Moral responsibility is the main theme throughout “All My Sons.” Arthur Miller was interested in this after a newspaper article he’d read, and this is also where he got the idea for the play from. The article was about a girl, who Arthur Miller thought had great courage for handing in her father to the authorities after he shipped out faulty parts to the US Army. During the war there were a lot of business men who shipped out faulty and not ‘up to the job’ parts. They were just trying to make money and they must have felt as though they had no responsibility for the soldiers who were fighting for their country. This is what Chris despised and the fact that Joe Keller did it is what caused Larry to kill himself.
Arthur Miller wrote “All My Sons” during the war; however it was not staged until three years after. This is because many people were sensitive about the war and it probably would have given Arthur Miller a lot of bad criticism if he staged it straight after he wrote it. Also a few years after the war most people would have most probably forgotten about the terrible things which people did during the war, such as the shipping out of faulty parts to the US Army and making money from the black market.
Despite Joe Keller’s history, at the beginning of the play we get the impression that he is a wise family man “with the terrible concentration of the uneducated man.” Keller, because of his poor education is still learning and this is also why he wanted better things for his family. He felt responsibly for his children and he wanted them to have the best lives they possibly could have. Keller built his life and his from nothing and at first we get the impression that people in his neighbourhood respect him for this. He is also portrayed as being a strong man mentally and what happens at the end is a big shock considering the impression we get of Keller at the start.
Chris on the other hand, is more of a gentle character. He not only cares for himself and his family but also for others. “You’re a considerate fella,” which is how his father describes him and also why people in his neighbourhood seem to like him, Arthur Miller however, says he is “like his father, solidly built a listener.” In a way he may be, but as the play unfolds we find out he isn’t at all.
Chris’ war speech is a pivotal point in the play where his idea of moral responsibility is first explained to us. This is also when we, as an audience, start to realise how different Chris and his father, Joe Keller, really are. Chris describes to us how soldiers at war “killed themselves for each other.” This is because they felt responsible for the other soldiers, even though, in some cases they may not have even met the other men before the war.
Chris felt very strong about this, he cares about people he doesn’t even know, and he takes responsibility for his actions and isn’t just wrapped up in his own little world. This in comparisons to Keller’s idea is very different. He, on the other hand, only feels responsible for his family. H also blames other people for his actions, “Chris, the whole shootin’ match is for you.” He shifts the blame and that what he did was for their benefit.
When Chris went home after the war he was hugely disappointed to see that America did not really take any responsibility for the war and treated it as “a kind of a – bus accident.” Also he says that he “went to work with dad” and he describes it as “that rat-race again.” This is where everyone is just trying to make money, out for themselves and they don’t really care about anyone else or are responsible for anyone else.