All My Sons

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Larry Keller Character Analysis

Never seen in the play, Larry Keller committed suicide in war, following news that his father and Steve manufactured faulty parts and killed American soldiers. Only Annie (Larry’s former girlfriend) knew of Larry’s suicide, and when she reveals it Joe comes to believe that he has killed his son, and therefore kills himself at the close of the play. Larry is memorialized by the Kellers in the form of a tree in the backyard, which is shorn by the wind.

Larry Keller Quotes in All My Sons

The All My Sons quotes below are all either spoken by Larry Keller or refer to Larry Keller. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin edition of All My Sons published in 2000.
Act 1 Quotes

Well, a favorable day for a person is a fortunate day, according to his stars. In other words it would be practically impossible for him to have died on his favorable day.

Related Characters: Frank Lubey (speaker), Larry Keller
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Frank is an openly superstitious character. He has spent his time since the war living in suburbia, working a job, and reading astrological charts for information on Larry Keller's disappearance. From the beginning, then, Miller's play is concerned with the line between rational understanding, belief, and superstition. Most of the other characters are not as explicitly superstitious as Frank, but they nevertheless each have, in their way, their own non-rational understandings of how events played out during and after the Second World War. 

Despite this, the other characters, with the exception of Kate Keller, seem not to pay too much serious attention to the idea that Larry is still alive. But the very slim possibility—that he has been waiting out the war, that he was captured—appears to keep the family together. This frustrated potential for Larry's return is symbolized by the tree in the front yard—a tree the Kellers planted to memorialize Larry, but which Kate now feels might have been put in the ground prematurely. 

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See? We should have never planted that tree. I said so in the first place; it was too soon to plan a tree for him.
Too soon!
We rushed into it . . . .

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Chris Keller (speaker), Larry Keller
Related Symbols: Larry’s Tree
Page Number: 20-1
Explanation and Analysis:

This is an even more explicit reference, on Kate's part, to the idea that Larry might still in fact be alive. Chris understands that this really cannot be the case. Furthermore, Chris knows that Kate and Joe's unwillingness to accept Larry's death is a way for the family both to deal with the trauma of the war and to refuse to move beyond it.

Chris, however, does want to leave the war behind. He does not want to remain in Larry's shadow, and he does not want to be compared to his brother anymore. Larry is no longer alive, and so he can no longer marry Ann, or raise a family with her, or return to the town and take over the family business. For Chris, life really begins with the acknowledgement that Larry truly is gone. 

As in the quotation above, the tree is a complex, "overdetermined" symbol. On the one hand, it is a celebration of Larry's life. On the other, it marks the fact that he is truly gone, and thus requires a memorial. Thus as much as Kate is drawn to the tree, walking to it in the night, she also knows that the tree itself "replaces" Larry—just as Chris has "replaced" Larry as Ann's lover. 

It’s wrong to pity a man like that [Steve]. Father or no father, there’s only one way to look at him. He knowingly shipped out parts that would crash an airplane. And how do you know Larry wasn’t one of them?

Related Characters: Ann Deever (speaker), Larry Keller, Steve Deever
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Ann states without guilt that if her father, Steve, knowingly was involved in the shipping of faulty parts for airplanes during the war, then he should be punished. Ann believes that the guilt for the airmen's deaths should fall on the heads of those who were negligent in manufacturing the parts. She does not seem to imply that Joe was one of these people—she places the blame squarely on her father's shoulders, despite their close familial relationship.

But, of course, the other characters in the play recognize that Joe might very well have been responsible for the shipping of the parts as well, and that Joe might even have "sold out" Steve in order to protect his (Joe's) family, at Steve's expense. Ann appears not to believe this. But others in the community wonder if Ann hasn't returned to "check up on" the Keller family, to see whether Joe has been unfair to her father, who is currently in prison for his crime. 

Act 2 Quotes

. . . it’s very unusual to me, marrying the brother of your sweetheart.
I don’t know. I think it’s mostly that whenever I need somebody to tell me the truth I’ve always thought of Chris . . . . He relaxes me.

Related Characters: Ann Deever (speaker), Sue Bayliss (speaker), Chris Keller, Ann Deever, Larry Keller
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Sue makes no bones about telling Ann that her behavior—marrying Chris after being Larry's girlfriend during the war—is "strange" to her. Ann, for her part, admirably replies that she loves and admires Chris, and that the two themselves have had a long friendship, dating back even to when Larry and Ann were together. Ann thus parries Sue's attack—trying to brush off her concern while defending her choice to be with Chris.

Sue seems to want to sow discord between Chris and Ann. She, like Jim and some of the other neighbors, is heavily involved in the privates lives of those she lives near to. Miller creates an atmosphere in which private business, things that belong within a home or to one family, become instances of public drama. Joe, Kate, Chris, and Larry are public, tragic figures in their town, and their neighbors know nearly as much, or more, about their lives than they do. 

And now you’re going to listen to me, George. You had big principles, Eagle Scouts the three of you [Larry, George, Chris] . . . Stop being a philosopher, and look after yourself. Like Joe was just saying—you move back here, he’ll help you get set, and I’ll find you a girl and put a smile on your face.

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Joe Keller, Chris Keller, George Deever, Larry Keller
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Kate more explicitly addresses what she perceives to be George's "problem." Kate believes that everything can be solved by the creation of an intact family unit. This is perhaps why she is most haunted by Larry's loss—because Larry was not able to return, marry Ann, and begin his own family. Although Kate also wants Chris to have a family, she is cooler on the prospect of Chris's marrying Ann, who is "Larry's girl," and who belongs therefore to a different family unit.

Kate ignores, then, what George is really saying—that Joe is a criminal and a liar, and that he has been living his lie for some years. That is a fact Kate cannot approach—just as she cannot tell herself that Larry is really gone. It is much easier for Kate to believe, instead, that the problem is George's—that George has not recovered from the war, and that he just needs a wife and family to set him straight. 

Act 3 Quotes

The war is over! Didn’t you hear? It’s over!
Then what was Larry to you? A stone that fell into the water? It’s not enough for him [Joe] to be sorry. Larry didn’t kill himself to make you and Dad sorry.
What more can we be!

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Chris Keller (speaker), Joe Keller, Larry Keller
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Kate's statement—The war is over!—means that the past is really in the past, that there is nothing anyone can do to change it. Kate believes that, whatever crimes Joe committed, whatever guilt the family bears, they must be ignored if the family is to continue on into the future. This is why the Kellers remained in the neighborhood and lived their lives as though nothing had happened.

But Larry also remains the reason why the Kellers cannot fully let go of the war. Because Kate holds out hope that Larry will, in fact, return, the war is never truly relegated to the past in the Keller household. Instead, Larry's continual "possibility" of reappearance, though it really is no possibility, forces Kate to relive the war each day. She cannot, and will not, move beyond it.

Chris points out that Larry did not die to hurt anyone. Indeed, Larry was a victim of Joe's sins, and Joe must acknowledge this in order for everyone's lives to continue. The past must be addressed. Joe finally does this, quickly and summarily, before killing himself, and only then does Kate tell Ann and Chris to move away, to begin new lives apart from the Keller family.

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Larry Keller Character Timeline in All My Sons

The timeline below shows where the character Larry Keller appears in All My Sons. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
...has two sons: one, Chris, who works with him in the family business, and one, Larry, who died flying a mission in the Second World War. The play is set is... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...a tree in the backyard, a tree Joe reveals was planted as a memorial to Larry, his son lost in the war. Joe says a storm the previous night sheared the... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
...and eating breakfast—Ann was a girl who used to live in the neighborhood and date Larry, and she remains a friend of the Keller family. (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
Chris and Joe look at the shorn tree that once memorialized Larry. Chris tells Joe, to Joe’s surprise, that Kate, Joe’s wife and Chris’s mother, has already... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...“made a mistake” with Kate because they have kept her under the false impression that Larry might still be alive, even though he went missing in battle three years before. Chris... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...wants to ask her to marry him, even though he knows that Annie was once “Larry’s girl,” and even though Kate will not approve of the union—since it will mean, symbolically,... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
...But Kate also says she likes the fact that Annie has not moved on from Larry and gotten married. Kate complains that many women whose husbands or boyfriends died in the... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
...becomes upset with his mother, indicating to her that, perhaps, Annie is no longer mourning Larry, and that she has waited to get married for other reasons. But Kate will have... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
Chris is shocked to hear that Kate believes it is “too soon” to be mourning Larry. Chris says that the tree’s being cut in half has no significance for Larry’s life... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...presumed lost in the war who have returned home, but Joe says the chances of Larry returning are very slim. Kate still believes, or wants to believe, that Annie, too, is... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...she’s surprised he has so many clothes, but Chris reveals that Annie is staying in Larry’s old room, and that the clothes and shoes, still shined by Kate, are Larry’s—Annie seems... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
Annie goes so far as to wonder whether her father’s negligence didn’t kill Larry, who happened to go missing in a plane crash. But Kate begs Annie never to... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...Annie tells Chris to kiss her like he means it, and not like he’s just Larry’s brother. Annie asks Chris if Chris is ashamed about their union, and Chris says no,... (full context)
Act 2
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...day. Chris is outside, in dress pants but no shirt, clearing away the brush from Larry’s sheared tree. Kate comes out, not yet dressed for dinner, to see what Chris is... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...finished his astrological calculations, and that November 25th was in fact a favorable day for Larry, meaning Larry “can’t” have died on that day. Kate appreciates this information and sends Frank... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
Kate then screams to Joe and Chris that Chris has to understand something: if Larry is dead, then Joe “killed” him, and “God doesn’t allow fathers to kill their sons.”... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...the murder of 21 pilots, and though Joe keeps arguing that he’s not responsible for Larry’s death, Chris is too horrified by his father’s actions to believe anything he says anymore.... (full context)
Act 3
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...that she wants Kate to speak directly to Chris, apologizing for keeping the memory of Larry alive. Annie vows that Larry is in fact dead, and that Kate knows it. But... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...to intercept her, shoves it in Chris’s hands, telling Chris it was the last thing Larry sent her—Annie does this, it seems, to persuade Chris to take her with him, since... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...though he was responsible for the deaths of some pilots, he was not responsible for Larry’s. Joe tells Annie, Kate, and Chris that, although he always thought he didn’t kill his... (full context)