All My Sons

How does miller makes act two powerful and dramatic ?


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The drama of the everyman is a trope throughout Miller's oeuvre, and it begins to surface as well in All My Sons, his first prominent play. The theme is first made apparent when Keller tries to justify Steve's actions during the war. He calls Steve a "little man," who buckled under pressure from the military when a shipment of cracked cylinder heads came through his inspection. Keller draws a distinction between men who are easily pressured and are natural followers (Steve) and men who can stand up for themselves and make the difficult choice in a bad situation (himself). The irony, of course, is that he is defending Steve a little too vehemently, because only he and his wife know that Keller actually belongs in the former category of the common follower. Keller may talk big, but we learn at the end of the second act that when the military was on the phone and he had to make a decision, Keller was the one who caved in to circumstance. The little man whom the hero patronizingly defends at the beginning of the play turns out to be rather like the hero himself.

The dialogue in the second act varies between long, explanatory speeches, and fast exchanges characterized by extensive questioning. As the tension mounts, the questions grow shorter and more rapid-fire, increasing the pressure on Keller line by line. At the climax, the staccato dialogue heightens the drama of the courtroom-like confrontation between father and son. The stage directions indicate that "their movements now are those of subtle pursuit and escape." Where first Chris was asking questions about what happened and Keller was explaining, now Chris is hurling accusations and Keller is answering in defensive questions: "Dad, you killed twenty-one men!" "What, killed?" They are replaying the ancient dance of the archetypal father-son conflict. The act finishes with Chris's speech, building through eight questions, until he asks finally, "Don't you live in the world?" He then pulls back from that peak by redirecting the last question to himself, confessing that he does not know what to do. A son may find his father guilty, but how can he punish him?