By: Rachel Lyle, May 12th, 2017
I took a set of American Literature classes while I was in college and one of the things we had to do for it was keep an online reading journal. I don’t have all of the entries I posted anymore but here is the second one that I did. It is about the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller, which was based on real events that took place during and after World War II.
In the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller there are several married couples. Each of them functions differently as a couple in relation to both the rest of the characters and to the theme of the play as a whole. One of these couples is Joe and Kate Keller. Joe and Kate are often used to show the theme of the past and what it does to your future threaded throughout the play. They are used to show that the past needs to be acknowledged and faced but not dwelt upon or lived in. The way they interact with the rest of the characters and each other shows that when you have pain, suffering, loss, or you have wronged someone in your past you need to say yes it happened and face it by finding a way to get through it and overcome what it has left behind but not keep coming back to it and living based upon it, find a way to fix it but move on and live life in a way that shows that is behind you and you have learned from it. You need to live your daily life by learning from your past but as if you are using those lessons to create your future and avoid the same mistakes.
Kate in many ways keeps trying to live in the past by refusing to admit that Larry is dead and is not coming back home and she needs let go of her hope of him being still alive and work through the pain and suffering this has caused her, “‘MOTHER: Because if he’s not coming back, then I’ll kill myself! Laugh. Laugh at me. [She points to tree] But why did that happen the very night she came back? Laugh, but there are meanings in such things. She goes to sleep in his room and his memorial breaks in pieces. look at it; look. [She sits on bench at his L.] Joe…’ ‘KELLER: Calm Yourself.’ ‘MOTHER: Believe with me.’ KELLER: Calm Yourself.’ ‘MOTHER: Only last week a man turned up in Detroit, missing longer than Larry. You read it yourself.’ ‘KELLER: All right. all right, calm yourself.’” (Pg. 22). Joe knows that Larry is dead and he is not coming back and he won’t believe that Larry is alive no matter how much Kate tries to convince him and he knows he can’t explain this to Kate unless she is calm cool and collected because other wise she won’t listen. Kate thinks that just because she is mourning Larry and living in the past so is everyone else “‘Chris: Just because she isn’t married doesn’t mean she’s been mourning Larry.’ ‘MOTHER [with an undercurrent of observation]: Why then isn’t she?’” (Pg. 19).
Joe is just the opposite of Kate, he believes that they all need forget the past and move on, but he doesn’t want acknowledge anything in the past and admit that it actually happened, “‘CHRIS: I don’t know the meaning of it. [Slight pause] But I know one thing, Dad. We’ve made a terrible mistake with Mother.’ ‘KELLER: What?’ ‘CHRIS: Being dishonest with her. That kind of thing always pays off, and not it’s paying off.’ ‘KELLER: What do you men dishonest?’ ‘CHRIS: You know Larry’s not coming back and I know it. Why do we allow her to go on thinking that we believe with her?’ ‘KELLER: What do you want to do, argue with her?’” (Pgs. 14-15).
Joe and Kate Keller show that we need to face our past, acknowledge and admit that it happened, work through it, and learn from it but not dwell on it and live in it. they show we need to live a life that shows we learn from our past mistakes in a way to use those lesson learned to create our upcoming future.