Andrew English AP English Essay All My Sons Arthur Miller’s All My Sons is a perfect example of a literary work that builds up to, and then reaches, an ending that simultaneously satisfies the reader’s expectations and brings all the play’s themes to a dramatic conclusion. As the past slowly bubbles up into the present, the reader begins to need certain confrontations – and certain judgments – to occur. The finale that Miller deftly crafted for this play is filled with a dramatic irony that leaves the reader thinking. In the end the wrong has been avenged, and the inner and outer circles -family and society – have come crashing together. Even though Miller is slow to establish his main theme in the exposition, once set, the main themes develop into powerful messages that hold meaning for all: if one cannot look beyond their personal circle, they are condemned to an ignorant existence ended by a tragic moment of realization. Joe Keller goes through this slow, and painful, process of realization.
It has been hard work for Keller to maintain his blind ignorance toward his crime, and his guilt; however, despite his efforts, his tainted past is continually creeping into his sacred inner circle, the only world that Keller allows himself to recognize. When Keller sees that his inner circle is only a tiny speck in the greater outer circle – and that those people, whom he thought were unrelated to him, were actually all his sons – he takes his own life, an acceptable ending for the reader. As Miller’s play ends, the personal beliefs of each character come into question. Chris is forced to look at his father, and his father’s guilt, in the harsh light of reality for the first time. Father’ had always meant the personification of goodness and infallibility to Chris.
When reality’s light illuminates the cracks in Keller’s good-guy facade, Chris can only run away. Ironically, the only person who truly realizes the full consequences of Keller’s crime is Keller himself; he dies to regain his conscience. Another belief that shatters under reality’s torrents is Mrs. Keller’s belief that her son survived the war. She is forced to confront this pipe dream in the end, when Ann brings a letter from Larry, documenting his planned suicide. As in O’Neil’s The Iceman Cometh, this confrontation of the pipe dream does not bring peace – but death.
This play is highly structured and extremely well-written. As soon as Miller sets his main theme into place, the entire play moves in the direction of that theme’s tragic conclusion. The battle described in Miller’s drama, the unending war between social expediency and moral righteousness, comes to the inevitable climax that the reader needs and expects. No loose ends are left behind to add ambiguity to the work, and the reader is left satisfied that Miller has come to a logical and fulfilling denouement.