All My Sons
by Arthur Miller
All My Sons Theme of Lies and Deceit
Everyone is a liar in All My Sons. Joe Keller lies to his sons and his neighbors about a crime that killed 21 American pilots and sent his partner to prison. His wife Kate keeps quiet about it too. Chris, the surviving son and heir to Joe Keller's business, lies to himself about it. He has nothing to fear from the neighborhood, though – turns out everyone knows everyone's lying. There's a friendly neighborhood agreement to keep things cute. It's this complicity that the dead son, Larry, couldn't stand returning to after the sacrifice and bravery of war.
Questions About Lies and Deceit
- Why doesn't Ann bring out Larry's letter at the beginning of her visit? Or in the years prior?
- Is there an honest character in this play?
- Do you think "deceit" and "complicity" are one in the same? Are those characters who play along just as guilty as those who commit crimes?
Chew on This
All My Sons could be read as a study on shades of deceit: outright lie, complicit silence, and self-deception.
Kate's wily intelligence combines with Joe's social talent to make the Kellers a crackerjack team of deceivers.