Nearly all the characters in the play are concerned with the establishment and maintenance of family life. Joe Keller is the “head” of the Kellers: he has run a successful manufacturing business both during and after the Second World War. Joe cares primarily about the happiness of his wife Kate and his son Chris, who works with him in the family business. Larry, another son, was lost in a plane crash during the…(read full theme analysis)
Many characters in the play wrestle with the memory of loved ones who are now gone: lost to them or dead. The most prominent “lost” character is Larry, one of Joe and Kate’s two sons. Joe believes, ironically, that Larry was more willing to “let slide” some of the small things that help a business to turn a profit. In fact, Larry committed suicide because of his father’s criminal negligence at the factory. Kate…(read full theme analysis)
The play dramatizes a common element of post-Second World War American society: the belief that the acquisition of wealth and material possessions was part of American power, following the defeat of fascism in Europe and Asia. Joe believes that he must acquire wealth in order to please his family and make something of himself in the world. He has very little by way of formal education, and therefore considers himself “self-made.” His shrewdness in business…(read full theme analysis)
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the play attempts to parse who is guilty for Larry’s death, Steve’s incarceration, and the deaths of the 21 airmen whose planes fell out of the sky. The tracing of these lines of guilt runs throughout the drama.
At first, it appears to everyone, except Annie, that Larry’s death was an accident, or that he was shot down in battle. But Annie finally reveals that Larry chose to commit…(read full theme analysis)