Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
Joe Keller is a successful businessman living in a small American town. A few years prior, during the war, he caused the death of 21 pilots, then hid his crime. When his son Chris discovers his guilt – and associates it with the death of his brother, also a pilot – Keller repeats over and over, "he never flew a P-40" (2.526). He doesn't feel a responsibility to the rest of the world, only to his family. Yet a long-hidden letter from his dead son makes the man's responsibility clear. Finally Keller understands (and here's where the title gets a nod): "Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were" (3.167). Using the metaphor of family, Miller makes a point about the necessity of a wider social conscience, one that includes not only ourselves and our offspring, but also our whole world.