All My Sons (Anglais) Broché – 3 décembre 2009
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This early play foreshadows the disillusionment by the son of the father that plays so predominantly in "Death of a Salesman," the flagship of Miller's dramatic output. Miller also introduces the idealist's version of moral behavior. When younger son Chris discovers his father's flawed decision to continue production of cracked engine parts, he berates him for lacking the high caliber of character of which he thought his dad was made. His father sincerely asks Chris: "What could I do?" The key line and one which comes to fruition in "The Crucible" is "You could be better." Actions have consequences.
Yes, I am revealing a key secret in the play, but it is the consequences of this revelation that is really the clincher of Miller's powerful morality play. That I will not reveal. But lack of idealism, lack of moral turpitude show the inner essence of a person. Everyone is born with this pure core. Time and circumstances chip away, a day at a time, a person's idealism. Only the few survive. Joe Keller has revealed a seriously hacked core; Chris's is still intact. But at what price?
Two other stories deal with the consequences of idealism. Miller's The Crucible (Penguin Classics) shows John who can confess to witchcraft (although not guilty) and live, or deny his involvement, be found guilty, and die. He must sign a document; in doing so, he besmirches his name. Because of his idealism: "It is my name, I have no other," he cannot sign and thus dies. In the other story, Gone Baby Gone Casey Affleck's character believes it to be just to turn in the kidnapper and return the child to her neglectful mother and a probable miserable life, or leave the child with the kidnapper who would inevitably give the child a good home. Each decision shows the impact of idealism. Actions have consequences. Good or bad?
Chris forces his father to acknowledge his misdeed by realizing he caused the pilots' deaths. Joe says, "Yes, they were all my sons." Even this is not the end of the misdeeds. Two other secondary plots involve moral choices and evil consequences when morality is not chosen. Ann Deaver, the girl next door who was engaged to the older brother when he went to war, and now recently engaged to Chris, must live with a flawed decision she made. The other plot line goes to Ann's father and the consequences surrounding him.
"All My Sons' is a powerful play that holds up to scrutiny an American story of success at a high cost and the devastation that malignant success brings to so many others. With this play Miller established himself as a major talent and voice of conscience which would become so important in "The Crucible" and McCarthyism to come.
The story tells of partners in a defective machine shop during World War II. Keller escapes punishment for the faulty parts. Herbert Deever is sent to prison. Keller's son Chris intends to marry his deceased brother's love who happens to be Herbert Deever's daughter Anne. Keller's wife Kate is in denial of their son Larry's death. This denial makes her a trademark of Miller's works, an annoying female character. She is overbearing and at times a nag. Thus, conflict is created over Chris and Anne's relationship. The story reaches its climax when the true nature of Larry's death is revealed. While the conclusion is not shocking, it is a fitting end.
Miller has written some great plays and novels. While this is certainly not as good as Death of a Salesman, it is still a solid work.
Joe Keller seems to be a decent person trying to make a life for his family. He made his living building parts for airplanes, and he did significant business with the military. His family includes his wife Kate and his son Chris. (His other son Larry died in W.W. II.) Though his wife continues to believe that Larry is still alive. At first, she just seems to have the natural hopes a mother might, but we come to suspect that there are other reasons she can't bring herself to admit Larry is dead. Moving on, Chris is in love with Annie. (Annie is an interesting caught in the middle character. She was in love with the Larry, and her father worked with Joe Keller.) Keller went on trial for selling defective parts to the military that resulted in the deaths of several pilots. Joe Keller got off, but Annie's father went to jail. Though Annie doesn't seem overly concerned about her father. Putting Annie in the middle again, Kate gives Annie grief over the fact that she is planning to marry Chris. (If Annie marries Chris, Kate has to admit that Larry is dead.) Tensions rise when Joe Keller hears that Annie's brother George (a lawyer) has been talking to his father in prison.
In the 2nd act, we meet Annie's brother George, and he clearly objects to Annie marrying Chris. He blames Joe Keller for the imprisonment of his father, and does not want the Keller family to get his sister as well. Joe Keller covers himself well, but we can also tell he is 'working at looking innocent.' Tensions rise when Kate packs Annie's bags. (In other words, Kate wants Annie out of the house.) Chris then suspects that his father did have a part in the shipping of defective parts that caused the deaths of several pilots. Joe Keller admits his guilt. This carries Miller's intentions in his dislike of business over what really matters in life. Though Miller offers a bit of sympathy to Joe. Joe did not expect the parts to make it into the airplanes. He felt they would be discovered before anyone got hurt. This puts Chris into a psychotic frenzy.
In the final act, Annie is willing to forget Joe Keller's guilt if she can marry Chris, but Kate refuses to believe Larry is dead. Now we come to the greatest flaw in the book. Annie produces a letter from Larry shortly before he killed himself. This letter makes Joe Keller's guilt indisputable. I call this a flaw, because Annie's character is not consistent with someone who would have had this knowledge. (Especially her coldness towards her father in prison.) In a crisis of conscience Joe Keller puts the title of the play into the story: "They were all my sons." In a final moment, Chris carries Miller's feelings: "...there's a universe of people outside, and you're responsible to it."
The ending is tragic, but this is usually the case in Miller's stories. Overall, it's a great play that emphasizes that the consequences of actions are just as real as the actions.
In general terms, ALL MY SONS presents us with what seems to be an "all American family" in the aftermath of World War II. Joe and Kate Keller are a middle aged couple with two sons, one missing in action since the war. Joe runs a factory; Kate is obsessed with the notion that the missing son will some day return; and son Chris has fallen in love with is missing brother's former girlfriend, Ann. At first the play seems to be about Kate's resistance to Chris and Ann's romance, which she clearly sees as a betrayal of her lost son--but the play takes a gradual turn that lifts it out purely domestic drama and into the realm of wider social issues.
It transpires that Ann's father was once in business with Joe and the factory they owned sold faulty aircraft parts that resulted in the loss of 21 pilots during the war. In a subsequent trial Ann's father was held responsible and Joe was found entirely innocent of wrong-doing. As the play progresses, suspicion begins to arise about whether these findings were correct--and if they shouldn't have been the other way around. Did Joe Keller, who seems such a likeable family man, knowingly send out the faulty parts and shift blame to his partner?
The first two acts of the play are remarkably well-crafted, presenting us with vivid characters and some of the most realistic dialogue ever heard on stage. Toward the third act, however, the mechanics of the play become a bit too obvious. This is particularly true when Ann reveals to the family a letter she has had in her possession all along, the content of which precipitates the final climax of the play. The phrase "deus ex machina" comes to mind: an artifical device unnaturally inserted into the play in order to bring the story to a conclusion.
Whenever I review a play I feel called on to note that playscripts are essentially a blueprint for a performance. They are not really intended to be read, but to be seen on stage, where performing artists give the author's writings the final breath of life. As such, it is not always possible to see how a particular script "plays" when it is on stage before an audience. Like most of Miller's plays, ALL MY SONS reads very well--but I have the distinct feeling that the flaws of the play are much more noticeable on the page than they are on the stage. Although the play suffers a bit in comparison to Miller's later works, it is nonetheless an essential for anyone seriously interested in 20th Century American drama; recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
If you liked "Death of a Salesman" then go for this book too. On the other hand, if you found "Death of a Salesman" to be lackluster, "All My Sons" will only add to your grief.