“Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were.” How does Arthur Miller portray the issue of personal responsibility in the final scenes of ‘All My Sons’?
In the play ‘All My Sons’ by Arthur Miller, written shortly after the First World War we meet the Keller family. From the stage directions we can assume that the Kellers represent the average family, living unpretentious but comfortable lives. Miller introduces his central character, Joe Keller as a successful businessman, who through hard work and determination has built up his shop to be “one of the best shops in the state.”
The play expresses different perceptions on wealth, honesty, war and family. However at the climax of the play, the main focus is the problem of personal responsibility. Above all, Miller validates the dangers of belittling responsibility and assigning blame to others. Almost every character in ‘All My Sons’ refuses to accept responsibility to some extent. The main culprits being the Keller’s who despite being initially portrayed as a tight knit family, Miller brings to light huge cracks within their family relationships due to the lies they tell and the secrets they keep throughout the play.
Yet Miller makes his most irresponsible character within ‘All My Sons’; Joe Keller. Joe’s major guilt is caused by the shipment of faulty parts to the army, despite promising his friend, business partner and neighbour Steve that he would take responsibility. Joe later reneged on his promise. The ramification of his broken promise is not only that “21 P40’s went down” but Steve was imprisoned for the crime. Miller makes Joe able to live with his guilt because of his belief that everyone committed despicable actions during the war; the implication that “half the goddam country has gotta go if I go” cements the overall mind set of people living during the war. Joe continues to say that “when they work for nothin’, I’ll...