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"Miller's plays show is that happiness can only be achieved by making moral compromises" To what extent does this claim apply to All My Sons?

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A critic has written that "Miller's plays show is that happiness can only be achieved by making moral compromises" To what extent does this claim apply to All My Sons? The critique about Miller's plays applies directly to the central theme, and protagonist of All My Sons. It could be argued, that Joe Keller's moral compromise, in that he allowed a batch of faulty cylinder heads to be shipped out and used in planes, resulted in the death of 21 pilots, was done to achieve happiness. For example, Joe claims he had to ship out the cylinder heads in order to keep the business running for Chris' future. "You're a boy, what could I do! ...a hundred and twenty cracked...you're out of business". This therefore shows that Joe felt happiness could only be achieved by earning money, although the money would come from making a moral compromise. In the same way, Joe uses the excuse of money which supposedly creates happiness, to justify what he did - "you wanted money so I made money...what must I be forgiven?" This quote is very telling of the fact that Joe Keller - the main character of Miller's All My Sons - believes that money is the root of happiness, and that he did nothing wrong in shipping out cracked cylinder heads i.e. making a moral compromise, because it would lead to the Keller family having money. ...read more.


The critic's view that happiness can only be achieved by making moral compromises in Miller's plays is again shown when looking at the main plot from a different angle. For example, the fact that moral compromises are made not only by Joe shipping out faulty cylinder heads - "you (Joe) thought they'd crash" - but by the fact that Kate is aware of what Joe did, yet both her and Joe conceal the truth from everyone - including their son. Kate conceals the truth in that she lies for Joe because if she admitted to everyone the truth that Joe in fact shipped out the faulty cylinder heads she would be admitting that Larry was dead. "Your brother's alive...because if he's dead your father killed him". Therefore, in terms of Kate, making moral compromises is the only way to achieve happiness, because if she admits to people that Joe shipped out faulty cylinder heads, she would be admitting that Joe killed her son - "God does not let a son be killed by his father". All the characters in the play at some point make moral compromises; the difference between them is whether the result is happiness. Chris appears to be the most moral character throughout the story, in that he does want to make moral compromises from the very beginning. "We've made a terrible mistake with mother...being dishonest with her. That kind of thing always pays off". ...read more.


Miller uses irony in his way of showing that certain characters believe that happiness can only be achieved by moral compromises. When Joe is explaining to Chris and Ann about how it was 'Steve's fault' that the faulty cylinders were shipped out, Ann says "He [Joe] just wants everybody happy". This therefore demonstrates the idea that happiness can only be achieved by making moral compromises. By Joe lying about the fact that Steve was the one who is guilty - "if I could have gone in that day I'd-a told him - junk 'em...but he was afraid", he is supposedly creating happiness. Therefore, making moral compromises is the only way to achieve happiness where Joe is concerned, as telling the truth would lead to great unhappiness for Joe. It could also be said that this irony foreshadows the idea that Joe may be trying to make people happy, however in the end, he will be the one that disrupts all happiness within the family. The Mail on Sunday commented that Miller was "a towering figure who represents the writer as a true moral force". However when considering All My Sons, the majority of the play, and in fact, all the characters, take part in deceit, lies, and secrets - that is to say they make moral compromises. Overall, these moral compromises lead to happiness in the short term, however long term, these secrets, lies, and moral compromises will be revealed and cause the downfall of the characters and disintegration of relationships which previously created happiness. Michelle Bailey ...read more.

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