‘All My Sons’ is a family drama with trenchant tragic moments. It is mired in intra-family and inter-personal conflicts and talks about everyday struggles inside the domestic space.
The title gets its validation from Joe Keller’s final admission that all the 21 pilots killed due to their faulty cylinders were like his sons.
Larry’s suicide note exposes him to the realization that they all were fighting for the country and its people, families etc and every single one of them was robbed off their life due to their blunder (including his son who dies out of shame and guilt).
The entire story is acted out in the Keller house which is situated in a small town and is multi-storey with 7 rooms. The time period is of post World War II (
The story has characters with independent viewpoints and strong voices. Chris is sanctimonious, Joe is proud, Kate is manipulative, Larry is brave and Ann is headstrong. This leads to
Through its characters like Chris and Dr. Jim Bayliss, Miller has tried to directly assault the flaws of a consumerist and capitalist society that disregards the values of compassion and social cohesion. The innate insistence of profit-seeking of such post-war society has been decried through the fall of characters like Joe Keller and Steve Deever etc.
The story amply utilizes various symbols to emote a particular sentiment or represent a characteristic. The memorial apple tree is a tribute for Larry with complicated meaning as Kate hopes for his return while the rest use it to commemorate the lost family.
Prison is also used creatively to symbolize punishment for Steve Deever and Joe Keller but also as means of building intrigue for Joe as he uses it to interact with neighborhood kids like Bert.
The writer has utilized the power of foreshadowing to indicate a future incident or confirm a past reality. The characters often try to evade the past but their inability to kill the past hosts keeps them anchored to them.
Arthur Miller tried to emphasize that present consequences are often inextricably linked to past mistakes as are future consequences to present actions.
A phone call from George about visiting his father in prison foretells the impending conflict for both Joe and Kate. However, the biggest example is the uprooting of Larry’s memorial tree after being struck by lightning.
This incident is taken as sign of his possible return by Kate. However, it may also be perceived as the confirmation of his actual demise (with the relic of his commemoration (tree) getting razed to the ground).
The ending of the story is left open-ended. Joe is guilt-ridden and devastated to learn about Larry’s suicide and Chris’s estrangement with him. He seems resigned to turn himself to law but goes on to take his own life instead.
On his death, Kate asks Chris to not carry any regret for his father suicide and repeat the mistake of his father who could not shake his contrition for Larry’s death and Steve’s imprisonment.
It may also be perceived that she is trying to save his only family rather than thinking about justice and fairness. Thus, the ending leaves readers at a very turbid point.