All My Sons
by Arthur Miller
All My Sons Theme of Morality and Ethics
In All My Sons, moral fortitude generally loses to practicality and self-protection. Fearing the failure of his business, Joe Keller ships faulty parts to the military, which causes the death of 21 pilots, and blames it on his partner. His son Chris, while suspicious, protects his share of the business (and his psyche) by neglecting to question his father. The scapegoat's son, George, comes for revenge, but faced with his sister's iron resolve to get married to Chris, leaves with nothing. Morality doesn't have the place in the day-to-day world. In the war, says Chris, men "killed themselves for each other… a little more selfish and they'd've been here today" (1.541). The characters in this play, though, are the survivors – the selfish and the self-preserving.
Questions About Morality and Ethics
- What moral position do Frank and Lydia represent in the play?
- Joe Keller claims that his highest good is his family; that he committed his crime solely to protect them. Do you believe him?
- If Chris were to "do the right thing" at the end of the play, what would it be?
Chew on This
Chris Keller will grow up to be just as compromising as his father.
George Deever is the only ethical character in the play, and must be ejected from the morally-tainted neighborhood.