Tragedy in Arthur Millers all my sons
All My Sons is an American play, set in a typical, suburban town in the backyard of a family home. The Keller’s are a family who live a life of tension and un-realistic aspirations after losing a son at war. As the Keller’s try to live a normal life they are left struggling when they are left to face dealing with the consequences of their actions these lead to the central tragedies of the play.
Chris Keller is an honourable man, a man who tries to see the good in people, a man of war. His father, Joe Keller is a chief character who is about three things: Business, money and making a profit. However, Joe Keller is a family man above all else, and has sacrificed everything, including his honour. Nonetheless, he must face up to what he has done and with these actions he must step forward into an inevitable future.
Throughout the play the character introduce familiar faces, hard situations, memories both bitter and sweet, the first example of this is the morning after the thunderstorm, the Keller’s awaken to their memorial tree, has been torn down (which was planted in memory of Larry after he was lost at war). This gives the Keller family a rude awakening that Larry is probably gone forever; this is a tragic realisation for most of the Keller’s.
Obviously the main tragedies in this play include the horrendous crime that Joe Keller committed, killing many pilots which included the unfortunate murder of his son. This is a realisation that soon occurs to Keller which unavoidably leads to his Suicide. In regardless of Joe Keller being such a family man, he had caused such deceit not only to his family and to him self, but people all around him. He had caused too much deceit and hurt that he could no longer deal with blood left on his hands.
Regardless of these actions, Joe Keller was once a poor man, a poor man with a big dream. And in some ways he is a fine example of what conquering the American Dream stands for. Yet, when he reached to the top his money obsession continued. He ultimately became power hungry, a man fixated and possessed by the mere thought of money and business. He became a man who murdered dozens and a man who took advantage by using the death and destruction of the war as an excuse for making more money. The only question is was he really making it for his family, or was he just making it for himself? This is something that his son, Chris would by no means would or even think about doing, “I Didn’t want to take any of it…” Chris Keller is a man who would never take money, let alone blood money from anyone. Chris is just a simple guy that believes that greed can destroy lives, and in his father’s case, it did exactly that.
Joe and Chris Keller may be father and son; nevertheless they are still particularly diverse from each other. Chris is an optimistic man, he is a romantic and idealistic. Everything in Chris’s mind is wonderful and faultless. His father on the other hand is a practical man. He is sensible and thinks only about the important things in life e.g. money and his family. As protagonists and father and son they are inescapably much alike and this leads to tension and confrontation.
Both the Keller men both have short tempers; this is a quality that brings anger and constant anxiety and strain to the play. Chris has always looked up to his father, he always saw him as the sole provider, the protector and the hero in his life. In Chris’s eyes Joe Keller fought against the court of law, to prove his “innocence”. However and unknowingly, when behind the shadows of all this, lingers deceit when family friend Steve Deever is sent to prison for tragic crime he did not commit, he was sent to prison for something Joe Keller did.
In many ways, I think Joe Keller is in denial about the situation. I believe he fought so hard to try and prove his pretend innocence that he almost convinced himself and wife Kate that he did nothing wrong and that he is innocent. I believe that he lied in the way he did due to his fear of people finding out the truth, especially Chris and also because he was frightened to lose all his power. If Chris was to discover the truth Keller would no longer be able to live with him self. The idea of killing one son and losing another was almost never an option Keller wouldn’t even have contemplated on doing. Because he spent so long building his business empire he was terrified to lose not only that. But the love and respect from his only other son.
Chris and Joe’s relationship in all means ended up deteriorated and this some ways is the central tragedy, a father who loses two sons because of his own mistakes and greed. “That’s what a war does. I had two sons, now I got one. It changed all the tallies. In my day when you had sons it was an honour”. This quote is ironic, the way Keller says “That’s what war does” he seems to be so in denial that he seems to be blaming the war, when he is the reason his son dies. Joe’s character mentions only having one son left, but even Chris begins to drift away from his father; “Sometimes you infuriate me, you know that? … You have such a talent for ignoring things.” Chris seems to have unknowingly stunned Keller by saying this, the word ignore implies that Keller is fully aware of what exactly has been going on and he is ignoring his past as if nothing had even happened in the first place.
The relationship between Chris and his father seems to allow the audience to understand how the two of these characters think and interact not only with each other but other characters in the play also. Joe Keller is a man who believes he owes nothing to anyone other than himself and family, however as Chris served in the war he believes in a superior responsibility to humanity, he likes to help people, make people feel good about themselves. This illustrates the completely parallel characteristics that Keller and Chris have.
The relationship Joe and Chris Keller share is diverse throughout, as father and son they joke and butt heads from time to time. But as Chris discovers the dark past his father has hidden, he is in utter shell shock. Not only has this man killed dozens of pilots, he killed his own son and left an innocent man rotting in a jail cell. As this tragic truth began to sink into Chris’s mind and no matter what Keller had to say for himself, to Chris this no longer matters. “It’s not enough to be sorry.”
I think because Keller was such a businessman, that Chris in some ways felt that his father’s job seemed almost more important to him than Chris, but Chris was still a priority. So when Chris found that that his brother was murdered by his own father for ‘business’, this was the final straw. “The cats in that alley are practical; the bums who ran away when we were fighting were practical. . . But now I’m practical, and I spit on myself. I’m going away. I’m going now.”
“Everyday three of four men never come back and he sits back there doing business. . .” This quote suggests quite clearly that Chris is disgusted at the fact that all those men died because of his father and it seems utterly insane that Keller was able to sit back and continue to run his business as everyday men were dying because of his father.
To conclude, Chris and Joe Keller’s relationship contribute to the central tragedies of the play in a massive way. It proves that just because two people are related and share the same blood, does not mean they are compatible. And asks the question, do we really know our family? Chris spent years look up to his ‘hero’ of a father, however towards the end of the play Chris’s utter disappointment, aversion and almost hatred for Keller becomes apparent. This consequently leads to Keller’s revelation, “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.” This then leads to the final tragedy of the play, Keller’s abrupt suicide.