All My Sons | Study Guide

Arthur Miller

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Course Hero. "All My Sons Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 Feb. 2019. Web. 27 July 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/All-My-Sons/>.

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Course Hero. (2019, February 7). All My Sons Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 27, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/All-My-Sons/

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Course Hero. "All My Sons Study Guide." February 7, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/All-My-Sons/.

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Course Hero, "All My Sons Study Guide," February 7, 2019, accessed July 27, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/All-My-Sons/.

All My Sons | Plot Summary

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Summary

Act 1

On an August Sunday morning in a Midwestern suburb, the Keller family is gathered with neighbors Jim and Sue Bayliss and Lydia and Frank Lubey. Frank is charting Larry Keller's horoscope. An apple tree has broken in the previous night's wind. It was planted to honor Larry, a pilot who disappeared three years ago after his plane crashed during World War II. Kate Keller cannot accept her son's death and believes he will return. To her the horoscope indicates that Larry has a future.

At Chris Keller's invitation, Chris's girlfriend and former neighbor, Ann Deever, has arrived from New York to visit. Chris, who works with his father, Joe Keller, intends to ask Ann to marry him. Because Ann was Larry's girlfriend, Chris and Ann know the proposal will upset Kate, for it will mean Larry is never returning. To break the news of his intentions to his mother, Chris asks for his father's help. Joe Keller refuses because it will upset Kate, whose state of mind and body are delicate—but not quite delicate enough to prevent her from attempting to run the show. However, when Chris says he would leave the family business and move away, Joe relents.

Joe Keller, a well-to-do businessman, is congenial. His interests are financial and familial. His previous arrest for selling defective wartime materials is openly discussed, for he views himself to all the world as totally exonerated. Instead, Steve Deever, his former business partner and Ann's father, was convicted as solely responsible for the crime and has been serving time in prison. The defective parts caused 21 military planes to crash, killing their pilots.

The neighbors interact casually, but it becomes apparent Dr. Jim Bayliss is unhappy in his work and must remain in it because his wife is driven by money. Because Frank Lubey avoided military service, he now is financially secure.

To ease tensions, the Kellers decide to go out for dinner that evening. At the end of the act, Ann receives a phone call from her brother, George, who announces that he is arriving that evening to visit the Kellers. He has spoken with his father in prison and has important information. Joe is uneasy, and Kate warns him to be careful.

Act 2

That evening tension builds over the appearance of George Deever and the relation of the Keller and Deever families over the question of responsibility for the sale of the defective materials. Many people in the town believe Joe Keller made Steve Deever take the blame for crimes they shared, while Joe himself thinks he can pacify George Deever by offering him and his father work. Instead, George arrives furious, convinced that Steve was framed by Joe, who lied under oath. Sue Bayliss takes Ann aside and asks her to leave town when she marries Chris because Chris's ideals have a negative effect on her husband. George, too, wants Ann to leave with him—immediately—but she refuses, intent on marrying Chris.

With manipulative friendliness, Kate manages to calm George, who begins to question his father's version of the story. A confrontation is about to be avoided, but Kate makes a slip of the tongue. Saying Joe hasn't been sick in 15 years contradicts the story he told at the trial: he claimed he was sick and couldn't come to the factory, and he denied speaking with Steve on the phone. Kate's revelation confirms that Joe has been lying all along and deliberately framed Steve. Chris now is shattered by the truth about his father and drives off.

Act 3

Truths emerge. Kate tells her husband that Chris now knows the truth about the defective parts and will expect him to confess and shoulder the consequences. Ann tells the Kellers that now she and Chris will have to leave to make a life for themselves somewhere else. With Kate still refusing to believe Larry is dead, Ann reveals a letter she received from Larry three years before. In it Larry explains he realizes his father's guilt in the deaths of so many of his men and has decided to take his own life. Chris returns after staying out all night and announces he is leaving—alone. Joe is unable to persuade Chris that he did what he did only for security for them all, that he made a choice in favor of his family. Crushed by having to acknowledge his responsibility and face prison, Joe shoots himself. As Chris tries to comfort Kate, she urges him to go his own way.

All My Sons Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Intending to propose, Chris has invited Ann for a visit.

Rising Action

2 The neighbors discuss the broken apple tree.

3 Frank maps Larry's horoscope, which indicates he's not dead.

4 Ann accepts Chris's proposal despite Kate's objections.

5 Joe will support the marriage if Chris will stay at his job.

6 George telephones to announce his plan to visit.

7 Kate warns Joe to watch what he says in front of George.

8 George reveals Joe's negligence in the faulty shipment.

9 Trying to soften George, Joe offers jobs to him and Steve.

10 Kate accidentally reveals that Joe lied to be exonerated.

Climax

11 Joe admits his guilt, saying it was for his family.

Falling Action

12 Ann reveals Larry's letter explaining his suicide.

13 Chris decides to leave permanently, and alone.

14 Kate suggests Joe offer to go to prison.

Resolution

15 Joe shoots himself, leaving Kate to improve her ways.

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