All My Sons

How does Larry’s letter change Joe’s understanding of Chris’s perspective on duty, loyalty, and responsibility?

I am asking about the book All My Sons.

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Chris reads the letter aloud. Larry's letter is from the day he died. He had just seen the papers and heard about his father and the planes crashing. Larry felt full of guilt and anger, and wrote that he could not face anybody. He wrote that he was about to go out on a mission and that he would be reported missing. The letter implies suicide. Larry's letter to Ann adds that he loves her but that she must not wait for him.

Keller is quiet. He understands. He calls for the car and is ready to go upstairs to get a jacket. Mother tries to stop him, saying that Larry would not have sent him to jail. But Keller says that this is exactly what Larry is saying in the letter. "I think to him they were all my sons"--all the pilots who died. He goes upstairs. Mother turns to Chris and pleads with him not to take Keller to jail, but Chris says that nobody could stop Keller now. Mother says that the war is over--all these things are over--he cannot take away her husband. Chris responds that Keller should not just feel sorry; Larry died not just for that. She asks what more could be done, and Chris gives her a way to become better: "Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it, and unless you know that, you threw away your son because that's why he died."

A gunshot is heard in the house. Chris runs inside and tells Ann to find the doctor. Mother stays outside and moans her husband's name. Chris comes out in tears and says, "Mother, I didn't mean to-" But she interrupts him and tells him not to take the blame for his father's suicide. "Forget now. Live."

After years of denial, Joe is forced to acknowledge that the soldiers who died as a direct result of his actions were someone's sons, and they all might as well have been his sons.