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Crime and Punishment

All My Sons

Pratyaksh Singhal

on 15 January 2015

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Transcript of Crime and Punishment

"A heavy man of stolid mind and build, a business man these many years, but with the imprint of the machine-shop worker and boss still upon him. When he reads, when he speaks, when he listens, it is with the terrible concentration of the uneducated man for whom there is still wonder in many commonly known things, a man whose judgments must be dredged out of experience and a peasant-like common sense. A man among men."
The Main
To most people, Joe's crime seems extremely selfish and inhumane. However, to understand why Joe did what he did, we must place ourselves in his position. He loved his family and wanted the best for them. He probably lived through the Wall Street Crash and did not want them to go through the suffering, he might have experienced. His crime was not only for money- it was money for his family. It wasn't his intention for anybody to get hurt. The responsibilities of being a husband and a father superceeds his responsibilities to the plant, to Steve and to the world at large. Because there's an end to his means, he's able to live with what he has done and deny any wrongdoing. Joe has no idea that his actions affect others so he makes some inappropriate statements. Eg- he speaks strongly against crucifying Steve when that is exactly what he had done to him.
Accused of:
Shipping defective cylinder heads for fighter plane
Case Details:
During the war, Joe Keller and Steve Deever
Joe said that he never thought that the
Criminal (Crime One):
Chris' crime:
The Neighbours' Crimes:
Ann also isn't as innocent and sweet as she comes across. She is actually one of the strongest characters in the whole play. She was involved in three different crimes. One was disowning her own father, believing that he was guilty. She cut off all ties with him and didn't even consider listening to his account of events. Her second crime was not showing Larry's letter to his family. They deserved to know the truth and Ann took that away from them. She brought the letter with her not to show the Kellers, but to use it as a weapon of last resort. Thirdly, she also doesn't turn Joe in after finding out that he's guilty.
Ann's Crime:
If you were Joe Keller's neighbor (knowing that he committed the crime), how would you view him? What would you have done?
In the end who do you think is eventually punished due to the loss of Keller? Was it really a loss and if so then how big?
Meet the
The Keller Investigation
Age : Nearing 60s
Sex : Male
engines during World War II, causing the death of 21 pilots.
owned a successful factory. One day a batch of 120 cylinder
heads came out cracked. Only Steve was at the factory and
not knowing what to do, called Joe. Joe told him to weld
over the cracks but himself did not come as he claimed to be
ill (which is later shown a lie by Kate). After some light
was shed upon their crime they were taken to court. Joe
on to get impressive wealth and prestige. Steve on the
got sent to prison and was disowned by his children.
cylinder heads would actually be installed and by
the time the cracks would be found he would have
the process running again. But no kick-back came
and by the time Joe decided to tell, it was too
late and his crime had been discovered.
Analyzing Joe's Crime
The interesting thing about Joe's character is that he isn't an obvious villain. He seems like a normal, ordinary Joe. Some cases where we see this are:
He clearly loves his family
He works hard (again for his family)
He plays cards with the neighbours every week
The neighbourhood children love playing games with him
Joe as a Tragic Hero
Joe is often described as a classic Greek tragic hero. The tragic hero is someone of good standing, who through tragic judgement, falls. The 'fall' is always the fault of the hero. The hero always learns from his mistakes but by the time he does, it is too late and the hero dies, usually in the process of undoing wrongdoing. In this case, Joe's flaw was his limited world view and when he was forced to accept responsibility
Aristotle's definition: one who has misfortune which is brought on not "by vice and depravity but by some error in judgment."
for his deed, he
committed suicide. Thus, Joe could be seen as a modern tragic hero.

Another theory states that Joe isn't a tragic hero. A different interpretation is that Joe did not learn from his mistakes. Maybe his death was an escape rather than a form of acceptance. Also a Greek hero is usually someone of a high stature but Joe is just a businessman.
Joe's death at the end of All My Sons is paradoxically both punishment and escape. In one sense, Joe can do no less than pay for his crime with his life. It is not an empty gesture. It is made abundantly clear from the play's beginning that Joe is a man who is full of life and cherishes his roles as both husband and father. When the truth comes out, Joe has to face not only a return to prison but also the alienation of his remaining son and the destruction his family. Death offers the only escape from that pain. It may also be seen as a sacrificial act, one which saves Joe's son, Chris, from further humiliation.
Kate Keller:
Kate was more of a partner in crime. She knew about Joe's crime and helped him conceal it. This is due to her non-logical emotional thinking. If Joe has killed 21 pilots, he has joined the killing of pilots and so, at some level is partially responsible for Larry's death. Thus to believe that Larry is alive she has to believe that Joe is innocent.
Joe Keller...
Was Steve Deever entirely innocent? If not, then why?
Mother: Stop that, Bert. Go home. [Bert backs up, as she advances.] There's no jail here.
Kate doesn't want Joe to play the jail game with the neighbor kids because it reminds everyone that Joe's partner is in jail – and that he put him there.
Chris: You killed them, you murdered them
Keller: How could I kill anybody?
Joe can't identify himself as a murderer, and truly doesn't understand why Chris sees it this way.

Mother: I don't know. [She speaks with warning.] He's a lawyer now, Joe. George is a lawyer.
Kate fears that the retribution she has been expecting may be coming now, in the form of vengeful George. He's more dangerous now that he's a lawyer. Joe and Kate have got to be on their game when this guy arrives.
George: The court didn't know your father! But you know him. You know in your heart Joe did it.
George doesn't believe the court carried out justice. So he's trying to carry out a little bit here by taking Ann away from Chris.
Mother: He hasn't been laid up in fifteen years…
Keller: Except my flu during the war.
Mother: Huhh?
Keller: My flu, when I was sick during… the war.
This is when Joe’s crime is revealed. George catches Kate’s slip of tongue and their attempts to pacify George failed miserably
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.
A small foreshadowing of the moral positions of both Joe and Chris here. Chris acknowledges a reality but does nothing to address it; Joe pretends it doesn't exist.
Keller: I want a clean start for you, Chris. I want a new sign over the plant – Christopher Keller, Incorporated.
Chris: [a little uneasily] J.O. Keller is good enough.
Chris's deceit lies in his refusal to investigate his own suspicions. He won't accuse his father of wrongdoing, yet he doesn't want his name dragged into the business.

Kate's Punishment:
Like Joe, Kate also had to face the consequences of helping Joe in his crime. The effects of living a lie eventually came back to haunt her. She lied in hope of keeping her family together. However, the crime caused the suicide of her husband Joe and her younger son Larry. This was her punishment for assisting Joe.
When Joe's guilt is finally revealed, Chris declares that indeed he suspected it but neither did he do anything about it, nor will he do anything. Where are his war time ideals? Instead of admitting that he was wrong, he shifts the blame to his parents. He says that they have made him practical and now he can't send his father to jail.
'I could jail him! I could jail him, if I were human any more. But I'm like everybody else now. I'm practical now. You made me practical...'(Act Three)
Another smaller crime he committed was lying to himself. He tries to act like an idealist but in reality he is just like his father-practical.
George hasn't really committed a crime (apart from initially disowning his father). However he is important to the theme of crime and punishment. He is a lawyer and after visiting his father, believes that Joe is guilty and Steve is wrongly imprisoned. As a character he usually follows people (mostly Chris) rather than lead them, but this time he stands up by himself. Joe and Kate try to placate him and woo him with the past and because it is so strong in their house, he almost falls for it. But when Kate makes a slip of tongue and drops the bomb, George catches it, reveals the truth and the bomb explodes- which leads to the collapse of the Kellers' life.
Even the Keller' neighbours aren't completely innocent! Jim and Sue both knew that Joe was guilty however, they chose to remain silent, perhaps to keep the peace around the neighbourhood.
Sue has another smaller crime- she doesn't let Jim follow his dream of doing medical research for her own benefits. An unhappy, wealthy Jim is more useful to her than a happy, poor one. Jim is sad and tries to convince himself that he is happy ('It takes a certain talent... for lying. You have it and I do.) However, the fault is partially his as he refused to fight back after a while. Their punishment is that they don't love each other like they used to- Jim is sad and Sue is bitter most of the time. It isn't exactly a happy marriage.
Sue & Jim
Other Crimes....

Some quotes...
ducked the blame and was released on appeal and went

A crime is a violation or action which constitutes an offense. Mostly it involves breaking the law but there are other types of crimes as well. However not every crime has a bad intention behind it. As T.S. Eliot once said “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” Just like Joe Keller's, some crimes are unintentionally committed. Every crime Is followed by some form of punishment. A punishment is an undesirable or unpleasant outcome upon the group or individual that has committed the crime. It again, may or may not be authoritatively imposed. Crime and punishment signifies a process that we've come to expect: we do something bad; we get in trouble. This is a popular theme in literature and the most common form it takes is crime fiction (consisting of mysteries, thrillers etc.)
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