All My Sons Act One


First Section

Start of Act 1 including stage directions + scenery information


Keller: Well that shows you...ignorant you are, ***!

Miller establishes the difference between the characters of Keller and Dr Bayliss. Jim is a quick-witted man; Keller is slower and is not a thoughtful or intellectual man.

Language analysis: Keller's exclamation of shock and surprise at the array of careers or hobbies that it is possible to undertake: '***s!'

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Second Section

Frank: Hey what happened to your tree?


Keller: Is he talkin' sense?

Miller introduces key symbol of the play: the tree. The tree is connected to the family's sense of loss for Larry, and to the character of Larry himself.

Frank: He'd been twenty-seven this month. And his tree blows down.

Language Analysis: The American dialect and the informality of the way in which Frank speaks. 

For example: he misses out 'have' in the future perfect tense - would have been in Standard British English. These two separate short statements parallels Larry's birthday this month (August) with the blowing down of the tree. This is symbolically significant and Miller communicates this to us by pairing these statements closely.

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Third Section

Jim: Him? he's all right...that's all


Jim: (Sue, Jim's wife enters...) Except my wife, of course

Introduction of a new character - Annie. This is important; Annie was Larry's fiance - like the tree which has now blown down and she is another reminder that Larry is not here. This quickly builds up a picture of two families who have been devastated by the loss of one of 'all my sons' Larry.

Keller: Girl leaves here, a scrawny kid. Couple of years go by, she's a regular woman.

Language analysis: The passing of time is effectually conveyed in Keller's abbreviated speech. He misses the indefinite article 'a' at the beginning of this first statement. He misses out a conjuction ('and') which would be expected in standard British or American English. There is also the informal and familiar lexis such as the noun 'kid' and the informal adjective 'scrawny.' All of which tell us that Keller is speaking about someone for whom he has a great deal of love for.

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Fourth Section

Sue: (in some spirit) ... you dog  To:  Frank: I don't know why ... (he exists)

Miller introduces the second female character: Sue Bayliss. She is quick-witted with a sense of humour similar to her husband and also contrasts Keller's character. Miller characterises these two characters alike to show the love and affection between the two whilst in a relationship.

Sue: (in the same spirit) Mrs Adams is on the phone you dog. Sue: Don't sniff around me

Language analysis: She uses a common informal metaphor/idiom to describe her husband. This could either be a serious insult of light-hearted humour. In this context, it is evident that it is the latter as she replies 'in the same spirit' as her husband as Jim has just made a wry and light-hearted, ironical comment and Sue responds in the kind. She is just as quick-thinking as her husband and is able to join his verbal games. She instructs him not to 'sniff' around him - and this verb choice is deliberately chosen as it recalls the idiom and is intended to be witty.

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Fifth Section

Sue: (laughing) Thomas Edison


Lydia: Sh! Sh! (she exits laughing.)

Her entrance parallels Sue's. Miller also shows how Frank and Lydia are too a good match. They share characteristics as Lydia is a kind-hearted and pleasant character and this is shown through her concern for Annie.

Lydia: Is she still unhappy, Joe.

Language analysis: She refers to the person uses the personal pronoun 'she.' It is clear from the context who she is referring to and Lydia is confident that Keller will know who she means. She introduces the topic of Annie in her previous question - 'Annie get in?' - which shows Annie is on her mind. keller checks her meaning in his reply stating her name with a questioning intonation. Lydia thinks it is unnecessary to make it clear who she is speaking about showing us her level of concern and empathy for Ann.

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Sixth Section

Chris watches her off...part of a doughnut in the other


Bert: (Mystified, but willing) ... (back of arbour)

There is affectionate joking with Bert bayliss. Jim and Sue have two sons, Bert and Tommy, which parallels the Kellers but brings the Keller's loss into a sharper focus as the Bayliss sons are healthy and alive. Keller jokes with Bert in a fartherly and affectionate way which shows his love for children and the sadness surrounding the death of his son. Everything is a constant reminder of the Keller's loss. 

Keller: Now you're talkin', Bert. Now you're on the ball. First thing you know I'm liable to make you a detective.

Language analysis: Keller jokes that Bert is a 'Policeman' of the block and that he reports anything wrong to Keller. If he is successful, he is promoted to detective.The informality of the speech and the American dialect comes through in Keller's Speech identifying the friendly nature.

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Seventh Section Part 1

Keller: (calling after him) ... Bert   To:  Chris: you know ... thinking that we believe with her 

Miller builds up the play quickly by introducing new characters systematically. A key point of tension is introduced and it is clear Chris is in love with Annie but if Chris marries Ann it ultimately makes Larry's death definite. The Keller's are trying to avoid this fact, Kate specfically, and so this would be too big of a change for them. 

Chris: One of these days, they'll all come in here and beat your brains out.

Keller: What's she going to say? Maybe we ought to tell her before she sees it. 

Language analysis: Miller breaks the conversational chain in the incident in the above quote. It is expected that Keller would reply to this by continuing the topic by making a parallel example of her own about the children and about the jokes he plays. However we instead have a non-sequitur. Keller makes no reference to Bert and instead dramatically changes the conversation by asking a question on an entirely different topic.

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Seventh Section Part 2

This question refers back to the tree. Like Lydia previously, Keller assumed that his son will understand what he means and who he is talking about.

'She' is Keller's wife. There is concern that both father and son show for Kate and for her seeing that the tree has blown down makes it clear that Larry, his death and the tree are symbolically connected. The tree therefore represents Larry and his loss and for the tree to blow down therefore means something greater than itself, which is why both Chris and and Keller fear the consequences of Kate seeing the dead tree.

For Kate it would represent the reality of Larry's death and this is something Kate especially is not ready to openly admit. 

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Eighth Section

Keller: What...argue with her  To:  Keller: I ignore ... the girl is Larry's girl

The tension is built further as Miller established the point of disagreement between Chris and Keller surrounding accepting Larry's death. It is obvious Keller is not ready to move on and admit to Larry's death - the reasoning behind this is fundamental to themes of the play. 

Language analysis: Chris is able to be honest and open about the death. Chris himself is in love with Annie and he has to face the truth to be able to have a relationship with her as Larry was previously her fiance. Miller makes this clear in his use of direct statements - for example: Chris: I don't want to argue with her, but it's time she realised that nobody believes Larry is alive anymore

Keller's reaction to this is conveyed through a dramatic technique - instead of openly responding to Chris, Miller makes it clear that Keller is uncomfortable. He moves from Chris, a physical separation that communicates his unwillingness to engage with him in the topic. He also looks at the ground. Maintaining eye contact is expected in natural discourse so shifting gaze from the person you are speaking to is an effectual way to convey embarrassment and unwillingness to talk openly about the topic.

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Nineth Section

Chris: She's not Larry's girl   To:   Keller: Now ... Do you know? I don't (pause)

Conflict is rising as father and son confront each other over the truth of Larry's death. The hope that Larry is missing rather than dead, that is confusing the family, is sustaining Kate. Keller thinks is is possible to maintain this illusion as he is old and too wishes Larry will return and he wishes to maintain this illusion as he feels guilt towards his son's death which justifies his need to deny its reality. Chris however is young and has a life ahead of him and is in love with Annie therefore he has to be open about Larry's death and the family have to admit it being true. But with the Keller parents unwilling to do so, Miller has effectually brought Chris into conflict with his parents over this emotional issue. Despite Chris being presented as kind and loving, he is also presented as someone with inner conflicts of his own and that he is clearly frustrated and unhappy with the family state of affairs. Miller shows us his human and emotional side when he says - chris: I don't know why it is, but every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer. My whole bloody life, time after time after time.

Language analysis: the phrasal verb 'reach out' and 'pull back' presents Chris as someone grasping for something he has to withdraw from. The choice has connotation of a physical action and makes us feel like he is imprisoned and physically constrained from what he wants - powerful and vivid language conveying Chris's emotional state.

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Tenth Section

Chris: alright, then, Dad   To:   Mother appears on the porch ... capacity for love

Other conflicts arise as a result of Keller's inability to admit the truth and Chris's desire to be open and move on. Chris feels like he is being denied the life he deserves and he no longer sees reason to live close to his parents and work in the family business. This desire to leave the business and Keller's disbelief by the thought is the point of tension here. yet Miller has managed to build up conflict carefully.  The tension between father and son climaxes in this section and Keller shows frustration for his son through a dramatic technique as he puts his fist up to Chris's jaw in a threatening gesture that underlines the disagreement and conflict between the two. Yet Keller can see that Chris is confused as he only wants what his dad wanted and ultimately has (a home, a business, a wife and a family.) The men recognise that they differ greatly (Keller: I don't understand you, do I?  Chris: No, you don;t. I'm a pretty tough guy. )

Language analysis: Miller portrays Chris's inner strength and conviction and he won't let his parents refusal to admit the truth stand in the way of what he wants. It is this that keller fails to understand as he wishes his son were able to cover up the truth like him and Kate. Keller's question tag emphasises the lack of understanding. But they can agree that Keller does not understand Chris, though the same could also be said in reverse.

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Eleventh Section

Mother: Joe?  To:  Mother picks ... sprinkles them over plants

Miller introduces Kate Keller. Her entrance serves to change the mood and tone of the conflict between Chris and Keller. As their conflict was partly about the need to protect Kate, her entrance made the two men drop the argument and act very differently about her presence. As soon as she enters, Chris welcomes her and Keller politely answers her question and they do their best to hide the fact that they were arguing. 

Mother: It's her day off, what are you crabbing about?

Language analysis: Miller shows us Kate's straightforward and loving nature, despite her sadness for Larry. She is direct with Keller, who she clearly loves, as she has an affectionate way of talking to him, born from the familiarity of many years of marriage. The straightforward willingness to do the cooking is demonstrated in her statement 'It's her day off' and this answers Keller's question implicitly rather than directly. Kate too speaks in American dialect appropriate to her character and she uses informal Americanism when using the verb 'crabbing' to describe the action of moaning.

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Twelth Section

Mother: No more roses ... I haven't seen it in a century  To:  Mother: it's not like a headache

Kate has a pain in her head that isn't a headache showing that despite her ability to do every day tasks there is something deeply troubling her and it is making her restless and unhappy - this being her inability to come to terms with the death of her son.

Language analysis: Miller makes the symbolism of the play very clear for us indeed in Kate's speech, when she says the above quotation. Here, Kate connects up all the symbols of the play thus far: Larry's death, his tree, Annie and his birth month. Miller is setting the scene for something to happen and we can guess that this will be connected back to the father/son conflict. Kate uses the active verb 'decide' whereby the subject of this verb is 'everything' and therefore has the effect of personifying 'everything.' it is usually people who make decisions but in this statement it is like 'everything' is the person. The impact of this is to suggest that events are happening to the Kellers as if they had no control over their direction. This is effective in showing that the family are in the middle of affairs that they have little control over as the seed were sown along time ago through decisions of which they have already made. Miller is showing the inevitable unfolding of the consequences of decisions made a long time ago - consequences of which are entirely unavoidable and impossible for the characters to escape.

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