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To What Extent Can “All My Sons” Be Seen As A Criticism Of “The American Dream” And The American Way Of Life?

2092 words - 9 pages

The American Dream was born out of the deprivation of the war and the great depression America went through; measured by affluence, a rise in the accepted standard of living, it was the total opposite to war times.“ Everyman a king. All things even better” In Miller’s play the Keller family are seen to be living the “American Dream”, yet their ways and means of obtaining this are greatly criticised by Miller.

The Keller’s live in an outer-city suburb in a house that “would have cost perhaps fifteen thousand in the early twenties”. Another indication of this is when Joe throws out the vegetables mistaking them for garbage, as this level of waste would not even be consider during the war and perhaps for some time after, but Joe is indifferent, shown when he says “I can afford another bag of potatoes”. The Keller’s also have a maid, another sign of wealth. Also when Chris tells Joe of his marriage plans he decides to take him out for dinner, where there will be ”big time tonight” with “steak” and “champagne” which would have still been not easily affordable luxuries. This can suggest that by the way Joe is splashing his money about that he is not ashamed of his wealth and sees no wrong in what he has done as he has worked hard to earn it for himself ans his family.

Joe Keller represents everyman, he is a “man among men” with strong family values (“A father is a father”). He runs a successful business that engineered aeroplane parts throughout the war, and knowingly sent out parts with defects so not to lose profit, his denial of these actions led to Steve Deever, Ann and George’s father being imprisoned. Joe feels he did nothing wrong and shows very little guilt throughout the play, which he covers up by putting on a façade and is perhaps why he can spend his money so unashamedly. He shows recognition of his actions when he says to Chris “I’m a business man… a hundred and twenty cylinder heads cracked, you’re out of business… you lay forty years into a business and they knock you out in five minutes…when would I have had another chance to make something for you?” and he justifies his actions as he wanted to create a future for Chris ( “I want you to use what a made for you… without shame”) and it is possible for him to do this as Chris is innocent of Joe’s guilt.

Larry and Chris especially are the soldiers who fought in the war for America’s stability and their opinion of “the American Dream” differs vastly from that of Joe. Chris says “I felt wrong to be alive, to open the bank book, to drive the new car, to see the new refrigerator.. What you have is really loot, and there’s blood on “ and this can suggest that he doesn’t understand how people can act as if a war hadn’t occurred and so many hadn’t died, as if it was “a bus accident” and I think he may feel this way as he was out there and saw the monstrosities of war, yet this was never really felt back at home. He picks up on the notion that war-profiteering was occurring when he says that...

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