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All My Sons

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Amanda Trehearn

on 7 October 2014

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Transcript of All My Sons

Denoument – The Letter
Kate shows no real shock, unlike Chris.
Forces Kate to face up to her own self-deception.
Forces Joe to see that Larry would not have supported him.
The admission that the pilots were "all my sons" is, for Keller, an admission that he might as well have killed his own child.
Key Points for Analysis
Comparison between business and war
Resolution of conflict(s)
“All my sons”
Act 3
Dramatic Devices
Stage Directions

"their movements now are those of subtle pursuit and escape."

Stage directions show Chris trying to pin his father down to precise facts and admission of guilt. Chris is hunting not only the truth but is struggling to come to terms with the complete obliteration of the image he held of his father as ‘Joe McGuts’ or ‘better than the rest’.
Key Points for Analysis
Joe’s character development
Dramatic Devices
Theme – profit from war, responsibility
“All my sons”
Act 2
Key Questions - Act I (cont.)
(p32-33)Chris and Anne are trying to move on from Larry’s disappearance but something is holding them back. What?

(p34) How do Chris’ ideals compare or contrast with Joe’s?

(p38) How does Miller create tension and doubt in the audience’s mind at the end of Act I.
The Phone Call
Introduces different side of story
Makes Joe nervous
Past converging on present
Initial doubt introduced in audience’s mind as to why Kate is so worried
The Proposal
Sets off chain of events – catalyst that drives plot forwards.
Larry’s girl – accepting his death, Kate can’t as she knows truth but Joe is so convinced by his own lie that he supports them.
Joe’s encouragement builds even more respect from Chris.
The Horoscope
Shows that Kate needs proof that Larry is still alive.
She has no physical evidence so she turns to spiritual evidence.
Broken on Larry’s birthday
Fell in its’ prime like Larry (‘fruit still clinging to its branches’)
Foreshadows/symbolises the collapse of Joe’s lie
The Tree
Describe what happened to the tree
Look at the details of how Miller presents it
Look back over how the characters react to it

To whom is the tree connected?
What might its current state suggest is about to happen in the play?
“All my sons”
Act 1
“This house would make a profit out of war”

Typed first draft max 800 words
‘American people will not relish the idea of any American citizen growing rich and fat in an emergency of blood and slaughter and human suffering.’
May 26 1940
Franklin D Roosevelt
All My Sons
Arthur Miller
Key Questions – Act 3
Comment on the change in Joe’s character with his line:  “I guess to him they were all my sons.”  (CHARACTER)

To what extent was Joe’s fate unavoidable?  (PLOT)

With which character do you sympathise most: Joe, Kate or Chris? (CHARACTER)

If the central theme of the play is the profit made from war, what is the playwright’s message through Joe’s suicide and his family’s reaction to it?  (THEME)

As a contemporary reader, how relevant did you find the themes of the play?  Refer to the article in your booklet entitled ‘A play for Obama’s America.’  You should treat this question as a mini essay and write at least three paragraphs in your answer, referring to both the play and the article as well as including your own opinions.

Resolution of Conflict(s)
Chris’ divided loyalties are finally resolved: he chooses to be loyal to his men and society rather than his father.
Kate no longer has to hide her husband’s secret and can now fully support Chris. She tells him to ‘live’.
As a result of this and seeing what Chris (and Larry) think of him, Joe kills himself.
Joe saw nothing wrong in making money from war/death because thousands of others did too. ‘The whole damn country’s gotta go if I go’.
Joe sees though that Chris is a man of principles that he will not compromise.
As a result of this and seeing what Chris (and Larry) think of him, Joe kills himself.
He becomes the ‘tragic hero’ as he finally accepts responsibility for his actions.
Business vs War
Keller argues that his actions during the war were defensible as requirements of good business practice.
Wartime profiteering was common.
Many people were involved in ‘black market’ trading of rationed goods.
But, Chris argues that the money/profit made from war is ‘dirty’ and that by accepting it he dishonours the men who died.
He cannot compromise these beliefs, even for his father, which leads to the climax.
Key Questions – Act 2
 What effect does George’s arrival have on the audience in terms of building tension? PLOT

What effect do Sue’s comments about Chris have on Anne? And on the audience? Can someone really be ‘too good’? CHARACTER (CHRIS)

What reason does George give for having believed his father’s guilt and how does this build on the characterisation of Chris from the first Act? CHARACTER (CHRIS)

With close reference to the dialogue and stage directions, as well as your own explanation, describe how Kate initially quells George’s temper and then causes the tension to increase dramatically shortly afterwards. DRAMATIC DEVICES (Stage Directions) & CHARACTER (KATE)

Comment on Kate’s line: “He hasn’t been laid up in twenty years…”. How does this act as a turning point in the play? PLOT

Look at the stage directions and sentence structure in this plea from Joe to Chris on page 67.

Keller ( - their movements now are those of subtle pursuit and escape. Keller keeps a step out of Chris’s range as he talks.): You’re a boy, what could I do! I’m in 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, they tear up your contracts, what the hell’s it to them? You lay forty years into a business and they knock you out in five minutes, what could I do, let them take forty years, let them take my life away? (His voice cracking) I never thought they’d install them. I swear to God. I thought they’d stop ‘em before anybody took off.
How do the stage directions reveal a change in Chris and Joe’s relationship?

2. How does the dialogue (in particular the sentence structure) reveal development or a change in Joe’s character? How does this affect the audience’s view of Keller?
Key Dialogue
Profit from war: Keller argues that no one "worked for nothin' in that war," insisting that if he has to go to jail, then "half the Goddam country" is similarly culpable. Is this an indictment of capitalism or of the wartime mentality? Does he believe this argument, or is it mainly another attempt to deflect blame?

Relatedness: Keller is able to deny responsibility for his crimes because he believes in the family as the nucleus of his world. His inability to see his relatedness to the rest of society and to his fellow man is his central flaw. This flaw leads to both public (the deaths of the pilots) and private tragedy (Larry and Joe’s suicides.)
Dramatic Devices
Grapefruit juice – symbolises a happier time for both the Kellers and the Deevers. It is used as a deliberate method of manipulation, by Kate, to calm and soothe George and to protect her family.

Dialogue changes from long explanatory speeches where Keller is giving excuses to short staccato dialogue and questions during the climax where Chris is questioning father.

This builds tension in the audience and leads to the climax where Chris is in inner turmoil as to what he needs to do.
Characterisation of Joe
Keller is not presented as a villain but as an ordinary man caught up in a bad situation and who makes a choice according to his own values.

He calls Steve a ‘little man’ but we find out that this ‘hero’ is actually just like the ‘little man’ he describes.

He does not understand the wider impact one man can have.

He is representative of an older generation who did not have access to Higher education, whose entire world centered around his family.

He is blind to his own ‘greed’(?) preferring to think of himself as a man among men, minding his own business (literally and figuratively). That is the true flaw in Keller's character.

Joe still plays the victim after Kate’s slip up, giving excuse after excuse but these do not fool anyone and lead to Chris losing respect for his father which also leads to the audience doing the same.
Key Questions – Act 1
2. (bottom of p27 to top of p29 ‘MOTHER’) How does Miller, through the MOTHER’S dialogue, reveal that Joe has something to hide?
The fact that Kate points out to Ann that Joe has lied is extremely significant. She is portraying her husband, not as the hero and respectable man that we’ve been introduced to but as a liar. ‘Except that they didn’t get it confused.’ This shows that Joe is trying to hide to the children that he was arrested and taken to court. He has deliberately manipulated the children’s belief in making himself appear to be a hero.
‘How could they move back?’ shows that the relationship between Ann’s father and Joe is not what it would first appear to be. In the trial Ann’s father tried to blame Joe and may not be as forgiving as Joe has been that Joe didn’t face the same punishment. Kate doesn’t believe they could ever be friends again. If Joe were really innocent would he honestly forgive the man who tried to blame him? Further, it also shows that even though the neighbours come round and play cards and socialise with the Kellers, the situation and accusations have not actually been forgotten.
Key Questions – Act 1
1. (p.25-26) Why does Kate have to believe that Larry is still alive? What difficulty does this present for Ann?

Kate is portrayed first and foremost as a devoted mother. Her character is concerned about keeping her family together and the belief alive that her missing son will return safe. Her maternal instinct tells her that her son must be alright because ‘Because he has to be’. However, her desperation in clinging to this hope (see stage direction [goes to her]) and the repetition of the same phrases ‘Because some things have to be.’ reveal that there may be a deeper meaning underlying Kate’s belief.
Secondly, Ann’s father is in jail for ultimately killing 21 pilots. If Kate accepted that Larry was dead it would be admitting that her husband’s business killed men like her son.
Thirdly, Kate’s desperation is so great that when we connect it to further clues in this Act i.e. “be smart Joe”, we begin to see that all is not rosy in this family.
Therefore Kate is characterized as MOTHER, WIFE, WOMAN – maternal, emotional, protective, intuitive.
She makes Ann’s wish to marry Chris very difficult as she does not and will never approve of them being together as she cannot accept that Larry is dead.
Look at the stage directions in this exchange between Joe, Kate and Ann from Act One, p31-2.

Mother: What your father did had nothing to do with Larry. Nothing.
Ann: But we can’t know that.
Mother (striving for control): As long as you’re here!
Ann (perplexed): But Kate –
Mother: Put that out of your head!
Keller: Because –
Mother (quickly to Keller): That’s all, that’s enough. (places her hand on her head.) Come inside now, and have some tea with me. (She turns and goes up steps.)
Keller (to Ann): The one thing you –
Mother (sharply): He’s not dead, so there’s no argument! Now come!
What do the stage directions here reveal about Kate’s:
- relationship with Joe?
- attitude towards Ann?

2. How does the punctuation deployed by Miller, enhance what is revealed about Kate through the stage directions?
Stage Directions
Chris’s War Story
Tension builder
Promotes message – ‘man for men’ and highlights differences between Joe and Chris’ ideals.
Counters Joe’s lie
Arthur Miller explain the origins of the story.

He explores the impact war can have on society when the moral codes no longer exist and there is a tendency towards exploitation, violation and the building of illicit fortunes.

It takes moral courage to stand against this immorality but he also expresses recognition that people participate because they are vulnerable.
8 years prior to WWII there was 24.9% unemployment in the US.

WWII 1939-1945

From 1939-2, 141 Aircraft were built.
Employment increased.
Business was flourishing
Pilots slept in cots outside the major plants waiting to fly planes as they came off the production lines.
10 companies shared 30% of the $240 Billion spent on defence.
Excess Profits Taxes were introduced to try to restrain war profits
War Profits &
The Second World War
A war profiteer is any person or organization that profits from warfare or by selling weapons and other goods to parties at war.
A Moral Debate:
War Profiteering
Is it right for business to make money out of war?
Look closely at the following dialogue between Jim Bayliss and Kate.

MOTHER: I always had the feeling that in the back of his head, Chris...almost knew. I didn’t think it would be such a shock.
JIM (gets up): Chris would never know how to live with a thing like that. It takes a certain talent – for lying. You have it, and I do. But not him.
MOTHER: What do you mean...? He’s not coming back?
JIM: Oh, no, he’ll come back, Kate. These private little revolutions always die. The compromise is always made. In a peculiar way, Frank is right – every man does have a star. The star of one’s honesty. And you spend your life groping for it, but once it’s out it never lights again. I don’t think he went very far. He probably just wanted to be alone to watch his star go out.
In what way does Jim, a seemingly insignificant character, take on an important role here?

2. How effective is Miller’s use of the reference to stars in this piece of dialogue?
Key Dialogue
"It is always understandable and it is always unacceptable" (Arthur Miller)
Model Paragraph
Statement: It is morally unacceptable to make money out of the deaths of soldiers and civilians that will inevitably result from a war.
Explain: Why is it morally unacceptable? Money is a reward, a social indicator that what you produced or the service you offered had value. By rewarding those who manufacture and supply arms designed solely for killing individuals in war, you are placing a value on human deaths. Valuing the deaths of others is fundamentally immoral. It contradicts a basic principle that all men agree to regardless of cultural or philosophical difference: what we value is life.
Illustration: For example: a successful arms manufacturer supplies exploding bullets to the US army. They are found to be 3 times more effective in their 'kill quota' than regular bullets and so the manufacturer charges double for them compared to regular bullets. The company makes $2billion dollars during the Iraq War due to bullet sales. Shall we create a tagline for them? "5000 Iraqi deaths from our bullets - buy the best". It's unlikely they would use it - why? Because making money out of death is immoral - they know it and the public know it and that is why this motion must not stand.

How is the audience positioned to view Chris in Act1?
Note how the newspaper is used - what does Chris's choice of section reveal?
Closely analyze the dialogue between father and son. What does it reveal about the similarities and differences between the men?

The Father/Son Relationship
In order to analyze dialogue look at not only what they say but HOW they say it:

Mean Length of Utterance (MLU)
Mode of Address
Adjacency Pairs (complete and disrupted)
Elements of discourse analysis:

Create a spider diagram that explores the following:

How does Miller refer to her in the script and in his stage directions?
How do the other characters refer to her?
How are her superstitions conveyed?
What does her reaction to the tree reveal?
Why does Kate react so negatively to Bert?
Kate Keller
This is at the heart of the drama in Act 1

Create a tension wheel with denial at the centre
The spokes are what 'spins off' this central denial. Use a quotation in every spoke
Kate's Denial
Denial or Belief?
Causes her to interpret tree as symbolic
Prevents Annie from moving on/marrying Chris
Causes her to shout at/reject Bert
Forces Joe into a pact of solidarity with her
The dialogue is clearly tense and the two women are very different
Create a chart to show their differences, support each difference with a quotation:
Sue versus Annie
How does George's imminent arrival impact on Kate?
What mechanisms does she use to try to cope?
(cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr
This House would make a profit out of war
Proposition arguments
What did you discover about companies that make a profit from war today?
How to structure a paragraph:

S (statement)
Ex (explain)
I (illustrate)
This House would make a profit out of war -
Opposition arguments
Read the article and highlight arguments for and against making a profit out of war
Rhetorical questions
The Tricolon
Emotive language
Appeal to audience (inclusive 'we' or personalised 'you')
Abstract Nouns (faith, hope, justice etc...)
Top & Tail
The hook...
A question
An anecdote
A shocking statistic

Come back to your hook and complete the circle

A strong argument always knocks down the other side
Rebuttal - the counter argument
Some might argue that making a profit out of war is immoral. However, they are wrong because...
For example...
Self Checking/Peer Checking Work:


1. The hook grabs the audience's attention
2. The conclusion returns to the idea in the hook
3. The points are logically ordered (start with the most important reason)
4. You signpost using discourse markers (Furthermore, Moreover, In addition...)
4. Each paragraph contains SExI
5. Each sentence is clear and properly punctuated
6. Your vocabulary is precise and, at times, ambitious
Full transcript