confronted about this by Kate, when she says “Joe, Joe . . . it don’t excuse it that you did it for the family. It’s got to excuse it! There’s something bigger than the family to him.” Again, it takes Kates moment of clarity to finally be able to give Joe the truth that he’s spend a long time hiding from himself. He can’t understand why everyone is so angry with him, in his mind, his intentions were good in that he wants to support his family financially to the best of his ability. Kate is realizing this, that Joe’s moral compass is completely non-existent, and his measure of happiness is neither love nor family, but rather how much money he is able to make. His greed has destroyed lives, and his family is finally seeing Joe for the soulless man he really is.

Arthur Miller’s “All My Son’s” paints a vivid portrait of a family destroyed by lies. From the seemingly harmless white lies, to a lie that led to the untimely death of many, Miller is able to show that lies often spiral out of control. Even at the end, Joe cannot truly face the consequences of what he has done, he does not want to answer to his family, friends, neighbors, etc. Instead, he ends it before anyone is able to force him to face himself. Miller is showing through this play that lies, no matter now seemingly small and insignificant, are able to snowball to destructive proportions. This is especially true in a family unit, where the dynamics can already be strained simply because you are not able to choose your family. Although “All My Son’s” takes place several decades ago, these themes are just as relevant today as they were then, and Miller beautifully illustrates the often destructive quality of lies.

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How Larry is able to remain offstage but always present in All my sons

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

In Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, Larry is the youngest member of the Keller family who passed away in World War II. Although he does not appear on stage for the duration of the play, he is still considered to be one of the most important roles. His disappearance haunts his family through his mother’s superstitious belief in his return, as well as through his brother’s sudden claim on his childhood sweetheart. Larry is presented in the play, through the symbol of the tree, which highlights the way his presence permeates the surroundings. The destruction of the memorial provides the family with a talking point, and reignites his presence to the family and community around him.

Built as a means of commemorating Larry, who did not survive World War II, the tree ties in significantly to Larry’s character. Additionally, the fallen tree sits in the middle of the backyard, as a symbol of the presence of Larry in the middle of the play. Kate is relieved when lightning strikes it down, thinking that this is a sign that Larry is coming back home. The tree foreshadows the destruction of Larry’s life, which we start to understand towards the end of the play. The tree just so happens to fall down on Larry’s birthday month, causing Kate to become even more desperate to find clues about Larry’s return. “It was too soon to plant a tree for him,” Kate mentions when talking to Chris. The hope and faith that Larry might still be alive remains close to her heart as her superstitions get the best of her. The destruction of the tree impacted Chris and Joe Keller in a similar way to Kate. They would have to face the disturbance in Kate’s life as she deals the the pain of losing her son yet again.

Larry considerably impacts the members of his family and the community, despite the fact he is never on stage. He is constantly compared to Chris throughout the play, allegedly for the purpose of better defining Chris’ character, but in the end, however, we learn that Larry on his own has a bigger effect on the story overall. Chris, who is described as “A man capable of immense affection and loyalty” has fallen in love with Larry’s former fiancée, Ann Deever, and has invited her to his family home in order to propose marriage to her. Unlike his mother Kate, Chris accepts the fact that Larry is no longer alive, and therefore feels comfortable marrying his brothers former partner. Chris is portrayed as a very idealistic character in the play; however, Larry turns out to have been much more idealistic than Chris. When Larry found out about his father’s crime, he was unable to live with the knowledge that his father could do such a thing, and committed suicide. Chris, on the other hand, was able to live with his suspicion about Joe’s crime, as he reveals in Act Three. According to Joe, Larry was the brother with a “head for business”, who therefore took after Joe. However, towards the end of the story, Larry’s death can be blamed by his father’s moral crime. Symbolically, this represents Larry as a sacrifice of the “American dream” symbolized in his father’s financial success. Larry has the greatest impact on his mother, Kate Keller. Her life is dominated by her denial to admit that her son is really dead. Kate has nightmares about Larry and is nervous and suspicious of the people around her. She believes that Chris and Ann are morally wrong to plan a marriage as she still sees Ann as Larry’s fiancée. Kate’s grief drives much of the action throughout the play, especially when Frank Lubey feeds Kate Keller’s delusion that Larry is alive, by creating an astrological chart to show his favourable day.

Ann Deever, Larry’s old girl, is stuck in the past, although not waiting for Larry’s return. Rather, she has been waiting for his brother Chris to step-forward and take a place in her heart. Ann had kept a secret hidden away from Chris, as well as Joe and Kate Keller, about Larry’s death, which he revealed to her in a letter. Larry had committed suicide after hearing about the crime that his father had committed, sacrificing himself for the greater good. Once Ann realized that Kate would not accept a marriage between herself and Chris, she felt the only way to solve the problem would be to finally present the truth about Larry that she had kept away for so long. When Ann revealed the letter to Kate, sadness came over her, but she finally realized why the hope had died away for everyone else. For Joe, his sons and the business were everything. After committing his crimes, he wouldn’t accept the blame, and forced it on to his coworker, and hid the truth from the rest of the world. For years, nothing had crossed his mind, how to resolve the situation. When Larry’s letter had finally been revealed, the solution was obvious. He asks, “Then what is this if it isn’t telling me? Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were.” The pain of the letter was unbearable for Joe, and he believed his only solution was to kill himself, so he did.

Arthur Miller creates a powerful ending, with the suicide of Joe Keller. This is ironic, because Joe was the cause of Larry’s suicide, and now the tables have turned. Larry doesn’t once appear on stage, but is still one of the most significant characters from the entire play. The tree, the letter and Joe’s suicide all closely relate to Larry’s absence, and how his death has impacted the characters considerably throughout the duration of the play.

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Review of Arthur Miller’s Play, All My Sons

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

Explore the ways in which Miller makes this extract so touching.

In this extract of ‘All My Sons’ Arthur Miller uses a few devices that crucially contribute to its idea making it so touching. Miller focuses on basic pronoun/demonstrative pronoun use to emphasize an objects worth, basic symbolism to help the audience to remember and/or inquire about an event that has happened previously or that shall occur,foreshadowing; lastly, an the idea of inheritance by bloody means is also used for great effect. Molding the extract with these three devices allows the audience to have sympathy for the main characters making this article so touching. I can be clearly understood that Chris Keller is the focus of the extract being the source of sympathy for the audience.

In the extract there are an irregular number of pronouns. Although used for the greater emphasizing of points of love Chris makes to Anna they are in addition used to create contrast with the rest of the play’s wording structure and to contrast with other events in the play to create greater significance at this time and place in the extract, “Ann, I love you a great deal. I love you.” Miller using such variation of pronouns supports the concept of the juvenile’s dormant and suppressed love for Anna for the audience. Notably he uses the 2nd person singular pronoun (You) in quantity to directly address Anna as if in a vocative case to emphasize how sure he is of their relationship despite the sensation of the lurking “ghost” of his brother in his house, overall by this making the audience feel as if they are there themselves, as if spectating in the argument of love, ironically (as ill-mannered arguments commonly take place in relationships), thus this device further making the extract so touching to the audience.

Having used references to other parts of the main story arc, Miller causes a greater encouragement towards the audience to consider previous events in the play that support the current mindset of the characters in the extract, undoubtedly focusing on Chris. It is interesting when Chris states the house to incarcerate him, “I want some place we’d never been. You feel it’s wrong here, don’t you?” like he had mentioned earlier in the play. Furthermore Miller uses symbolism to allow the audience to inquire about their own experiences and knowledge of what to them is how the world is, metaphorically taking wearing Chris’ shoes, this can be shown when Ann states to Chris that he should kiss her, not Larry (metaphorically), “Like Larry’s brother, Do it like you, Chris.” Anna’s main goal in this is to explain to Chris that he childhood sweetheart is now the past, showing their struggle to move on is crucial and is a threat to their love and this induces sympathy for both characters amongst the audience, as a product of using the references it further induces a dismayed/troubled emotions from the audience, their love between each other being in jeopardy.

One of the most important factors in the conveying of this scene as touching is when Chris speaks of blood as an inheritance of the war itself, The Great War. Chris having experienced the war first hand has a revelatory experience with Anna in that he speaks of the metaphorical blood he has on everything he is in possession of, giving hints to the audience that he has survivor’s guilt, “They killed themselves for each other. I mean that exactly.” Interestingly enough with impact he mentions indirectly of his selfishness during the war in relation to his comrades, “a little more selfish and they would be here today.” By this revelatory experience it makes the extract greatly touching in that war is a fact of life no matter where or when you are, the audience can relate to this, the audience feels with the character as Chris spills his bottled feelings to Ann, reinforcing the idea of Chris’ devotion and trust towards Ann in the process.

Unmistakably Miller has gone through great lengths do induce a touching atmosphere in the text from pronouns, symbolism and the main climax idea in this extract being that the Kellers’ possessions are all covered in blood, this idea not just branching of from the cylinder head incident but from the very inception of The Great War itself. Depending on the audiences view this extract can be taken on by many angles, whether it focuses more on how guilty Chris feels about the war or how devoted he is to his and Ann’s new established relationship, nevertheless this scene leaves a heartfelt feeling to those who experience it either by reading the extract or attending a play.

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Off-Stage but Ever-Present: Larry in All My Sons

June 5, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, Larry is the youngest member of the Keller family who passed away in World War II. Although he does not appear on stage for the duration of the play, he is still considered to be one of the most important roles. His disappearance haunts his family through his mother’s superstitious belief in his return, as well as through his brother’s sudden claim on his childhood sweetheart. Larry is presented in the play, through the symbol of the tree, which highlights the way his presence permeates the surroundings. The destruction of the memorial provides the family with a talking point, and reignites his presence to the family and community around him.

Built as a means of commemorating Larry, who did not survive World War II, the tree ties in significantly to Larry’s character. Additionally, the fallen tree sits in the middle of the backyard, as a symbol of the presence of Larry in the middle of the play. Kate is relieved when lightning strikes it down, thinking that this is a sign that Larry is coming back home. The tree foreshadows the destruction of Larry’s life, which we start to understand towards the end of the play. The tree just so happens to fall down on Larry’s birthday month, causing Kate to become even more desperate to find clues about Larry’s return. “It was too soon to plant a tree for him,” Kate mentions when talking to Chris. The hope and faith that Larry might still be alive remains close to her heart as her superstitions get the best of her. The destruction of the tree impacted Chris and Joe Keller in a similar way to Kate. They would have to face the disturbance in Kate’s life as she deals the the pain of losing her son yet again.

Larry considerably impacts the members of his family and the community, despite the fact he is never on stage. He is constantly compared to Chris throughout the play, allegedly for the purpose of better defining Chris’ character, but in the end, however, we learn that Larry on his own has a bigger effect on the story overall. Chris, who is described as “A man capable of immense affection and loyalty” has fallen in love with Larry’s former fiancée, Ann Deever, and has invited her to his family home in order to propose marriage to her. Unlike his mother Kate, Chris accepts the fact that Larry is no longer alive, and therefore feels comfortable marrying his brothers former partner. Chris is portrayed as a very idealistic character in the play; however, Larry turns out to have been much more idealistic than Chris. When Larry found out about his father’s crime, he was unable to live with the knowledge that his father could do such a thing, and committed suicide. Chris, on the other hand, was able to live with his suspicion about Joe’s crime, as he reveals in Act Three. According to Joe, Larry was the brother with a “head for business”, who therefore took after Joe. However, towards the end of the story, Larry’s death can be blamed by his father’s moral crime. Symbolically, this represents Larry as a sacrifice of the “American dream” symbolized in his father’s financial success. Larry has the greatest impact on his mother, Kate Keller. Her life is dominated by her denial to admit that her son is really dead. Kate has nightmares about Larry and is nervous and suspicious of the people around her. She believes that Chris and Ann are morally wrong to plan a marriage as she still sees Ann as Larry’s fiancée. Kate’s grief drives much of the action throughout the play, especially when Frank Lubey feeds Kate Keller’s delusion that Larry is alive, by creating an astrological chart to show his favourable day.

Ann Deever, Larry’s old girl, is stuck in the past, although not waiting for Larry’s return. Rather, she has been waiting for his brother Chris to step-forward and take a place in her heart. Ann had kept a secret hidden away from Chris, as well as Joe and Kate Keller, about Larry’s death, which he revealed to her in a letter. Larry had committed suicide after hearing about the crime that his father had committed, sacrificing himself for the greater good. Once Ann realized that Kate would not accept a marriage between herself and Chris, she felt the only way to solve the problem would be to finally present the truth about Larry that she had kept away for so long. When Ann revealed the letter to Kate, sadness came over her, but she finally realized why the hope had died away for everyone else. For Joe, his sons and the business were everything. After committing his crimes, he wouldn’t accept the blame, and forced it on to his coworker, and hid the truth from the rest of the world. For years, nothing had crossed his mind, how to resolve the situation. When Larry’s letter had finally been revealed, the solution was obvious. He asks, “Then what is this if it isn’t telling me? Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were.” The pain of the letter was unbearable for Joe, and he believed his only solution was to kill himself, so he did.

Arthur Miller creates a powerful ending, with the suicide of Joe Keller. This is ironic, because Joe was the cause of Larry’s suicide, and now the tables have turned. Larry doesn’t once appear on stage, but is still one of the most significant characters from the entire play. The tree, the letter and Joe’s suicide all closely relate to Larry’s absence, and how his death has impacted the characters considerably throughout the duration of the play.

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The Ethical Breach of the Business Man

May 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons explores the relationship between father and son, and the lengths a man will go to for his family and for himself. The main character, Joe Keller, is a father who believed his greatest achievement was his son, and the business he built to provide for his family. In the true spirit of a businessman, Joe had to step on others to reach the top and to create his thriving business that he is desperate for his son, Chris Keller, to accept and be proud of. Joe’s character has experienced trauma with the loss of his other son, Larry Keller, in WWII and the strain that the loss had on the health and well-being of his family that may make him seem worthy of pity. However, Joe’s life contained multiple selfish decisions of fraud and corruption that spilled the blood of innocent young war heroes. Joe Keller is a self-absorbed man with an egocentric disposition to promote his own self-interest; he ruins the lives of others by causing death, insanity, grief, loss of love, and unfair imprisonment, making him a character unworthy of sympathy.

Joe Keller’s selfishness stained his hands red as his actions led young military men to die. Joe owned and operated a mass production factory that during wartime made airplane parts with his partner Herbert Deever. One night the machines produced over one hundred defective engine heads, and the next morning the army began to demand more airplane parts, but the only ones available were those with cracks. Under the direction of Joe, Herbert illegally welded over the cracks and shipped the parts to the army. The defective engine parts caused the death of twenty-one pilots in the war. When Chris finally learned the truth after three years of his father deceiving him, Joe tells Chris, “I’m in a business, a man is in business; a hundred and twenty cracked, you’re out of business; you got a process, the process don’t work you’re out of business; you don’t know how to operate, your stuff is no good; they close you up,… what could I do, let them take away forty years, let them take my life away?” (69) Joe selfishly felt that the business he built for his family and his son, which he considered his life, was more valuable than the innocent lives of those American soldiers whom he had a duty to through supplying them with quality aircraft parts.

Moreover, Joe’s greedy disposition to operate a successful business not only murdered men, but he also sent his business partner, neighbor, and friend to prison for his own crime. When the process was producing the defective parts, Herbert called Joe from the factory to tell him of the trouble, and he asked Joe what he should do. Joe refused to come down to the factory, but he told him over the phone to weld over the cracks and ship out the parts. Joe knew a phone call would never be enough to indict him in court, because “on the telephone you can’t have any responsibility.” (54) When the law came knocking Joe denied any connection to Herbert’s actions and allowed his partner to take the fall. Joe was a free man while Herbert served a sentence of years in prison. Joe spent years trying to justify to himself that his decisions were right because his business was his life and legacy to his son Chris. However, his actions were purely selfish and devastating to those around him because Joe’s self-interest killed men, ruined his friend’s life, and allowed him to avoid the criminal punishment.

Some may argue that Joe Keller deserves sympathy from the audience because of the pain and suffering that the war brought to his family. Joe’s son, Larry Keller, was reported dead soon after Joe was arrested and tried for the defective parts. Larry’s death led to mental insanity of Joe’s wife, Kate, as she struggled to grasp the reality of her grief through ongoing hope and denial. She continued to believe Larry would come home alive because his body was never found and she insisted for years that, “…everybody has got to wait,” (68) for his return. Joe struggled with the internal guilt that he may have caused his son’s death through his faulty engine parts, but he tried to reassure himself that Larry never flew a P-40 aircraft which are the planes his parts caused to crash. Joe’s family endured serious hardship through the stress of keeping Joe out of jail and the grief of losing one of their two sons while Chris continued to be at risk in the war too. However, it is Joe’s own fault that his family experienced those traumas. Near the end of the play, it is revealed to the family through a letter written by Larry that when he heard the news of the twenty-one young men in the military, like him, who were killed by his father’s action, Larry killed himself. Larry committed suicide at the grief he experienced from discovering his father’s selfish murderous actions, which he expressed in the letter saying, “I can’t bear to live anymore.” (83) Joe brought on the pain and suffering of his family’s grief through his egotistical disposition and self-absorbed mindset to promote his business above all else, making him a character undeserving of pity.

Joe Keller’s character proved to be driven by selfishness to the very end when he committed suicide, adding to the ruin of the lives of others around him. This final selfish act of cowardice shows that Joe is a character unworthy of the audience’s sympathy. Joe’s suicide was his selfish way of avoiding the consequences and shame once the community and the law learned the truth about him and Deever. His selfish action of allowing those military men to die caused Larry’s suicide and caused Chris to view Joe as more of an animal than human, unworthy of forgiveness simply because of their father and son relationship. Joe says, “For you, Kate, for both of you, that’s all I ever lived for…,” (78) and once he realizes that he has lost the love and loyalty of his family, especially all of his sons, he ends his life. Joe made decisions whose consequences caused deaths, insanity, prison terms and heartbreak as Joe hurt his friends, wife, innocent men, and all of his sons.

The central figure of All My Sons, ultimately, is a self-absorbed man unworthy of sympathy because of his character’s egocentric disposition and selfish actions that ruin the lives of others. Joe Keller considers his business and his family his greatest achievements, and does not allow morals or values to stand in his way of producing a successful legacy to leave behind to his son Chris Keller. Joe’s narrow-minded drive to promote only his own self-interest led to the death of innocent military heroes, the unfair imprisonment of his business partner, the insanity of his wife, the loss of love and respect from his only living son Chris, and the suicide of his son Larry. In a final display of selfishness, Joe Keller takes his own life, adding more suffering to his already broken family, and this final cowardly act proves his character is too narcissistic and self-absorbed to be worthy of audience sympathy, empathy or pity, regardless of the suffering he himself may have endured.

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Mother Knows Worst: Kate’s Role in All My Sons

April 2, 2019 by Essay Writer

In the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller, Kate Keller – Joe’s wife, and Chris’ as well as Larry’s mother – shows the audience that, at the end of the day, she is still mainly concerned about her own family instead of about paying the rightful tribute to the wider world. Kate opens up her true nature to the audience, just as Joe does. Subsequently, and despite such revelations, the audience does not completely sympathize with her or her set of values.

During the play’s action, Kate tries to undermine the one character she thinks weakest – Ann. Whenever Ann tries to talk some sense into Kate, she refuses to listen. Her mind is too congested to squeeze any more reason into it, and perhaps a reason for this mentality is that she has been trying too hard for too long to stop the light of reason and morality from entering. In this play, one of the most redeeming lights is Ann. She carries the letter, acting as the deliverer of truth, her arrival essentially breaking everything down. In the opposite direction, Kate clings on with all her might to the one conviction she holds to be “true”: Joe is not guilty, in defiance to Ann and all that she symbolizes. Starting with a slightly casual “You gained a little weight, didn’t you, darling?”, Kate continues to bombard Ann with requests to pack up and leave, then an explicitly spiteful “You’re going in the morning, and you’re going alone. That’s your life, that’s your lonely life.” In these two sentences, there is a clear pattern of repeating the first part of the sentence, then adding something else to it at the second sentence (“going”, “going alone”; “life”, “lonely life”), both related to loneliness. That repetition in turn emphasizes Kate’s own self and her own patterns of unhealthy repetition, since she has long since sensed that revelation is not too far away, perhaps ever since she said “You above all have got to believe, you….” She knew loneliness will get to her somehow, but she tries to put this quality on Ann instead. The audience should sense this unpleasant situation somewhat, causing pity for Kate to arise. However, Kate presses on: “How did he die? You’re lying to me. If you know, how did he die?” The more persistent she is, the less sympathy from both her companions and the audience will she get, and that in itself would lead to loneliness. The loneliness will increase as the audience begins to realize that Ann symbolizes the community, not the family, the truth, not the lies, and the love, the “un-loneliness” when she sympathizes with Joe, as she chooses to spare him from reading the letter. “[Kate] grasps Ann’s wrists” with the clear intention of putting pressure on her; here Miller intends to make the audience lose affection toward her as she resorts to violence, right after the war, in a family in which past deeds are intimately connected with the war.

In terms of personality, Kate is a sly, clever and manipulative woman. She is the one who represents capitalism the most: she knows what she wants, she gets what she wants, and she knows how to exert control. When there is trouble and her subject of manipulation – namely, Joe – panics, she evades conversation, saying “Don’t ask me, Joe,” an imperative which shows who she is – a person who controls. Next, she says “whenever there’s trouble you yell at me”: this statement turns him into a victim in the flash of a second. The audience picks up this hint and notices her power. In fact, Kate does whatever it takes to reach her goal – a sign of practicality, and the emblem of capitalism – without caring a bit about the outer community. Arthur Miller shows this side of Kate in subtle dialogues, as when Kate tells Joe: “it don’t excuse it that you did it for the family”, making Joe feel guilty. Then, she says “There’s something bigger than the family to him,” not forgetting to repeat “there is to him.” The audience should be aware of the fact that the “to him” part is especially important here. Kate scolds Joe, all the while feeding him the reasons that get him into trouble. After that, she comforts him (“I know, darling, I know…”), acting like nothing ever happened. Pity is usually reserved for the weaker ones – the underdogs – so naturally, Kate would not get a lot of it after Miller chooses to show her for who she really is.

It eventually becomes clear that Kate’s point of view has not changed throughout the play. At the start, she was the one who was the most devastated, knowing that the apple tree fell down. The apple tree was a symbolic protection against the truth; with it gone, Ann arrived at the Kellers’ and started to reveal the whole incident. Kate’s aversion to Ann means that she is on the capitalists’ side, the selfish side, the evil side. That is in Act 1. In Act 2, Kate still wants to convince the whole family to “never let [Larry] go”. In the height of her argument, she slipped and told Chris that “if [Larry’s] dead, [Joe] killed him,” causing a major outburst between Chris and Joe, leading to Chris’ leaving the house to watch his own star of honesty go dull. However, Miller shows Joe’s inclinations most clearly in Act 3, when Joe says “Nothin’s bigger than [the family].” The audience should have an indication or two that he is under heavy influence from Kate, so this professed idealism of his also stems from her. This influence is what chains him and pulls towards his demise, since similar impulses pushed him to ship the defective cylinder heads.

The fact that Kate is an adamant person who would defend her point to the very last moment is shown through the last few lines, in which she comforts Chris. After all that they went through, even after the crime has been admitted and retribution has been paid, she still insists on defending the last of her family members. Kate has yet to learn her lesson, that she has to let go sometimes, that there is a bigger world out there. She has to grow up, to mature, like Chris, Larry, and Joe have. Before, Joe has described Larry thus: “To him the world had a forty-foot front, it ended at the building line.” Now he has matured and decided to do what he thought was right for the world he is living in. As for Chris, he has also matured, but in the other direction: he became “practical,” and now he is one of the selfish people, but he spits at himself. On the other hand, Joe followed Larry’s footsteps. All of them made good impressions on the audience because at least they knew that they had to change sooner or later. Kate does not. She does not want to, and it is natural that few people would want to talk to a person who does not possess an open-minded view on life. Therefore, it is hard to sympathize with Kate, whose point of view is already antithetical to what is “morally responsible” as it is; now, she is not even willing to change. Thus, it would be difficult to imagine a lot of people wanting to pity her at the end.

By the time the play has run its course, Kate from Arthur Miller’s All My Sons is still the person she has always been: mulish, manipulative, and mercenary. She is prepared to protect the family that she has at all costs, even sacrificing the truth and maintaining the darkness she thought would always be sufficient to cover the decaying bones behind the closet’s closed doors. She is prepared to shut the light out with her intransigent mind. She is prepared to stop dead at the road, not taking any turn, any move, any action. She begins to pay the price, though, when the audience leaves, shedding on her little of the sympathy that illuminates the other characters.

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Ordinary People Create Drama: A Comparison of All My Sons and The Importance of Being Earnest

March 13, 2019 by Essay Writer

­Traditionally, drama has been an outlet for the extraordinary; only fairly recently with more modernist plays have the focus been shifted onto more ordinary lives. Greek tragedy follows the fall of a noble protagonist; by comparison, domestic tragedy as in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons revolves around ordinary people who are tested by crisis. Meanwhile, comedy often centres around an ‘everyman’ character, or otherwise an extraordinary parody. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest takes the latter approach, and the characters that appear within it are bold and subversive. In Miller’s tragedy, the Kellers are presented in every regard as normal, whereas both the male and female characters in The Importance of Being Earnest are outlandish, abnormal. Each of these character moulds is ideal for the drama the playwrights wish to create, as shaped by the conventions of the tragic or comic genre.

In the opening stage directions of All My Sons, the Keller household is described in great detail to establish a sense of normality. The house is ‘two stories high’ and ‘nicely painted’, and there is garden furniture in the backyard, which creates a representative, unexemplary first impression of a typical American family. However, this sense of the ordinary is offset by a sense somewhat like dread. There are some details in the set design which add a pervading discomfort to the overall atmosphere; the yard is ‘hedged in’ and claustrophobic, and the plants are ‘out of season’. By enclosing the space in this way, Miller can convey the feeling of ennui and displacement so characteristic of modernist writers. These themes make the Kellers appear more accessible to the audience, and thus, despite the subtle departure from flawless normality, more ordinary. These elements of the set design also hint as to Joe Keller’s inescapable moral predicament – he feels trapped by his own past mistakes and both covets and resents his seclusion, as is conveyed by the ‘cut off’ yard. What Joe Keller is revealed to have done – sending off faulty plane parts which resulted in the deaths of twenty one pilots – is explicitly decreed morally repugnant by those around him. Yet the audience is not allowed to distance themselves from Joe, despite his proclamations that ‘a man is in business’, which should set him apart. The set and the sense of normality it conveys is ever present in the background as a constant visual reminder of how typical the Kellers are. Thus, Joe’s mistakes are borne onto the audience, who are forced to question their own contribution to an exploitative economic system. The utter ordinariness of Miller’s main cast is integral in his pursuit to raise these questions, as the audience can substitute in any other suburban, middle-class family in their place, and in this way realize the responsibility we ought to have for one another.

Joe and Kate Keller have the onus of familial responsibility placed upon them, characterized as they are by their role as parents. These labels are ordinary and identifiable, and lie at the core of the emotional drama of the play. Kate and her conflicts are centered around her maternal role, and in her can be seen the neurotic need of the mother. She is fixated on the fate of her son Larry, believing him missing, and her mental abstraction drives her to physical disrepair; she must ask for ‘aspirin’, and she is kept from peaceful sleep by dreams of him ‘flying overhead’. When George visits, she responds by bringing him ‘grape juice’ and fussing over his weight, falling into the role of his parent quickly and easily. As she coddles each of those on stage, including herself and her own delusion (“Why can’t it be?”, she cries despite all evidence to the contrary), the ordinary role she fills is twisted into something almost sinister, and generates a sense of stifling unease. Miller uses his ordinary people to create unordinary feelings in his audience, by showcasing how these natural needs – familial belonging, money, reputation – can be perverted in a similar way as Kate does with her maternal role. Although she teeters on the brink of what seems to be imminent mental collapse, it is in fact Joe who ultimately crumbles under the pressure, which is something that is shocking. Joe Keller, as a physically ‘stolid’ character and father figure, should be strong but emerges as the weakest of the cast through his escape route of suicide. As well as characterising himself as a ‘man of business’, he also places himself firmly into the paternal role, and declares that if there’s anything greater than family, “I’ll put a bullet in my head.” By strongly associating himself with the duties of a father, his lack of moral principle when it came to the shipment of faulty engine parts is made all the more distressing. At the climax of the play, he utters the line “I guess they [the pilots] were all my sons”, and then retreats inside to shoot himself. He has failed in the responsibility of the father by leading to the deaths of both his firstborn son Larry and his other figurative children, those in wider society who rely on his support and protection most. Miller, by having his ordinary characters fail in their ordinary roles, inspires a further sense of pathos and moral righteousness in his audience.

By comparison, Jack and Algernon from the Importance of Being Earnest defy convention, and appear as extraordinary and farcical figures. Though arguably in some degree ‘ordinary’ due to the theatergoers of the era being predominantly being upper class as the two heroes are, Wilde makes no attempt to make the pair relatable or normal. They take upper class frivolity to the extreme, as both are dedicated ‘bunburyists’ – men who fabricate intricate lies in order to be able to lead two separate existences and escape their duties. Jack’s backstory is furthermore a pastiche of the Victorian appetite for melodrama, as he follows the classic trope of the disadvantaged orphan, exemplified through the prop of the ‘handbag’ found in the ‘cloakroom at Victoria station’. Algernon, on the other hand, appears as a stereotypical dandy, defined through his love of fine indulgences such as music, clothing, and, most notably, food. Algernon’s extraordinary appetite is the source of a recurring joke, first as he eats an entire platter of cucumber sandwiches and then pretends there were never any to begin with, and later devouring a stack of muffins in a ‘perfectly heartless manner’. The two men behave in almost every way exceptionally, and almost on impulse as they are pushed to steadily more extreme behaviours in order to cover for their previous deceptions, such as being rechristened under a different name. The extraordinary nature of the protagonists lies at the crux of The Importance of Being Earnest’s drama, and of its comedy. Their farcical behaviours push the envelope of the narrative, and create opportunities for Wilde’s satirical sense of humour.

The female characters in Oscar Wilde’s play are even more out of the ordinary, particularly for their time. In an age where the female sex was supposed to be submissive and compliant, Wilde’s women dominate. Lady Bracknell is a strong, authoritarian presence, who delivers her condemnatory views on a variety of topics, such as social rank, and the education system – she believes innocence to be a ‘delicate fruit’ that should not be tampered with. The manner in which she speaks, as well as being decisive, is often superfluous: “please rise from this semi-recumbent position”. She presents a barrier for resolution at both the play’s opening and close due to her beliefs in eligibility and propriety. She will not allow Gwendolen to ‘form an alliance with a parcel’ and has curated a list of acceptable alternative partners, while later she is a temporary obstacle to Algernon and Cecily’s union. It is because of the unwavering will of this extraordinary female character that the play progresses in the way it does. The other women, Gwendolen and Cecily, have a similar stubbornness of mind atypical of the setting. Both take charge of their lovers, dictating exactly how they should be proposed to – for example, Cecily orders Algernon “Please don’t cough”, while Gwendolen refuses to accept Jack because “You haven’t got down on one knee yet.” When these two women meet, an immediate power battle is established. The proxemics in this scene is revealing, as both ‘remain standing’, as they attempt to physically create a sense of command over the other. Gwendolen mentions her rank to show the authority she holds, and Cecily deliberately blunders while serving Gwendolen her tea by dropping in ‘four sugar cubes’. The way these women exercise their power provides a source of comedy, and yet it is satisfying for the audience when they revert to the expectations of their archetype; even though they announce “we will not be the first to speak”, they then immediately initiate a conversation with the two men and thus display their feminine weakness. The prior course of the play is far from smooth, and so the return to the ordinary and the expected is intrinsically tied into the resolution, with the men’s previous lies resolved, and the women made acquiescent.

Though the use of ordinary people is not strictly tied into either genre of tragedy or comedy, it can define and shape the nature in which the genre progresses. In Miller’s case, ordinary characters and setting are key to shaping his themes of responsibility, and to push the audience to deeply consider the conflicts presented in a very human tragedy. On the other hand, for Wilde’s comedy of manners, farce is necessary to satirize the flamboyant upper class, and therefore he must elevate his characters beyond the ordinary. However, some degree of normality is necessary in drama in order for it to truly resonate with the audience. The domestic setting in All My Sons creates sympathy and relatability, while the return to a semblance of normality at the denouement of The Importance of Being Earnest settles the dramatic structure and provides a final moment of catharsis following the hectic action of the previous three acts.

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