All My Sons


Arthur Miller

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in All My Sons, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Family and Familial Obligation

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…

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Loss and Memory

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…

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War, Morality, and Consequences

The Second World War is not just the immediate worldwide precursor to the play; it is inseparable from its action. Specifically, the war resulted in the death of Larry and caused the kind of difficult choices that forced Joe and Steve into their fateful decision to allow the production of cracked parts for American planes. But the war also provided Larry, Chris, and other American soldiers a clear set of black-and-white moral choices: democracy…

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Wealth and Its Accumulation

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…

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Liability, Culpability, and Guilt

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…

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