Places: All My Sons

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1947

First produced: 1947, at the Coronet Theatre, New York City

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Mid-twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedKeller’s backyard

Keller’s All My Sonsbackyard. This setting represents a family having achieved the American Dream, but the dream is realized by unethical profiteering during the context of the recently completed World War II. Keller’s backyard is a place where members of the family socialize, recall pleasant memories of younger innocent days, and interact with neighbors. However, it is also a place where secrets are revealed, such as Larry’s suicide, Annie’s desire to marry Chris, and Joe Keller’s guilt about manufacturing faulty airplane parts. A broken tree in the backyard symbolizes the breaking of the family.

This setting underscores the typical upper-middle-class home in which American affluence presumes American moral superiority. However, in this place the truths that are revealed transform it from a haven of moralization to the place of Keller’s demise. Thus it fulfills playwright Arthur Miller’s intention of suggesting that all Americans who put business above personal integrity demonstrate a lack of moral integrity.

Keller’s house

Keller’s house. Throughout the play, characters enter the house to avoid the intensity of the discussions and potential revelations occurring in the backyard. The interior of the house thereby becomes a place in which secrets are nourished, while the backyard is a place of revelation.

Prison

Prison. Offstage location. Annie’s father, a former business associate of Joe Keller, is in prison for his role in making faulty airplane parts. Though offstage, the prison exists prominently in the minds of the characters, prompting justification on the part of Joe Keller and denial on the part of his wife. It also represents the place to which Joe Keller will go, once the truth about his own complicity is discovered and he is expelled from his comfortable house and yard.

*New York City

*New York City. The American city suggesting wealth and business, it is seven hundred miles from the setting of the play. Its distance and prominence as a great center of American business contrast with the suburban life of the Kellers. It is also the place in which Annie and her brother choose to live after their father goes to prison, so it serves as a temporary escape from the scrutiny of the neighbors in their former neighborhood.

BibliographyBigsby, C. W. E. “Drama from a Living Center.” In Arthur Miller, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Initially discusses All My Sons as a play of moral didacticism and then probes a subtext that explores the guilt of the idealist. Maintains that the play has a well-constructed plot development and contrivances.Blumberg, Paul. “Sociology and Social Literature: Work Alienation in the Plays of Arthur Miller,” in American Quarterly. XXI (1969), pp. 291-310.Corrigan, Robert W. “The Achievement of Arthur Miller,” in Comparative Drama. II (1968), pp. 141-160.Driver, Tom. “Strength and Weakness in Arthur Miller,” in Tulane Drama Review. IV (1960), pp. 45-52.Gross, Barry. “All My Sons and the Larger Context,” in Modern Drama. XVIII (1976), pp. 15-27.Hayman, Ronald. Arthur Miller, 1972.Hogan, Robert. Arthur Miller, 1964.Huftel, Sheila. Arthur Miller: The Burning Glass. New York: Citadel Press, 1965. The chapter dedicated to All My Sons provides a significant overview of the play along with a careful analysis of the main and peripheral characters. The influence of Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian dramatist, on Miller is discussed, as is All My Sons in relation to Miller’s adaptation of Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People (1882).Miller, Arthur. Introduction to Arthur Miller’s Collected Plays. New York: Viking Press, 1957-1981. Miller devotes many pages to All My Sons, explaining that it is a social play of relationship and responsibility. He discusses the inspiration for the drama and gives context for the play’s underlying philosophies.Moss, Leonard. Arthur Miller, 1967.Murray, Edward. Arthur Miller: Dramatist, 1967.Nelson, Benjamin. Arthur Miller: Portrait of a Playwright, 1970.Stambusky, Alan A. “Arthur Miller: Aristotelian Canons in the Twentieth Century Drama.” In Modern American Drama: Essays in Criticism, edited by William E. Taylor. DeLand, Fla.: Everett/Edwards, 1968. The first part of this chapter discusses classical tragedy and Miller’s adherence to the literary archetype. Stambusky argues that All My Sons falls short of tragedy in plot development, dialogue, and characterization.Welland, Dennis. Arthur Miller, 1961.Wells, Arthur. “The Living and the Dead in All My Sons,” in Modern Drama. VII (1964), pp. 46-51.Williams, Raymond. “The Realism of Arthur Miller,” in Critical Quarterly. I (1959), pp. 140-149.Wood, E. R. Introduction to All My Sons, by Arthur Miller. London: Heinemann, 1971. Probes the relationship between commerce and war. Explicates the play’s dramatic qualities and the three main characters’ motivations and actions.Yorks, Samuel. “Joe Keller and His Sons,” in Western Humanities Review. XIII (1959), pp. 401-407.
Categories: Places