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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voice of conscience, morality, and idealism
The late Lord Bertrand Russell once said, "Actions have consequences." Arthur Miller makes it clear: Bad actions have bad consequences in his early play, "All My Sons." Set not long after the end of World War II, the play concerns big issues: life and death, and the necessity of living a moral life. The conflict pits the idealistic son, Chris Keller against his pragmatist...
Published on March 31, 2008 by Judy K. Polhemus

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A good play to read
A good play but somewhat disappointing after staging "The Crucible". Not sure it would go well in a small community theater.
Published 13 months ago by ROBERT R LARSON JR


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voice of conscience, morality, and idealism, March 31, 2008
The late Lord Bertrand Russell once said, "Actions have consequences." Arthur Miller makes it clear: Bad actions have bad consequences in his early play, "All My Sons." Set not long after the end of World War II, the play concerns big issues: life and death, and the necessity of living a moral life. The conflict pits the idealistic son, Chris Keller against his pragmatist father, Joe Keller, owner of a manufacturing plant that shipped out defective airplane parts during the war. As a result, twenty-one pilots died when their planes crashed.

This early play foreshadows the disillusionment by the son of the father that plays so predominantly in "Death of a Salesman," the flagship of Miller's dramatic output. Miller also introduces the idealist's version of moral behavior. When younger son Chris discovers his father's flawed decision to continue production of cracked engine parts, he berates him for lacking the high caliber of character of which he thought his dad was made. His father sincerely asks Chris: "What could I do?" The key line and one which comes to fruition in "The Crucible" is "You could be better." Actions have consequences.

Yes, I am revealing a key secret in the play, but it is the consequences of this revelation that is really the clincher of Miller's powerful morality play. That I will not reveal. But lack of idealism, lack of moral turpitude show the inner essence of a person. Everyone is born with this pure core. Time and circumstances chip away, a day at a time, a person's idealism. Only the few survive. Joe Keller has revealed a seriously hacked core; Chris's is still intact. But at what price?

Two other stories deal with the consequences of idealism. Miller's The Crucible (Penguin Classics) shows John who can confess to witchcraft (although not guilty) and live, or deny his involvement, be found guilty, and die. He must sign a document; in doing so, he besmirches his name. Because of his idealism: "It is my name, I have no other," he cannot sign and thus dies. In the other story, Gone Baby Gone Casey Affleck's character believes it to be just to turn in the kidnapper and return the child to her neglectful mother and a probable miserable life, or leave the child with the kidnapper who would inevitably give the child a good home. Each decision shows the impact of idealism. Actions have consequences. Good or bad?

Chris forces his father to acknowledge his misdeed by realizing he caused the pilots' deaths. Joe says, "Yes, they were all my sons." Even this is not the end of the misdeeds. Two other secondary plots involve moral choices and evil consequences when morality is not chosen. Ann Deaver, the girl next door who was engaged to the older brother when he went to war, and now recently engaged to Chris, must live with a flawed decision she made. The other plot line goes to Ann's father and the consequences surrounding him.

"All My Sons' is a powerful play that holds up to scrutiny an American story of success at a high cost and the devastation that malignant success brings to so many others. With this play Miller established himself as a major talent and voice of conscience which would become so important in "The Crucible" and McCarthyism to come.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All Not in the Family, July 25, 2004
By 
All My Sons is Arthur Miller's first work which gives hint of his future genius. While the plot is strong, it starts slowly. However, the ending makes the play worth reading.

The story tells of partners in a defective machine shop during World War II. Keller escapes punishment for the faulty parts. Herbert Deever is sent to prison. Keller's son Chris intends to marry his deceased brother's love who happens to be Herbert Deever's daughter Anne. Keller's wife Kate is in denial of their son Larry's death. This denial makes her a trademark of Miller's works, an annoying female character. She is overbearing and at times a nag. Thus, conflict is created over Chris and Anne's relationship. The story reaches its climax when the true nature of Larry's death is revealed. While the conclusion is not shocking, it is a fitting end.

Miller has written some great plays and novels. While this is certainly not as good as Death of a Salesman, it is still a solid work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Consequences of Former Actions, September 25, 2008
This review is from: All my sons: Drama in three acts (Paperback)
Arthur Miller wrote that he liked the fact that this creation of his deals not with a crime that is happening or about to happen, but one that has already happened. He also said that he was trying to emphasize that the consequences of actions are just as real as the actions.

Joe Keller seems to be a decent person trying to make a life for his family. He made his living building parts for airplanes, and he did significant business with the military. His family includes his wife Kate and his son Chris. (His other son Larry died in W.W. II.) Though his wife continues to believe that Larry is still alive. At first, she just seems to have the natural hopes a mother might, but we come to suspect that there are other reasons she can't bring herself to admit Larry is dead. Moving on, Chris is in love with Annie. (Annie is an interesting caught in the middle character. She was in love with the Larry, and her father worked with Joe Keller.) Keller went on trial for selling defective parts to the military that resulted in the deaths of several pilots. Joe Keller got off, but Annie's father went to jail. Though Annie doesn't seem overly concerned about her father. Putting Annie in the middle again, Kate gives Annie grief over the fact that she is planning to marry Chris. (If Annie marries Chris, Kate has to admit that Larry is dead.) Tensions rise when Joe Keller hears that Annie's brother George (a lawyer) has been talking to his father in prison.

In the 2nd act, we meet Annie's brother George, and he clearly objects to Annie marrying Chris. He blames Joe Keller for the imprisonment of his father, and does not want the Keller family to get his sister as well. Joe Keller covers himself well, but we can also tell he is 'working at looking innocent.' Tensions rise when Kate packs Annie's bags. (In other words, Kate wants Annie out of the house.) Chris then suspects that his father did have a part in the shipping of defective parts that caused the deaths of several pilots. Joe Keller admits his guilt. This carries Miller's intentions in his dislike of business over what really matters in life. Though Miller offers a bit of sympathy to Joe. Joe did not expect the parts to make it into the airplanes. He felt they would be discovered before anyone got hurt. This puts Chris into a psychotic frenzy.

In the final act, Annie is willing to forget Joe Keller's guilt if she can marry Chris, but Kate refuses to believe Larry is dead. Now we come to the greatest flaw in the book. Annie produces a letter from Larry shortly before he killed himself. This letter makes Joe Keller's guilt indisputable. I call this a flaw, because Annie's character is not consistent with someone who would have had this knowledge. (Especially her coldness towards her father in prison.) In a crisis of conscience Joe Keller puts the title of the play into the story: "They were all my sons." In a final moment, Chris carries Miller's feelings: "...there's a universe of people outside, and you're responsible to it."

The ending is tragic, but this is usually the case in Miller's stories. Overall, it's a great play that emphasizes that the consequences of actions are just as real as the actions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arthur Miller's First Great Success: Darkness Under The American Dream, August 19, 2008
Critics tend to compare ALL MY SONS to various plays by Henrik Ibsen--and most particularly so to THE WILD DUCK, which it tends to mirror in theme. There is a certain truth to this: having failed in his previous efforts, Arthur Miller set out to create a commercially viable play, and the resulting script echoes "the well-made play" style that Ibsen created. But this comparison will take us only so far: when it arrived on stage in 1947, ALL MY SONS made clear a new and powerful dramatic voice, and critics and audiences were so taken with it that the show even bested Eugene O'Neal's THE ICEMAN COMETH in terms of accolades and popularity at the time.

In general terms, ALL MY SONS presents us with what seems to be an "all American family" in the aftermath of World War II. Joe and Kate Keller are a middle aged couple with two sons, one missing in action since the war. Joe runs a factory; Kate is obsessed with the notion that the missing son will some day return; and son Chris has fallen in love with is missing brother's former girlfriend, Ann. At first the play seems to be about Kate's resistance to Chris and Ann's romance, which she clearly sees as a betrayal of her lost son--but the play takes a gradual turn that lifts it out purely domestic drama and into the realm of wider social issues.

It transpires that Ann's father was once in business with Joe and the factory they owned sold faulty aircraft parts that resulted in the loss of 21 pilots during the war. In a subsequent trial Ann's father was held responsible and Joe was found entirely innocent of wrong-doing. As the play progresses, suspicion begins to arise about whether these findings were correct--and if they shouldn't have been the other way around. Did Joe Keller, who seems such a likeable family man, knowingly send out the faulty parts and shift blame to his partner?

The first two acts of the play are remarkably well-crafted, presenting us with vivid characters and some of the most realistic dialogue ever heard on stage. Toward the third act, however, the mechanics of the play become a bit too obvious. This is particularly true when Ann reveals to the family a letter she has had in her possession all along, the content of which precipitates the final climax of the play. The phrase "deus ex machina" comes to mind: an artifical device unnaturally inserted into the play in order to bring the story to a conclusion.

Whenever I review a play I feel called on to note that playscripts are essentially a blueprint for a performance. They are not really intended to be read, but to be seen on stage, where performing artists give the author's writings the final breath of life. As such, it is not always possible to see how a particular script "plays" when it is on stage before an audience. Like most of Miller's plays, ALL MY SONS reads very well--but I have the distinct feeling that the flaws of the play are much more noticeable on the page than they are on the stage. Although the play suffers a bit in comparison to Miller's later works, it is nonetheless an essential for anyone seriously interested in 20th Century American drama; recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting insight of post war tragedy, February 6, 2000
By 
This review is from: All My Sons (Paperback)
Miller creates a sense of post war family tragedy in All My Sons, as he portrays the effects of war profiteering upon a Mid Western American family. The sense of tragedy is present from Act one, when the significance of the broken tree is shown. Losing a son in the war was almost commonplace during this era, but this also serves to show Kate's inner strengths. She is portrayed as weak and fragile, but with hindesight, she is a solid character. She has lived with the knowledge of her husbands crime, and the thought that if her son is dead, it is ultimately his father's doing, yet she remains strong - mainly for Chris's sake. The tension in the play is also important, as it is built up to a climax where Joe commits suicide. The plot is excellent, and the twist to the ending aids the dramatic tension. The insight into American family and community is useful, and the characters Miller created for this play have both depth and importance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not A Pulitzer., January 4, 2003
By 
"tcallahan3" (Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania United States) - See all my reviews
"All My Sons" is a play that captures the reader simply with the title. The first few pages are rather slow, but after setting the characters this play takes off like a rocket. The reader is plunged directly into post WWII America, in the middle of a town's scandal and a family's crisis. It is easy to understand the scandalous ongoings of small town America, certainly a lesser focus of the novel. The centrifugal point of the play is just a different twist on "Romeo and Juliet". If one strips away the whole conflict with the town and the influence of the war, all you are left with is a story about a boy and girl who are in love but who's families are at odds with each other. The result is book with a hackneyed base plot and an overdramatic ending. Luckily for Miller, he adds enough meat with the town and war subplots to classify this play as worthreading and worth seeing on stage. Although, in comparison to his only Pulitzer winner, "Death of a Salesman"...Well, comparing the two will not do "All My Sons" any justice.
If you liked "Death of a Salesman" then go for this book too. On the other hand, if you found "Death of a Salesman" to be lackluster, "All My Sons" will only add to your grief.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars YOU MUST READ THIS FORGOTTEN PIECE OF AMERICAN LITERATURE!!!, August 23, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: All My Sons (Paperback)
After searching long and hard for this book to complete my English requirement (I also had to read Miller's "The Crucible" and "Death of a Salesman") the payoff came when I finally got to read this highly suspenseful and fast-moving play. The characters are so real and the script reads like you would never imagine. This play is very good for two reasons: 1) It is interesting to read one of M iller's very first plays to see how he has evolved into one of the most famous playwrights ever. 2) The enlightening parallels to "Death of a Salesman" are very interesting and numerous. If you liked DOAS, then you will enjoy this play just as much, if not better.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for someone's first play, May 5, 2000
This review is from: All My Sons (Paperback)
As many may know, All My Sons was Miller's first play. In it he supplies enough drama to leave you in tears. The struggle of a family to pull back together after a great crime has been comitted is at the heart of the matter. Joe Keller chooses to ignore his responsibility to the loss of 121 American pilots in WWII, seeing as to how he approved the shipping of deffective plane engine cylinders. After what seems to everyone else as pulling a fast one, Joe basically gets away with murder and tries to pretend it never happened. His neighbors know, his old business partners know, and more importantly, his family knows. The question to ask yourself when you read this magnificent play is: Who would I relate to? Would I try to ignore my responsibilities like Joe? Or would I struggle to confront my father like Chris? If you've read other reviews about this play and you haven't read it yet, I do apologize for others giving away the ending. In case this is the only review you've read, I'll tell you this: Read the play already and don't read any reviews after this one. It's not that they are bad; it's just that you run the risk of the end being revealed, and then what would be the point? The end is what will captivate your heart.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accounts and accountability, March 27, 2008
By 
The story line of this family tragedy centres on an entrepreneur's/ manager's bad decision under heavy pressure: deliver a faulty product even when you know it can cause serious problems to the customer? Try to hide the product flaws? Or risk the ruin of the enterprise? And once started on the wrong trajectory, do you accept accountability or do you put the blame on a weaker link in the chain?
This basic dilemma is known to everybody from politics to business life.
Miller wrote this play after WW2, and his example of the problem are faulty cylinder heads delivered to the airforce under time pressure.
The man who did it compounded his crime by dodging truth and letting another man go to jail.
The families of both men are heavily interrelated and as it turns out, the damage is unreparable. Not just to the crashed pilots, but also to sons and daughters.
Reading the play now gives me a feeling of meeting a stereotype, but then, was the theme really as well explored at the time as it seems now? Quite possibly Miller was a pioneer in it, I don't know. I give only 4 stars because the play is a bit over-didactic.
I have not researched this, but I seem to remember that Miller got some flack from the McCarthy-committee for this play. Must have looked awfully un-American apparently, to explore questions of accountability. Certainly not a tradition in presidential circles.
P.S. I read an old interview with Miller where he says that he got 'invited' to the committee only because the guys were hoping for a photo shooting with Marilyn.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Early Example of Miller's Genius, March 21, 2004
By A Customer
This 1947 play contains all of the basic themes that would figure prominently in such later Miller masterpieces as DEATH OF A SALESMAN, THE CRUCIBLE, and A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. Joe Keller is a former airplane part manufacturer who during WWII allowed defective parts to be shipped out -- in order to save his own job -- then blamed his partner, Steve Deever, for the "oversight" when the planes crashed. A particularly disturbing aspect of the drama is that Joe's wife, Kate, knows the truth about her husband's crime but chooses to keep silence for the sake of her own belief that Larry, the Kellers' elder son who went missing in action, is still alive. The essential themes in ALL MY SONS are the individual's responsibility to his family versus his responsibility to society at large, and the possibility -- or impossibility -- that a man may lead a "normal" life while knowing that he betrayed his own family. It is chilling the way Miller has Keller's guilt gradually force itself to the surface during the course of the play, until we at last see him in all his guilt and shame as a tragic figure. I encourage you to read this excellent, early Miller work.
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All my sons: Drama in three acts
All my sons: Drama in three acts by Arthur Miller (Paperback - 1974)
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