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Arthur Miller

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An important theme in Arthur Miller's play "All My Sons" is the responsibility a man has for another man. Miller stressed that people must be held accountable for their actions to society and they will be held accountable by the inevitable justice found in the universe: karma. This theme is expressed through action as well as characters throughout the entire play; it is subtle at first but slowly becomes more prominent until Joe Keller finally realizes exactly how his actions affected people outside of his family. To begin, Keller's character is important to the theme because he represents the opposite of being responsible for his actions and being held accountable to society. Joe Keller seems like a simple kind of man. His greatest wishes are to obtain the American dream for his wife and to create a legacy to pass on to his son. However, he harbors a dark secret that explains how he achieved those dreams for his family- he knowingly shipped out faulty airplane parts during wartime. Up until the time of the play, Keller did not believe he did a terrible thing by shipping those parts out. ...read more.


Keller believed that he had to send out those parts so that he would still have a business to pass on to his son. Chris replies "what is that, the world- the business?"(70). He is asking his father if the whole world is the business. And the answer in Keller's mind is, as long as it takes care of his family, yes it is the world. Slowly, though, Keller begins to see just what his actions have caused to happen to other people. Take, for example, when he speaks to Ann about her father, Steve. He finds out that Ann and George never visit Steve in jail and that they don't even write to him. Keller is unable to understand why the children would "crucify" their father and he pleads with Ann to not "make a murderer out of him"(32). He realizes that Steve's life was ruined and his relationships with his children, something that Keller gives very high value to, are ruined as well. It is also easy to believe that Keller doesn't want to see Steve crucified because if he is, that means that Keller should be too. ...read more.


And Larry, whom Keller thought shared his ideas on the way the world was made (with a "forty-foot front"), had a good sense that people must consider the good of the many before they act for the few. It is his letter to Ann, in which he states he "can't bear to live anymore"(83) because of what his father did, that brings everything crashing down around Keller. In the same way Larry's memorial tree came crashing down and allowed more light to shine into the arbor, his letter shined light onto the true ways of the universe. Everything that Keller stood for, everything he believed in was wrong. He finally realized that he did a terrible thing that killed not only strangers, but people who were fathers, brothers, and sons. In essence, he killed the thing he lives for; he killed family. This revelation drives home the idea that justice will inevitably be brought to the wrong-doers. Keller's karma comes back and makes him not only set everything right in the universe again but pay the ultimate price for his actions: death by his own hand. Chris, Ann, and Kate can now move forward, not bogged down by shame and guilt, and they can "live." ...read more.

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