All My Sons – Working Notes

The central theme of Miller’s play is that of social responsibility. This is the duty of an individual to the society in which he lives.

Keller’s crime is placing his own prosperity over the lives of the pilots, who ultimately are killed by his inaction.

Keller is able to pin the crime on Deever and maintain his own status in society, even though his actions are immoral.

Keller is not punished by the laws of society, but he loses both his sons, and is judged by the society in which he lives. Unable to live with the consequences of his actions, he kills himself.

The sale of the cylinder heads is similar to a stone dropped into water, with endless rippling repercussions.

A second major theme is the preservation of the family. This is central to much American life, but it corrupts society when it is at the cost to the wider group.

Keller’s actions were not motivated by a desire to harm. His concern was purely to give his family the best possible life. In this regard, we could all have committed this crime.

Symbols in All My Sons

The tree in the garden symbolises the family’s attempt to keep the memory of Larry alive. However, it also symbolises the family’s belief that Larry is literally still alive. When it is struck by lightning, we see the suggestion that he is dead, but it also coincides with Ann’s visit, and she destroys the fantasy that Larry is still alive (accomplished with Larry’s suicide note). Kate interprets the destruction of the tree as a sign that Larry will return.

George’s wearing of his father’s hat symbolises George’s acceptance of his father’s views. George is tainted in the view of the Kellers by his association with his father.


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