Cannonball Read IV: "All My Sons" by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller is a playwright, the author of "Death of a Salesman," "The Crucible," "A View From the Bridge," and many other plays. He was also married to Marilyn Monroe and blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for refusing to name names. He is considered to be one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century.
"All My Sons" follows the classic structure of a Greek tragedy: it takes place within a 24 hour period, has a flawed protagonist who has committed an offense, and describes the fallout for that offense. Much of the back story is told through conversation between the characters and actions are described instead of being acted out.
The play is set in August 1947, in an unspecified town of the American mid-west. Joe Keller, the patriarch and our flawed protagonist, is a man who reveres his family above all else. He has sacrificed everything in order to care for his family and ensure its prosperity. He has lost one son in the war, and hopes to see his remaining son, Chris, marry and take over the family business, a machine shop that supplied parts for the military in WWII. Chris is in love with Ann, the former fiancée of his brother, Larry. They plan to marry. Chris's mother Kate, believes Larry is still alive, but MIA. For three and a half years, she has concealed her knowledge of a crime her husband has committed.
Ann's father and Joe were partners and owners of a machine shop that sent out defective parts during the war, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots. Ann's father was sent to prison, while Joe was exonerated. Kate cannot allow Ann and Chris to marry, because then she would have to admit that Larry is dead and never coming back. If she admits to Larry's death, then all of her lies to herself will be laid bare.
"All My Sons" explores the meanings of family: the nuclear family, the extended family, the family of man. It asks "how far is too far to go to protect your own?" It wants to know: who are your own?
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This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.