All My Sons Act Three


Section 1

The start of Act Three


Jim: It occurred to me a long time ago. 

Miller shows that Jim is intuitive and perceptive like Kate. He guessed that the Kellers were hiding the truth of Joe's  involvement in the scandal and Kate always thought that Chris knew - maybe subconsciously.

Miller uses the first two sections of Act Three as a way to explore Jim's character further.

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Section 2

Mother: I always had the feeling that in the back of his head, Chris ... almost knew. I didn't think it would be such a shock.


Mother: You can't bull yourself through this one, Joe, you better be smart now. This thing - this thing is not over yet.

We discover more about Jim's idealism as contrasted with his wife's practicality. Miller explores the same dilemma from the other side - seeing Jim's perspective. He enjoys medical research but it doesn't pay well and so he had to live on 'bananas and milk.' That didn't matter to Jim as he loved it - making it clear with 'It was beautiful.' He was living up to these ideals. 

Sue didn't find it easy to live without Jim. Sue was worried that his dedication to research mean't she would lose him. he sacrificed the researched to be with her and now he lives 'in the usual darkness.' The adjective 'usual' conveys that he thinks it is only a unique man who lives up to his ideals, and that he is not one of them. It is the day-to-day mundane way of life that most people choose rather than having the courage to do what they really want.

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Section 3

Keller: And what is she doing up there? She don't come out of the room.


Keller: Forgiven! I could live on a quarter a day myself, but I got a family so I -

Keller and Kate's discussion is an emotional turmoil that exhausted Kate and made Keller frustrated and scared. Kate's suggestion that Keller says he wants to go to prison is her only solution. It would be a way to show Chris that he was sorry for what he did and that he wanted forgiveness.

Keller can't understand where Kate is coming from and he doesn't get why he needs to do this - it's an alien thought to him. For him, family duty and loyalty are everything and he wanted to care for his family, he had to work, to run a business. This meant he had to make hard decisions but he doesn't see anything wrong with that. He wants everyone to 'see it human' to try and understand the difficulty and complexity of the situation, rather than to impose an impractical and unworkable idealism.

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Section 4

Mother: Joe, Joe...It don't excuse it that you did it for the family.


Mother: I know, darling, I know.

Miller uses dramatic irony and sets in motion the dramatic culminating events of the play.

Keller can't understand Chris's anger and hurt at discovering the truth about him:

Nothin's bigger than that. And you're goin' to tell him, you understand? I'm his father and he's my son, and if there's something bigger than that i'll put a bullet in my head!

This threat, which we know he lives out, sets in motion the unravelling of the Keller's family towards Keller's suicide.

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Section 5

Ann: Why do you stay up? I'll tell you when he comes.


Mother: What's enough for me? What're you talking about?

we see the impact the revelation of truth has had on Ann and how the scandal impacts each character in turn. For Ann, it's important she has Chris but she doesn't want her relationship to come between Chris and his parents - hence she wants Kate to be open about Larry's death to set Chris free.

This is another divide that separates the two characters. Ann wants Chris but Kate wants Larry and neither can understand eachother as they are both heavily emotionally invested in Larry's death or Larry's still being alive.

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Section 6

Ann: You're hurting my wrists.


Ann: Kate, dear, I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry.

The antagonism and separation between Ann and Kate reaches a climax. Ann is frustrated with Kate's inability to accept the truth that she finally decides - though with awareness of how emotional it will be - to show Kate the last letter Larry ever wrote.

It is at this emotional juncture that Chris then re-enters the stage after his absence. Miller quickly builds up the emotional intensity toward the dramatic climax of the play.

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Section 7

Chris: What's the matter-?


Ann: Then I will!

We don't get to see the content of the letter until later. Miller shows the impact the truth has on Chris as he wants a new job as he can't work in the family business due to the nature of the scandal he accuses his parents, 'you made me practical', as for Chris being practical and sacrificing your ideals is bad. For the Keller parents, 'You can't be a Jesus in this world' so you have to accept the reality of the world and of difficult situations and decisions. Idealism is of no use here when you have to make a living and feed a family.

Chris recalls his war services because his ideals (honour and duty) were necessary. He longed for the feeling despite the possibility of death. His realisation that the real world is messy is contained in the exclamation 'This is a zoo, a zoo!' which implies there is no moral code, order or principle at work in the world. Everyone is out for themselves - dog eat dog (an idiom Chris refers to indirectly with 'This is the land of the great big dogs.')

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Section 8

Keller: What's the matter with you? I want to talk to you.


Chris: I can't look at you this way, I can't look at myself?

The truth about Keller affects Kate, Ann and Chris and he enters before the dramatic climax. It is not just him who acts in a 'practical' or pragmatic way and other people also deserve jail if he does. Chris: I know you're no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father...

Chris expected better of him as he is his father. Keller thinks he should be forgiven as he is his father- showing the extent of which the two man stand opposite as they have different priorities. For Chris to discover that his father isn't who he said he was breaks apart his ideals. He can't look at his dad or think himself as related to a man who could do what keller had done. For Chris who is idealistic and driven by higher goals, the thought that his father has not lived up to ideals is unbearable.

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Section 9

Mother: Give me that!


Keller: I think I do. Get the car. I'll put on my jacket.

The letter is read aloud. This delay increases anticpation and tension as we wait to discover the contents. In act 3, characters are introduced to the stage in succession to show us how the truth of what Keller did has had an impact on them. Now it's Larry's turn, his thoughts are recorded before he dies.

Larry found the thought of Keller's actions unbearable. Keller thought Larry was practical but was in fact just as confused and torn as Chris over the discovery of his father's involvement. It was this discovery that brought about his death and this is emotionally wrecking for Keller. 

Larry: I'm going out on a mission in a few minutes. They'll probably report me missing.' 

This implies Larry intends to die on this mission as he is torn apart by the news of his father's guilt.

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Section 10

Mother: Why are you going? You'll sleep, why are you going?


The end of Act Three

Knowing he caused Larry's death is too much for Keller. 'Then what is this if it isn't telling me? Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were. I'll be right down.' This marks a change in Keller's understanding and he sees it the way his sons do and he has no choice and he wants to finish what he started. 

Chris: You can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it, and unless you know that, you threw away your son because that's why he died.' Larry died as he couldn't bear the knowledge of his father's lack of responsibility. Through Chris and Larry, Miller has extended the concept of family and duty, you can't think your sense of duty end at the front door and so Keller can't live with himself. The play ends with an emotional Chris and Kate due to the suicide; they are exhausted and broken and Miller has dramatically staged the breakdown of a normal American family and asked us to question ourselves closely.

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