All My Sons

Joe Keller Character Analysis

Head of the Keller family, Joe runs a successful business, J. O. Keller, Inc., with his son, Chris. It is revealed, later in the play, that Joe OK’d the production of faulty plane parts during the Second World War, resulting in the deaths of 21 American airmen, although, at the time, Joe pawned this decision off on Steve Deever, Annie’s father and Joe’s subordinate at the company. After it is revealed by Annie that Larry knew of his father’s malfeasance and killed himself in the war because of it, Joe goes upstairs, pretending he will finally go to jail for his crime, and shoots himself at the close of the play.

Joe Keller Quotes in All My Sons

The All My Sons quotes below are all either spoken by Joe Keller or refer to Joe 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

She was out here when it broke.
When?
About four this morning. I heart it cracking and I woke up and looked out. She was standing right here when it cracked.

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Chris Keller (speaker), Kate Keller
Related Symbols: Larry’s Tree
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

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The trouble is, you don’t see enough women. You never did.
So what? I’m not fast with women.
I don’t see why it has to be Annie.
Because it is.

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Chris Keller (speaker), Ann Deever
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

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The man was a fool, but don’t make a murderer out of him.

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Steve Deever
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2 Quotes

The man [Joe] is innocent, Ann. Remember he was falsely accused once and it put him through hell. How would you behave if you were faced with the same thing again? Annie believe me, there’s nothing wrong for you here, believe me, kid.

Related Characters: Chris Keller (speaker), Joe Keller, Ann Deever
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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. . . you and George . . . go to prison and tell him [Steve] . . . “Dad, Joe wants to bring you into the business when you get out.”
You’d have him as a partner?
No, no partner. A good job.

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Ann Deever (speaker), Ann Deever, George Deever, Steve Deever
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

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The court didn’t know your father! But you know him. You know in your heart Joe did it.

Related Characters: George Deever (speaker), Joe Keller, Chris Keller
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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You, Joe . . . you’re amazingly the same.
Say, I ain’t got time to get sick.
He hasn’t been laid up in fifteen years.
Except my flu during the war.

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Kate Keller (speaker), George Deever (speaker)
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3 Quotes

What’d Joe do, tell him?
Tell him what?
Don’t be afraid, Kate, I know. I’ve always known.
How?
It occurred to me a long time ago.

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Dr. Jim Bayliss (speaker), Joe Keller
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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You have no strength. The minute there’s trouble you have no strength.
Joe, you’re doing the same thing again; all your life whenever there’s trouble you yell at me and you think that settles it.

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Kate Keller (speaker)
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

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Joe, Joe . . . it don’t excuse it that you did it for the family.
It’s got to excuse it!
There’s something bigger than the family to him.

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Joe Keller
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

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What are you talking about? What else can you do?
I could jail him! I could jail him, if I were human any more. But I’m like everybody else now. I’m practical now. You made me practical.
But you have to be.

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Chris Keller (speaker), Joe Keller
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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If you can’t get used to it [the Keller family money], then throw it away. You hear me? Take every cent and give it to charity, throw it in the sewer. Does that settle it? . . .

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Chris Keller
Page Number: 81-2
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chris, a man can’t be a Jesus in this world!

Related Characters: Joe Keller (speaker), Chris Keller
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Joe Keller Character Timeline in All My Sons

The timeline below shows where the character Joe 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
The play opens in the hedged-in backyard of the Keller home, with Joe Keller, head of the family, father of two boys, husband to Katie... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
As the play begins, Frank Lubey, Joe’s neighbor on the side of the property opposite Jim’s, enters the backyard and tells Joe... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
Frank asks Joe what’s happened to a tree in the backyard, a tree Joe reveals was planted as... (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
Chris comes downstairs, and Joe greets him, asking how Annie’s doing; Chris says she’s doing fine and asks for the... (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,... (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
...battle three years before. Chris has given up all hope of Larry being found alive; Joe seems to think it is possible, however slightly, that Larry is still living, but he... (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
Chris pulls closer to his father and continues talking. He tells Joe that he invited Annie to visit because he wants to ask her to marry him,... (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
Joe is nervous about how this news will affect Kate, and he refuses to tell 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
...to New York City—where Annie currently lives—in order to start a new, married life there. Joe is shocked that Chris would consider giving up the family business, one that Joe has... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Joe grumbles about needing a maid around the house to help his wife, and Kate reminds... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...Kate asks Chris to fetch her aspirin, instead of answering him directly, and turns to Joe, still in the yard, asking Joe why Annie has come to visit. Joe claims he... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
Kate reminds Joe of the other Americans presumed lost in the war who have returned home, but Joe... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Just then, Annie comes out with Chris to say hello to Joe and Kate. Joe is happy to see Annie and tells her how beautiful she 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
Annie tells Chris, in front of Joe and Kate, that she’s surprised he has so many clothes, but Chris reveals that Annie... (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
Joe and Kate also ask after Annie’s father, Steve, and mother—there seems to have been some... (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
...they aren’t, Annie worries that the issues have never gone away in the small town. Joe, who seems also to have been involved in the trial, says that, when he was... (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
Joe tells Annie that her father and mother should move back to town after her father... (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
...was responsible for Larry’s going missing—Kate cannot handle this possibility and goes inside, clearly upset. Joe turns, somewhat angrily, to Annie, and explains to her that she knows Larry never flew... (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
Joe continues, explaining to Annie what her father has done (and, simultaneously, providing the audience with... (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
Joe tells Annie that her father is not a bad man, that he just made a... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
Joe goes inside, leaving Chris and Annie alone. Annie tells Chris he’s been acting strange so... (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
...and Chris, having snapped out of his reverie about war-time versus peacetime life, kisses Annie. Joe comes outside again and briefly teases the two of them for kissing, then tells Annie... (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
...visit would have nothing to do with George, and that Annie harbors no grudge against Joe for her father’s fate (in fact, she strictly blames her father), Joe appears cheered, saying... (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
...town, and that he has something important he wants to discuss regarding his father with Joe. Annie, clearly shaken, tells Chris she wants to go for a drive, and the two... (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
...not yet dressed for dinner, to see what Chris is doing. Kate tells Chris that Joe is sleeping—that he always sleeps when he’s worried—and that Chris has to “protect” Kate and... (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
...even more pointed in her criticisms: she tells Annie that she and Jim “know” that Joe merely lied to get out of jail time and to put Steve in prison; she... (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
...that she’s a good nurse, but Annie snaps, immediately, that Sue “hates” Chris and the Kellers—she doesn’t understand how Chris can be so nice and forgiving to everyone. Annie asks 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
Joe comes outside and seems happy at the idea, now, that Chris and Annie are in... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
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Wealth and Its Accumulation Theme Icon
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...Jim is worried that George’s anger, which Jim believes to have to do with the Joe-Steve affair, will only cause Kate grief, and Jim is worried about Kate’s fragile state of... (full context)
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...make a sucker of a man once, not twice. Chris presumes George is talking about Joe’s relationship to Steve. (full context)
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...Columbus to see Steve, where Steve told him, in person, the true story of the Joe-Steve affair. (full context)
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George tells Annie and Chris, in the yard, that Joe ordered Steve, on the phone three years ago, to weld over the defective parts, then... (full context)
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...timid man who wants to shift the blame to someone else; but George counters that Joe was such an overbearing and exacting boss, it seems almost impossible that he would have... (full context)
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At this, Joe comes downstairs and strains his “joviality” to welcome George. He asks how George is doing,... (full context)
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...and get on the midnight train instead; George seems ready to agree, and, looking at Joe with a kinder eye, says Joe has not changed at all over the years. Kate... (full context)
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...Kate appreciates this information and sends Frank back to his home; Kate then turns to Joe and Chris, while Annie walks to the driveway to George to talk sense to him,... (full context)
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Kate then screams to Joe and Chris that Chris has to understand something: if Larry is dead, then Joe “killed”... (full context)
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...can’t believe that his father is responsible for 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... (full context)
Act 3
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...is waiting for Chris to come back; he took the car, after his argument with Joe, and drove to an unknown place. Kate also tells Jim that Annie is upstairs in... (full context)
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Jim alludes to the possibility of an argument between Chris and Joe over Annie, but Kate tells him, flat-out, that the argument was about George and Steve.... (full context)
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Joe comes outside to see how Kate is doing, and Jim goes offstage, saying he will... (full context)
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At this, Annie comes out to the porch, and sits silently for a moment with Joe and Kate. They find they have difficulty saying anything to one another—they all know what... (full context)
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In the meantime, Joe has gone upstairs, unable to handle the family’s trauma, and so he does not learn... (full context)
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...solve anything, now, nor would it truly punish the deed that his father has done. Joe comes outside to join Annie, Kate, and Chris, and tells Chris that, if Chris wants,... (full context)
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...with him, since Larry is truly dead. Chris reads aloud, despite Kate’s efforts to move Joe away from him (to keep Joe from hearing), that Larry was aware, overseas, of Steve... (full context)
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This news is horrific and devastates Joe, who always felt that, though he was responsible for the deaths of some pilots, he... (full context)
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...to others in the world, not just to themselves—that their responsibilities lies outside the immediate Keller family. Upstairs, a gunshot is heard, and Kate screams again, calling for Jim; Joe has... (full context)