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Plot Summary of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" - Act Two

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Act Two of All My Sons takes place during the evening of the same day. Chris is sawing the broken memorial tree. (Perhaps this foreshadows the fact that he will soon be learning the truth of his brother’s demise.)

His mother warns Chris that the Deever family hates the Kellers. She suggests that Annie might hate them too.

Alone on the porch, Ann is greeted by Sue, the next door neighbor who occupies Ann’s old house. Sue’s husband Jim is a doctor who is unsatisfied in his career. Inspired by Chris’ idealism, Jim wishes to give it all up and go into medical research (an impractical choice for a family man, according to Sue). Sue is annoyed by Chris and his father’s inflated sense of self-importance:

 

SUE: I resent living next door to the Holy Family. It makes me look like a bum, you understand?

 

ANN: I can’t do anything about that.

SUE: Who is he to ruin a man’s life? Everybody knows Joe pulled a fast one to get out of jail.

ANN: That’s not true!

SUE: Then why don’t you go out and talk to people? Go on, talk to them. There’s not a person on the block who doesn’t know the truth.

 

Later, Chris reassures Ann that Joe Keller is innocent. He believes his father’s alibi. Joe Keller was supposedly sick in bed when the faulty airplane parts were shipped out.

 

Joe walks onto the porch just as the young couple are embracing. Joe expresses his desire to find Ann’s brother George at a local law firm. Joe also believes that the disgraced Steve Deever should move back to town after his prison term. He even gets upset when Ann shows no sign of forgiveness for her corrupt father.

Tensions build when Ann’s brother arrives. After visiting his father in prison, George now believes that Joe Keller was equally responsible for the deaths of the airmen. He wants Ann to break off the engagement and return to New York.

Yet, at the same time, George is touched by how kindly Kate and Joe welcome him. He recalls how happy he was growing up in the neighborhood, how close the Deevers and the Kellers once were.

 

GEORGE: I never felt home anywhere but here. I feel so – Kate, you look so young, you know? You didn’t change at all. It… rings an old bell. You too, Joe, you’re amazingly the same. The whole atmosphere is.

 

KELLER: Say, I ain’t got time to get sick.

MOTHER (KATE): He hasn’t been laid up in fifteen years.

KELLER: Except my flu during the war.

MOTHER: Huhh?

 

With this exchange, George realizes that Joe Keller was lying about his supposed pneumonia, thus squelching his old alibi. George presses Joe to reveal the truth. But before the conversation can continue, the neighborly Frank urgently declares that Larry must still be alive. Why? Because according to his horoscope, Larry went missing on his “Lucky Day.”

 

Chris thinks the whole astrology theory is insane, but his mother desperately clings to the idea that her son is alive. At Ann’s insistence, George leaves, angry that Ann plans to stay engaged to Chris.

Chris declares that his brother died during the war. He wants his mother to accept the truth. However, she responds:

 

MOTHER: Your brother’s alive, darling, because if he’s dead, your father killed him. Do you understand me now? As long as you live, that boy is alive. God does not let a son be killed by his father.

 

 

So the truth is out: Deep down, the mother knows that her husband allowed the cracked cylinders to be shipped out. Now, she believes that if Larry is in fact dead, then the blood is on Joe Keller’s hands.

 

(Notice how playwright Arthur Miller plays around with names: Joe Keller = G.I. Joe Killer.)

Once Chris comprehends this, he accuses his father of murder. Keller futilely defends himself, claiming that he though the military would catch the mistake. He also explains that he did it for his family, disgusting Chris even more. Outraged and disillusioned, Chris yells at his father:

 

CHRIS: (With burning fury) What the hell do you mean you did it for me? Don’t you have a country? Don’t you live in the world? What the hell are you? You’re not even an animal, no animal kills his own, what are you? What must I do?

 

Chris hits his father’s shoulder. Then he covers his hands and weeps.

The curtain falls upon Act Two of All My Sons. The conflict of Act Three focuses on the choices of the characters, now that the truth about Joe Keller has been revealed.

 

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