All My Sons
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3.9 / 5

"All My Sons" Summary

By Arthur Miller

plays | 84 pages | Published in NaN

Joe Keller and Herbert Deever, partners in a machine shop during the war, turned out defective airplane parts, causing the deaths of many men. Deever was sent to prison while Keller escaped punishment and went on to make lots of money. In a work of tremendous power, a love affair between Keller's son, Chris, and Ann Deever, Herbert's daughter, the bitterness of George Keller, who returns from the war to find his father in prison and his father's partner free, and the reaction of a son to his father's guilt escalate toward a climax of electrifying intensity.Winner of the Drama Critics' Award for Best New Play in 1947, All My Sons established Arthur Miller as a leading voice in the American theater. All My Sons introduced, themes that thread through Miller's work as a whole: the relationship between fathers and sons, and the conflict between business and personal ethics.


Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A man's dark secret from the past threatens to destroy his family in this powerful drama by Arthur Miller.


"All My Sons" is a classic play written by Arthur Miller, first performed in 1947. It is a powerful exploration of guilt, denial, and the consequences of personal and social responsibility. Set in post-World War II America, the play delves into the lives of the Keller family, revealing the impact of wartime actions on their relationships and the community. Through compelling characters and thought-provoking themes, "All My Sons" offers a gripping portrayal of moral dilemmas and the human experience.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The play is set in the backyard of the Keller family's home in a small town in America. Joe Keller, a successful businessman, and his wife Kate are living in the shadow of their son Larry's disappearance during World War II. Chris, their surviving son, plans to marry Larry's former fiancée, Ann Deever. However, tensions arise when Ann's brother, George, arrives to confront the Kellers about his father's imprisonment for selling faulty airplane parts to the military, which resulted in the deaths of twenty-one pilots, including Larry.


The play is set in the aftermath of World War II, in the backyard of the Keller family's home. The time period and domestic setting serve as a backdrop for the exploration of moral and ethical dilemmas within the family and the broader community.

Main Characters

The play features several significant characters, each with their own complexities and motivations.

Joe KellerA successful businessman and patriarch of the Keller family. His actions during the war have long-lasting consequences for his family and the community.
Kate KellerJoe's wife, who is deeply affected by the loss of her son Larry. Her denial and longing for Larry's return drive her actions throughout the play.
Chris KellerThe surviving son of Joe and Kate. He is idealistic and hopeful, but his worldview is challenged as the truth about his father's actions comes to light.
Ann DeeverLarry's former fiancée, who returns to the Keller home and becomes engaged to Chris. Her presence stirs up long-buried emotions and secrets.
George DeeverAnn's brother, who seeks the truth about his father's imprisonment and confronts the Kellers about their role in the scandal.

Story Points Over Chapters

Act 1

  • The play opens with the Keller family preparing for the arrival of Ann, who is set to visit the family.
  • Chris reveals his plan to marry Ann, which stirs up mixed emotions, particularly for Kate.
  • Tensions rise as neighbors and friends visit, and the topic of Joe's business and the war emerges, leading to underlying unease.

Act 2

  • George Deever arrives and confronts the Kellers about his father's imprisonment, revealing the truth about Joe's involvement in selling faulty airplane parts.
  • The revelation causes a rift in the family, as Chris grapples with the implications of his father's actions and Kate's denial is tested.

Act 3

  • Chris confronts Joe about his role in the scandal, leading to a dramatic showdown between father and son.
  • The truth about Larry's fate is finally revealed, leading to a shattering realization for Kate and the family.

Main Events

  1. The Arrival of Ann: Ann's return to the Keller home sets off a chain of events that unearth long-buried secrets and tensions within the family.
  2. George's Revelation: George's confrontation with the Kellers exposes the truth about Joe's actions during the war, leading to a pivotal moment of reckoning for the family.
  3. Chris Confronts Joe: The conflict between Chris and Joe comes to a head as Chris grapples with the moral implications of his father's choices.
  4. The Truth about Larry: The revelation of Larry's fate brings closure and devastation, forcing the family to confront the consequences of their actions and denial.

Themes and Insights

Guilt and Responsibility

The play delves into the weight of guilt and the consequences of evading responsibility. Joe's actions during the war have far-reaching implications, leading to a powerful exploration of moral culpability and its impact on the individual and the community.

Denial and Truth

The theme of denial runs through the narrative, particularly in Kate's refusal to accept Larry's fate and Joe's attempts to justify his actions. The play examines the destructive power of denial and the liberating force of acknowledging the truth.

Idealism vs. Pragmatism

Chris embodies idealism, hoping for a world where integrity and moral responsibility prevail. This contrasts with Joe's pragmatic approach, driven by the desire for success and the well-being of his family. The clash between these perspectives drives the tension in the play.

Reader's Takeaway

"All My Sons" offers a compelling and emotionally charged exploration of family, guilt, and the complexities of human morality. Readers will be drawn into the gripping narrative and thought-provoking themes that resonate long after the final curtain. The play's timeless relevance ensures that its messages about truth, responsibility, and the human experience continue to captivate and provoke introspection.


In "All My Sons," Arthur Miller crafts a poignant and resonant portrayal of the enduring impact of wartime actions on the individual and society. Through the lens of the Keller family, the play delves into the complexities of guilt, denial, and the pursuit of truth, offering readers a profound and thought-provoking theatrical experience. As the characters grapple with the consequences of their choices, "All My Sons" invites audiences to confront fundamental questions about morality, responsibility, and the human condition.

All My Sons FAQ

  1. What is the plot of 'All My Sons'?

    The play 'All My Sons' by Arthur Miller revolves around the story of Joe Keller, a successful businessman who knowingly sold defective airplane parts to the military during World War II, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots. The play explores the moral and social implications of his actions and the impact on his family.

  2. Who are the main characters in 'All My Sons'?

    The main characters in 'All My Sons' include Joe Keller, Kate Keller, Chris Keller, Ann Deever, and George Deever. Each character plays a crucial role in the development of the plot and themes of the play.

  3. What are the major themes in 'All My Sons'?

    Some of the major themes in 'All My Sons' include the consequences of past actions, the conflict between personal and social responsibility, the American Dream, and the impact of war on individuals and society.

  4. What is the significance of the title 'All My Sons'?

    The title 'All My Sons' refers to the idea that all the young men who died flying the planes with the faulty parts were Joe Keller's 'sons' in a symbolic sense. It underscores the moral and emotional responsibility Joe has towards them and the impact of his actions on their lives.

  5. What is the setting of 'All My Sons'?

    The play is set in the backyard of the Keller family home in a small town in America, shortly after the end of World War II. The domestic setting serves as a contrast to the larger themes of moral responsibility and the consequences of war.