All My Sons

All My Sons Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Several characters in the play believe in forces outside their control that influence the events of their lives. Kate turns to astronomy and God, while Keller argues that the pressures of business forced him to act as he did. Examine the role of personal agency in the play. For example, does Keller's suicide reflect a new acceptance of his misdeeds? Does he kill himself out of choice or mainly as a result of external pressures?

  2. 2

    Keller argues that no one "worked for nothin' in that war," insisting that if he has to go to jail, then "half the Goddam country" is similarly culpable. Is this an indictment of capitalism or of the wartime mentality? Does he believe this argument, or is it mainly another attempt to deflect blame?

  3. 3

    Did Kate (Mother) know that Larry was dead? Did Chris know that his father was guilty? How might the actors and director of the play keep these questions ambiguous or suggest that these facts were known all along? Did Miller possibly intend that the audience never know how much Kate and Chris had suspicions, or is the play better if the audience gradually learns that Kate and Chris knew the truth all along?

  4. 4

    Which kinds of facts are better to face immediately, and which kinds are better to deny as long as possible? Consider personal, family, and social values. Use the play for possible anecdotal evidence.

  5. 5

    The tone of much of the second and third acts is accusatory, with a strong emphasis on questions and questioning. How do the characters use questions to deflect blame? Or, how does Miller use questions to pace the dialogue and heighten the tension? What counts as evidence of the facts? (Consider the courtroom scenes in The Crucible for comparison.)

  6. 6

    How does Miller introduce the past and show the effects of the past on the Kellers without employing flashbacks?

  7. 7

    How does Miller manipulate information? The entirety of the first act is exposition, yet the audience is kept guessing and alert through Miller's careful pacing of the revelation of facts. How does our experience of the play change after we have seen it the first time and know all the history? Do successive iterations of reading or watching the play help us pick up on additional details of the themes and characters?

  8. 8

    The common theatrical device of "the letter" provides a way for Larry to personally enter the play after his death. What else makes the letter work well in this particular play? Consider, for instance, Miller's careful manipulation of information throughout the play.

  9. 9

    How does Miller characterize Larry, who never appears on stage but who is so fundamental to the events and the people? How can we reconcile or add together the various accounts of his character?

  10. 10

    If the focus is on the Keller family, what is the point of including the Deever family as more than just a set of foils for the Kellers?