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The Kellers lost their son Larry in the war (MIA) and continue to grieve his disappearance. Kate refuses to believe Larry isn't coming home and looks for reasons to believe he's survived.
Ann, Larry's intended, and Chris (Larry's brother) wish to marry. She has grieved and moved on...... but still feels the loss of her father, who is in jail. Ann's father is in jail, due to a situation at Joe Keller's manufacturing plant.... Joe made a lot of money, but an accident served to put her father in jail, as he was found to be at fault.
Chris loves his family but is uncomfortable with the family business, and the reasons for its success.
In this first act, we feel the effects of the war on the Keller family. Grief, guilt, and hope are all prevalent themes, as the characters attempt to move past or simply hold onto the past.