All My Sons

Links to Greek tragedy

Arthur Miller’s writing in All My Sons often shows great respect for the great Grecian tragedies of the likes of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. In these plays the tragic hero or protagonist will commit an offence, often unknowingly, which will return to haunt him, sometimes many years later. The play encapsulates all the fallout from the offense into a 24-hour time span. During that day, the protagonist must learn his fault and suffer as a result, and perhaps even die. In this way the gods are shown to be just and moral order is restored. In All My Sons, these elements are all present; it takes place within a 24-hour period, has a protagonist suffering from a previous offense, and punishment for that offense. Additionally, it explores the father-son relationship, also a common theme in Grecian tragedies. Ann Deever could also be seen to parallel a messenger as her letter is proof of Larry's death.

In Joe Keller, Arthur Miller creates just a representative type. Joe is a very ordinary man, decent, hard-working and charitable, a man no one could dislike. But, like the protagonist of the ancient drama, he has a flaw or weakness. This, in turn, causes him to act wrongly. He is forced to accept responsibility – his suicide is necessary to restore the moral order of the universe, and allows his son, Chris, to live free from guilt and persecution. Arthur Miller later uses the everyman in a criticism of the American Dream in Death of a Salesman, which is in many ways similar to All My Sons.

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