Joe Keller

  • Created by: Holly
  • Created on: 03-05-13 21:42



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  • Protagonist

Development (Growth & change)

Other information              

  • The first stage directions highlight Keller as fixed in his own ways, a man with the mentality of hierarchial positioning, lacking formal education, a man who responds to the world on the basis of his own experience, a man identified as someone who others respect and admire, works primarily on the land.
  • In the first scene Keller appears to be a friendly easy-going and welcoming man towards those around him. "What's doin'?" + Jim freely uses Kellers tobacco + lets Sue take his parsely + plays with the neighboorhood child, Bert.
  • With Chris we see Keller worries about his wife and is dominated by her. "The girl is Larry's girl" he assists in Kates delusions as she does in his. It is clear that he cares for his son "the whole shootin' match is for you!" when talking about the business. Also cares for his wife "sit down, take it easy"
  • Problems in Joes character start to become evident with Kates warnings "you above all have got to beleive, you..." Similarly with the jail scene that follows.
  • Keller is highly confident and persuasive at this point. He knows the rest of the neighbourhood beleive he is innocent and to an extent has fooled himself. He openly speak to Ann about her father "he's a decent man after all is said an done". In his speech scene all his persuasive elements are highlighted as he relays the day he arrived home. He uses high levels of rhetoric. Very confident and seen as a powerful man.
  • His second speech on the conditions in the work house similarly effectively highlights the stress. He wants to take the blame away from Steve as by doing this he justifies his own actions.
  • As the past returns we find Kellers flaws begin to surface. He questions Chris on Ann. When Chris gets angry he says he will rename the plant, shows Kellers undying beleif that the business is everything. Kate tells him to "be smart now, joe" showing how his persuasion may no longer work. Keller slams the door showing how he beleives he has done nothing wrong as he 'slams the door' on his crime. He sleeps in the start of the next act = worry.
  • Kellers lack of education becomes apparent when Ann and Chris tease him. Keller still uses his persuasion however by offering to Ann to give George a place in his business as well as Steve. He is growing less confident however as the stage directions show "as though the outburst had revealed him"
  • With the confrontation with George Keller retains his old sense of confidence and persuasion. The disrupted adjacany where he highlights Steves faults in fact persuades George to forget his original intentions "All right."
  • With Kates revealance however comes many changes. His orignal care and assisting of Kate dissapears as he outrightly tells her "fifteen years you been talking like a maniac" He also starts to become scared "(afraid of him, his deadly insistance)" still beleives he is in the right though "let them take my life away?" he blames everyone but himself "she's out of her mind" + "what the hell is the mater with you?" + "it was too late, the papers..". His calm and persuasive confidence is leaving him as the ellipses in his conversation with chris ("I didn't say that..."+ "but that don't mean..." ) shows either Chris' growing power over his father or Kellers deteriorating power.
  • There is a change in Kellers role as a friendly neighbour now. When Jim  leaves his first words is the threatening interrogative "what's he doing here?" followed by "I don't like that". He blames his family "what happened to my family?" blames Kate "this minute there's trouble you have no strength."
  • We see the core reason why Keller has his mentality "I should've put him out when he was ten like I was put out" The reader is torn between disliking and feeling sorry for him. We find he truly does feel that doing it for his family excuses social responsibility "Nothin' is bigger"
  • We also find that he is also quite manipulative towards his family "if something is bigger than that then i'll put a bullet to my head!" He know blames chris for not being as good as larry, highly ironic when we find he is completely wrong "if Larry was alive he wouldn't act like this"
  • Keller justifies himself by saying that he was not the only one who commited such crimes in the war "it's nickels and dimes". However, he states the two things that Chris hates: making a profit out of the war and highlighting that he (the previously perfect father) has a large flaw. When he says "A man can't be a Jesus in this world!" he is implying that Chris expects him to suffer on behalf of all the war profiteers. But he fails to link that Jesus is a blameless man.
  • Finally there is Keller's moment of anagnorisis. "I think to him they were all my sons." after hearing he was the cause of Larry's loss of life, and therefore the cause of the one thing he had always worked to preserve, Keller becomes still and calm "turns and starts walking slowly for the house".
  • Finally with Kellers death we have different emotions towards him. On the one hand we feel he has done the right thing as he has punished himself for his crime. At the same it could also be seen that he was simply avoiding the blame that would otherwise have fallen upon him and caused him great shame. It also does nothing for society, there is still injustice, the only positive is that his family are released of having to share his crime. Keller therefore is still doing whats best for his family, rather than what is right for society. Did he change?
  • Keller starts as a seemingly friendly man
  • soon find his actions are a way to avoid suspicion of the shop incident i.e being against confronting mother about Larry + being ambivilant towards chris and ann (ann is a potential problem)
  • Also find Keller is just as keen to keep his sons faith in him. He quickly   offers to change the shop name when Chri seems angry = the most pitiable aspect of his personality is that he taints his genuine love for his son by using it as an excuse to justify his crime. Keller allows the negative aspects of his personality to pollute his positive aspects.
  • Whenever Keller worries it is Kate who has to re orientate him i.e with georges arrival and chris' repudiation of him
  • The tradgedy of Kellers character is that he has partly convinced himself that his was a selfless act, justified by the prosperity it brought to his family.


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