All My Sons

Larry’s Tree Symbol Analysis

Larry’s Tree Symbol Icon
Larry’s disappearance in the war is one of the Keller family’s great traumas. After the war and Chris’s return to work for Joe, the family planted a tree to memorialize Larry, in the backyard, although Kate never gave up hope that Larry might return alive. In the beginning of the play, the tree is found shorn in half by the wind, in August, the same month Larry was born. Kate views this as a sign that the Kellers have forgotten Larry and abandoned the thought of his return. In this way, the tree serves a complex symbolic purpose: it is planted to symbolize Larry’s life, but in fact it underscores, to Kate, the idea that many believe Larry to be already dead and gone. When the tree is destroyed, Kate chooses to interpret this not as evidence of Larry’s actual death, but of the “falsity” of any memorial tribute to Larry, since one can’t memorialize a person who is still alive. Only at the play’s end, when Annie reveals Larry’s suicide letter to the Kellers, does Kate understand that Larry is never coming home, and that, tree or no tree, she must come to terms with Larry’s death, and Joe’s guilt in the manufacturing fiasco, without the supernatural aid of symbols like the tree.

Larry’s Tree Quotes in All My Sons

The All My Sons quotes below all refer to the symbol of Larry’s Tree. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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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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:

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Larry’s Tree Symbol Timeline in All My Sons

The timeline below shows where the symbol Larry’s Tree 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
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 a memorial to Larry, his... (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... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
War, Morality, and Consequences Theme Icon
...falling rapidly toward earth, and as Kate ran outside to catch him, she saw his tree cut in half by the wind. Kate says that she knew that should have waited... (full context)
Family and Familial Obligation Theme Icon
Loss and Memory Theme Icon
Liability, Culpability, and Guilt Theme Icon
...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 or death, and he says... (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
...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 doing. Kate... (full context)